Behavioral safety observations have been widely employed in many industries, including construction operations, for a number of years. In the late seventies, Procter & Gamble was implementing an in-house program and by the late eighties, chemical plants and refineries were training supervisors and selected workers to conduct such observations using a set of defined critical behaviors. By the early nineties, observations were mandated by many of the larger and forward looking top companies. Often, consultants were used to initiate the systems and some of the well-known behavioral safety experts had, and still have, regimented programs that can be used in entirety or adapted to the specific industry, plant, or project. To be clear, Dr. Scott Geller's firm, Safety Performance Solutions, defines behavioral safety observations as:
"A behavior based safety observation and feedback process provides visibility and control over upstream indicators of safety performance -- safe and at-risk behaviors. Using simple but effective observation techniques, coworkers observe each other and give constructive one-on-one feedback to reinforce safe work behaviors and discourage at-risk behaviors."
It is widely recognized that behavioral safety observations raise safety awareness and encourage workers to give feedback as they are observed. Unsafe behaviors are observed and recorded. Certainly, a critical element of the system is the positive reinforcement of safe behaviors performed. Historically, the construction industry has been stingy with its positive acknowledgements, so that when one is given, it has an incredibly motivating effect on the individual receiving such positive acknowledgement. Another important facet is the behavioral data that is accumulated and the resulting graphs and charts that show trends and lead to corrective actions.