Behavior-based safety observations are an important tool for helping build awareness critical to creating an interdependent safety culture. One way to encourage employees to observe safe and unsafe behaviors is to set a quota of observations for some time period until observations become “habit,” at which point the quota can be relaxed without eliminating the high-quality observations that assist in continuous safety improvement. However, any emphasis on quantity risks disengaging employees from the fundamental purpose of making observations. In addition, if the observations do not result in feedback or changes in the organization, employees may not recognize their value of the observations to their workplace safety, their co-workers lives, and the company as a whole.

In this study, 40 oilfield service company employees were encouraged to submit three observations per month, for six months, to an online observation database. At the beginning of the study, some of the employees answered a questionnaire about their safety practices, safety observations, perceptions about the value of safety observations, and general ‘engagement’ level at work. The full study group then submitted safety observations to an online database. For approximately one-third of the study group, observations were tallied without additional feedback other than that triggered normally by the observation content. Another one-third of the group received generic feedback about the purpose and value of safety observations. The final one-third received specific feedback about the value of each observation. A follow-up questionnaire assessed changes in the employees' attitudes.

The time commitment required to provide feedback and changes in the quantity, quality, and proactivity of observations over the study period are discussed.

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