Study Aims to Enhance Behavioral Approach to Workplace Safety

Feb. 9, 2009
A new study in the National Safety Council’s (NSC) Journal of Safety Research identifies key knowledge gaps and suggests ways to enhance behavior-based injury-prevention interventions and improve occupational safety and health.

According to NSC, behavioral safety is becoming more popular as safety practitioners seek to better understand and develop strategies to prevent workplace injuries. The study defines behavioral safety as an approach to improve safety performance through peer observations, goal setting, feedback and celebrations or incentives for reaching safety goals.

The study, by Oliver Wirth, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and Sigurdur Oli Sigurdsson, recommends using behavioral safety as part of holistic safety programs that address psychological, social, engineering and organizational factors.

The authors concluded, however, that factors impacting the effectiveness of behavior-based interventions must be better understood. They recommended the that following areas require more research:

  • The impact of behavioral safety interventions on rates of injury, illness and fatalities;
  • The appropriateness of the basic elements of behavioral safety across different industry sectors;
  • The relationship between behavioral safety and a greater safety culture;
  • The role of performance feedback in creating behavioral change; and
  • The effectiveness of tangible and non-tangible rewards on behavioral change.

The authors expressed hope “that this paper will help researchers conceptualize and organize the various topics of behavioral safety research into a coherent framework that is tied specifically to common intervention processes. If only a portion of these topic areas and research questions are addressed through systematic reviews, surveys, field interventions, and laboratory-based studies, the knowledge gained will significantly improve the delivery and effectiveness of behavioral safety interventions and thus their impact on worker health and safety.”

The Journal of Safety Research is a peer-reviewed scientific journal in the safety field with articles presenting basic and applied research in all areas of safety, including traffic, industry, farm, home, school and public.

About the Author

Laura Walter

Laura Walter was formerly senior editor of EHS Today. She is a subject matter expert in EHS compliance and government issues and has covered a variety of topics relating to occupational safety and health. Her writing has earned awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE), the Trade Association Business Publications International (TABPI) and APEX Awards for Publication Excellence. Her debut novel, Body of Stars (Dutton) was published in 2021.

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