Over the past 20 years a methodology for safety improvement has developed using behavioral science methods to reduce industrial injuries. What to call the method is somewhat problematic today because the original method has been popularized to the point that it is hardly recognizable. Nevertheless a significant number of companies are doing excellent work with this methodology, and in that sense it has moved from an idea to a reality. Among these companies the methodology has undergone a series of evolutionary changes. In addition, as the method has become popular, a variety of issues have surfaced including what the future holds for this methodology. This paper will follow the evolution of the method, describe its current state and make suggestions for where it should move in the future.

Exhibit 1. 2nd Generation Behavior-Based Safety (available in full paper)

We will begin with the development of the method, discuss how the methodology came into being and then discuss what it looks like today. We will consider the evolution of one particular model developed by the author and his associates, as well as the demographics of organizations using this model and their results. We will also consider current issues around this technology facing us as safety professionals, and finally, we will discuss the next step in behavior based approaches to safety process improvement; a natural outgrowth of the models already completed.

How behavior based safety (BBS) developed

BBS came into being as the result of three distinct currents of work being done separately with a small amount of overlap. The first was the applied behavior analysis (ABA) work of psychologist Judi Komaki, then at Georgia Institute of Technology. Komaki was one of small group of applied behavior analysts in the academic community working on safety applications. One of Komaki's students, in satisfying the requirement for his course work suggested that his family's bakery would be an ideal application. When Dr. Komaki interviewed the student and discussed what aspect of performance would be desirable to target, the student said that people running the bakery were concerned about safety performance. So, with Dr. Komaki's guidance this organization put in place a behavior-based model for safety performance improvement (Komaki, Barwick & Scott, 1978).

Exhibit 2. How BBS Developed (available in full paper)

In 1979 the author, a psychologist and his associate Dr. John Hidley, a psychiatrist, were asked to consult with an offshore oil-drilling manufacturer in California to find innovative ways of improving safety performance. Based on their preliminary analysis of the situation facing this employer, they recommended the use of applied behavior analysis as an improvement methodology. During this same period Gene Earnest and Jim Palmer at Proctor and Gamble were working on the development of a methodology drawn from the behavioral sciences, which they termed "behavior-based safety." To my knowledge they were the first to come up with this phrase.

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