"Lean" on safety? That's a good thing with BBS (no BS!)

If investing in workplace safety is smart, then spending less on it and achieving better results must be genius! At least that's what lean behavior-based safety (BBS) promises.

BBS - lean or otherwise - translates as: Change employee behavior, reduce risk.

Apparently, most work-related injuries result from employees' actions and decisions – not from inherently unsafe conditions at work. So BBS takes the approach of encouraging worker participation to reduce injuries and correct workplace safety hazards - proactive rather than reactive.

Lean BBS has the same proactive philosophy, only it does so with fewer resources and even better results than standard-issue BBS. It's like Supersized Safety on a Slimmed Down Budget.

I recently sat in on a Webinar about lean BBS presented by ProAct Safety, a Woodlands, Texas-based company that sells custom implementations of BBS strategies.

More safety bang for your buck

ProAct Safety claims that their clients (which include the US Army and Navy, Alcoa, Eli Lilly and Intel) have seen their average total recordable incident rate drop by two-thirds within three years of adopting lean BBS strategies.

Lean BBS targets the five or so workplace accidents most likely to happen; it's an approach based on the Pareto Principle which dictates that about 80 percent of consequences stem from 20 percent of the causes. Basically, you get the most safety bang for your buck with lean BBS.

Behavior-based safety has its share of critics, however. Unions such as the United Food and Commercial Workers argue that BBS programs shift the focus of safety away from the employer and onto the worker, and that the rewards system that's part of many BBS programs encourages workers not to report incidents.

Lean BBS involves choosing workers of all ranks to be involved in the implementation of safety advancements. To make that point during his Webinar, Terry Mathis, president of ProAct Safety, quoted American statistician W. Edwards Rening: "People support what they help create."

And now for something not completely different… PBS!

To confuse things even further, there's now a shift away from BBS to "performance-based safety" known as PBS. Think BBS on steroids - PBS has an increased emphasis on observation and feedback, and includes self-management strategies (critical for the lone worker) leading to even greater injury prevention.

The movement from BBS towards PBS was noted in the audio conference, What's New for 2007: Workplace Safety Trends to Watch, Training to Conduct, and Pitfalls to Avoid produced by BLR.com.

Beyond that, I can't really tell you if you should go BBS, lean BBS or PBS - or wait for the next flavor of the month to come out. But it seems such programs are making workplaces safer - and that's no BS!

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