Rock Products

JAN 2013

Rock Products is the aggregates industry's leading source for market analysis and technology solutions, delivering critical content focusing on aggregates-processing equipment; operational efficiencies; management best practices; comprehensive market

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FOCUS ON HEALTH & SAFETY Focus on Behavior to Manage Risk the Right Way By Thomas E. Boyce, Ph.D. I have been assisting a large aggregate company in the western United States to implement a Behavior‐Based Safety Process. This project started after the plant GM and HR Manager heard me speak at an MSHA Spring Thaw event where the theme of my talk was, "the best way to change others' behaviors is to change your own." Indeed, when the principles of human behavior are un‐ derstood, changing one's behavior to have a positive im‐ pact on the behaviors of others becomes possible. And, behavior starts to appear much more orderly and even predictable. Why Employees Take Risks Behavioral scientists have long demonstrated that behav‐ ior is a function of its consequences. That is, behaviors that produce positive outcomes for the performer will in‐ crease in strength and be repeated in the future. n We turn on the light switch in dark room because the lights come on. n We take an aspirin when we have a headache because the pain goes away. n We proceed on a green light at an intersection to make progress to our destination. A positive consequence can be either the addition of something we want (e.g., the light goes on) or the elimina‐ tion of something we don't want (e.g., the pain goes away). Our experience with these consequences of our ac‐ tions determines the probability that we'll perform that behavior again in similar situations in the future. Sometimes experience teaches us the wrong thing. We stand on the chair to change a light bulb; we drive over the speed limit; we take a shortcut at work because all of these behaviors produce the positive consequence of time-saving. Time‐saving becomes more valuable than avoiding the in‐ jury because our experience tells us that we are very cer‐ tain to get the time‐saving right away and we're not likely to get hurt. You see, consequences that are Positive (they are something we want), Immediate (they occur soon 48 ROCKproducts • JANUARY 2013 after the behavior), and Certain (there's a high chance we'll get it) are always more powerful than those that are Negative (something we would not want), Future (they are delayed), and Uncertain (there is a low probability, at least relative to that which we expect to get). The former qualities are all characteristics of time‐saving, comfort, and convenience as motivation for at‐risk behav‐ ior. And, the latter are all qualities of an injury that should motivate safer behavior. This is the safety trap. We work to get the certain and immediate positive rather than to avoid the uncertain and potentially delayed nega‐ tive consequence. Add pressure to get the job done from a well‐intentioned but unobservant boss and risk‐taking becomes the way we do business because time‐saving takes on an even greater value. Increasing the Occurrence of Safety‐Related Behaviors So, how do we address this trap? First, we must acknowl‐ edge that it exists and determine under what circum‐ stances our employees are more likely to fall into the trap. Perhaps it occurs when we announce a new produc‐ tion goal, or when the boss is stressed and barks orders at his/her employees rather than empowering them to do the work they've been trained to do. Perhaps it's more likely during a shut down, at the end of a shift, or when performing certain tasks. The way we de‐ termine this is to observe what our employees are doing and to perform an informal analysis. In other words, we must focus on behavior. When we manage risk with a focus on behavior we iden‐ tify the potential for an injury rather than reacting to it. A focus on behavior also allows us to effectively increase the value of the safe behavior relative at‐risk behavior by applying performance feedback as a consequence for each. Specifically, positive feedback is offered to reinforce safe behaviors, making them more likely. And at‐risk be‐ havior brings immediate corrective feedback not only re‐ ducing exposure to the risk, but also making these behaviors less likely in the future. If we compile what was observed over a period of time (without the need to know "who did what"), we can also generate a pool of information to determine if the issues observed were more than isolated events. Indeed, an

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