Behavioral Based Safety-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Behavioral Based Safety

It has been said that ‘Antecedents’ get us going and ‘Consequences’ keep us going.
For Example: let’s say you have formed an unsafe practice, like driving through a yellow light.  The antecedent is the yellow light, and the act of runming the yellow light is your behavior.  So what happens when you don’t get a ticket or have an accident while performing this unsafe behavior?  Well, with no negative outcome we say the consequence is positive…because in fact you didn’t have to sit through the red light.  So then that behavior is reinforced and you are even more likely to perform that same unsafe behavior next time. 

The idea of learning and understanding behavior and consequences is important in safety.  We want to reward people for safe work practices, so we are reinforcing and encouraging the preferred behavior.  That is why we must always identify the unsafe practices we are performing, and to identify the antecedent so we can make the right choice when faced with the choice. 

The best method for creating safe work behaviors is to have Soon, Certain and Positive Consequences for the correct behaviors.  In fact this isn’t a new theory; the idea of praising good work is a long- standing management practice.  We encourage you to put this practice to use especially when related to safe work practices. 

You can develop a Safety Culture when you repeatedly identify to others when you see them making the wrong choices…and especially when you acknowledge them for doing things right.  This is known as the behavioral based approach to safety.

By: Jeffrey Harris,, 412-268-7501