In the Land of Snake Charmers, Snake oil salesmen rule?????

One of the biggest fad I am seeing and asked to participate is implementing the Behaviour Based Safety (BBS) Sham!! I can’t quote of 10s of instances over the last 5 years, where I was called to implement BBS as a consultant “I read the Miranda warning first too”. 3597538_orig Few weeks down the line everything goes quiet and program falls through the rails or we find clients totally not ready. Why??

As I keep saying in my training sessions to make it clear to FOLKS, Implementing BBS is not a consumable like eating Noodles. You boil water, pour noodles and taste maker and after 3 minutes your hunger is gone and purpose of quenching hunger is served. Rather, BBS is all about shedding your extra weight from your body through discipline, exercise and routine regime that requires plan, doing, checking, acting up on review. Unfortunately, in an Indian context many companies fall victim to what we term as “SNAKE OIL Salesman” who hypnotize top leadership, (even 8/10 ESH professionals are guilty by association who havent understood the concept) that behaviour control would solve all the safety problems at facilities and pull wool over their eyes. And top management in their greed to save investments in other  capital expenses or other form, fall victim. Also BBS is not copy/paste……. 

So what is the right way to work the BBS if at all organisations are serious about injury reduction intent !! 

  1. Establish baseline —> First check where you are in EHS journey implementation. The following curve would be a good example. As clearly indicated in the curve, Behaviour change is the last mile connectivity to quote current language. Unless the other elements are mostly in place,  which are determined by analysis of baseline planning, working at people behaviour change etc working without addressing this is an insane way would only deliver insane results. BBS is a journey.Untitled.png
  2.  Pitfalls to effective BBS implementation:- Even after setting up a sound infrastructure, Management systems, Indicators, 0 Fatality program things can fail!! Why? because no two human being is alike. There are barriers in terms of people, systems, infrastructure etc. Untitled.png
  3. The other reason BBS is a failure is Rifle vs Shot Gun approach. BBS needs Rifle approach of Aim->Fire. Shot gun approach is more a spread target!! So in Rifle approach folks needs to clearly know the behaviours that needs to be tackled head on called KEY FOCUS Behaviours. For that, one needs to have past history of incidents,accidents that are investigated and root causes linked to behaviour pattern are determined. The repeated behavioural patterns that cause most incidents (Say top 5-6) needs to be focused for a rifle approach. Many companies miss this or lacks sound incident investigation plan, metrics, history. They lose focus in to mix up behaviour and conditions monitoring. 
  4. If you want BBS to succeed,identify the key barriers that can cause the process to derail even after you identify key focused behaviours. Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 11.31.13 AM

    So what are the barriers that can derail effective BBS implementation.

  • Lack of Hazard Recognition and Inadequate, ineffective Response to Hazards.
  • Business Systems, Process inadequate to handle safety /behaviour issues.
  • Infrastructural inadequacies to address behavioural issues.(Non Enabling behaviour)
  • Hygiene factors Rewards, Recognition aligned to individuals, lack of safety perception.
  • Personal Factors, Culture, Personal Choice.
  • Disagreements on what are the right safety practices.
  • Inadequate resolutions of issues brought out in BBS observations by Steering team.

To keep post short, I don’t want to go in to details on 10s of issues on Barriers that impede BBS implementation that I have seen in Facilities and no wonder programs fall apart when corrective actions don’t happen. 

So what else companies need to do sustain BBS long-term (say beyond 18 months when steam can fizzle out). 

  1. Fix new targeted behaviours to focus as BBS evolves.
  2. Crop new observers, familiarity can bring contempt, complacency.
  3. Support the observers with resources, embrace technology, go digital, show visible changes.
  4. Target Barrier removal % and move the needle, display progress to all.
  5. BBS expanded to all areas over time, all personnel including guests, contractors, visitors fully in scope.
  6. Leadership Engagement/Involvement. No program thrives without this element.
  7. Steering committee rotation, insight, knowledge.
  8.  Ownership spread to all level, ultimately every one becomes an observer.

As I keep saying, nothing I post here in new or not known to folks, the question is the gap in knowing/doing. Great organisations through effective leadership, risk based approach, empowerment to employees bridge the gap and execute every program flawlessly.



1315 Hrs. 

Author: Karthik B; Orion Transcenders. Bangalore.

Lives in Bangalore. HESS Professional of 30+ yrs experience. Global Exposure in 4 continents of over 22 years in implementation of Health, Environment, Safety, Sustainability. First batch of Environmental Engineers from 1985 Batch. Qualified for implementing Lean, 6Sigma, HR best practices integrating them in to HESS as value add to business.

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