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HSE Culture & Branding (Behaviour Based & Leadership Program)

HSE Culture & Branding (Behaviour Based & Leadership Program)


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The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has recently published an extensive guide on implementing Behaviour-Based Safety (BBS), a strategic approach characterized by grassroots involvement with strong leadership support. This methodology focuses on direct interventions that are predominantly people-oriented, including “one-to-one group observation of employees.”

The guide emphasizes a proactive approach, urging individuals and their work groups to continuously evaluate their involvement in incidents and constantly scrutinize their behaviours as safe or unsafe. It outlines several crucial aspects for employers to effectively adopt a BBS program, which we will explore shortly. Before delving into these specifics, let’s discuss the broader concept of establishing a safety culture and how the BBS strategy can significantly benefit your organization.

Creating a robust health and safety culture, or a “Total Safety Culture,” as termed in the guide, is a complex yet vital pursuit for all safety professionals. Initiating cultural shifts requires clear starting points:

  1. Leadership Commitment: Strong management commitment to behaviour-based safety is essential. Leaders must actively promote and participate in safety initiatives.
  2. Open Communication: Foster a culture of respectful, trusting, and open communication between management and employees about workplace safety.
  3. Attitude Enhancement: Dedicate efforts to transform attitudes towards health and safety to foster a more safety-conscious workplace
  4. Employee Engagement: Increase employee involvement in safety practices, encouraging them to take an active role in safety measures.
  5. Safety Education: Continuously educate employees on identifying safe and unsafe behaviours to empower them to make safer choices.

Implementation of the BBS Approach

  1. Forming the BBS Design Team: Initiate your BBS program by assembling a diverse team comprising both management and frontline employees. Each team member should be well-versed in the BBS methodology and committed to the program’s success. This team will be responsible for developing the BBS system, ensuring broad employee involvement in the process.
  2. Analysing Historical Safety Data: Utilize existing health and safety records to inform the design of your BBS program. This analysis helps identify areas for improvement and develops strategies based on past incidents. Discussing scenarios to increase situational awareness can lead to the identification of key safe behaviours, culminating in a practical safety checklist for onsite use.
  3. Creating a Critical Safety Checklist: Develop a concise checklist of safe behaviours identified in the analysis phase. The guide recommends limiting the checklist to one page to enhance usability and clarity. Definitions and measures should be clearly articulated on the checklist to avoid subjective interpretations and ensure consistent application.
  4. Establishing a Measurement System: Implement a system to observe and measure both safe and risky behaviours effectively. Measurement acts as an antecedent to behaviour; therefore, it’s crucial to pair it with consequences—positive or corrective—to reinforce desired behaviours. Properly applied, this system encourages an environment where employees are motivated by being measured.
  5. Conducting Behavioural Observations: Safety behaviour observations should be routinely performed by peers, with the safety leader playing a central role in the process. The safety leader must actively participate, exemplify the safety behaviours (“walk the talk”), and provide consistent feedback and guidance. They also oversee the ongoing refinement of the safety processes, including hazard removal and procedural adjustments.

Delivering Feedback and Setting Improvement Goals

Feedback should be timely and constructive, focusing on potential impacts and engaging the employee in discussion. Improvement goals should be realistic, data-driven, and clearly communicated, ensuring employees understand the specific behaviours or processes they need to focus on to achieve these objectives.

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