Behavior modification… safety management… attitude adjustment… behavior-based safety… culture change… cognitive alignment… person-based safety… human engineering… social influence. These are all terms used to address the human dynamics of injury prevention. Each can be linked to a set of principles, procedures, or a consultant's service that defines a particular approach to managing the human side of occupational safety.

Each of these terms, and most of the accompanying materials, are insufficient. They are either too narrow and restricting, or too broad and nondirective. Some focus entirely on behavior change, while others attempt to target vague and unobservable aspects of other people, like attitudes and thoughts. Still others have the grandiose notion of directly targeting culture change.

All of these approaches are well-intentioned, and none are entirely wrong. The human dynamics of an organization include behaviors, attitudes, cognitions, and the context (or culture) in which these aspects of people occur. However, some approaches are too equivocal or ambiguous to be practical, while others may be practical but are not sufficiently comprehensive.

The Solution Is Not New

More than a decade ago, I proposed the need to address both behavior-based and person-based factors to improve workplace safety over the long term (Geller, 1994). I called this approach "people-based safety" and proposed substituting empowerment, ownership, and interpersonal trust for more traditional safety jargon like top-down control, compliance, and enforcement. And I accompanied these new people-oriented concepts with practical procedures. My partners at Safety Performance Solutions began implementing these procedures in 1995 under the popular label: "behavior-based safety" (BBS).

Systematic evaluations of our implementations have enabled successive refinements of procedures, as well as the discovery of guidelines for increasing effectiveness and the long-term impact of our interventions. We also developed research-based and practical support materials for the behavior-change and culture-enrichment process.

Today we call this approach "people-based safety" (PBS). It strategically integrates the best of behavior-based and person-based safety in order to enrich the culture in which people work, thereby improving job satisfaction, work quality and production, interpersonal relationships, and occupational safety and health. The academic label for this approach is "humanistic behaviorism" (Geller, 1995a).

This presentation explains the essential principles and procedures of PBS. Let's consider seven underlying principles of PBS, with an emphasis on similarities and differences between PBS and BBS.

Seven Basics of People-Based Safety
Principle 1: Start with Observable Behavior.

Like BBS, PBS focuses on what people do, analyzes why they do it, and then applies a research-supported intervention strategy to improve what people do. The improvement of others results from acting people into thinking differently rather than targeting internal awareness or attitudes so as to think people into acting differently.

However, unlike BBS, PBS considers that people can observe their own thoughts and attitudes. Thus, people can think themselves into safer actions. In other words, self-management requires self-talk or thinking as well as self-directed behavior (Watson & Tharp, 2002).

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