A Comprehensive Guide to Behavior-Based Safety: What is It, and How to Make a BBS Checklist?

Navigate the world of BBS with confidence! Learn what it is and how to create a Behavior-Based Safety Checklist for optimal safety outcomes.

Last Updated on March 13, 2024 by Ossian Muscad

Did you know you can pinpoint and eliminate the root cause of unsafe actions inside the workplace? What’s more, you can also report and promote safe behavior instantly using a mobile app! This approach is referred to as behavior-based safety, and it plays a vital part in ensuring a safer workplace for you and your employees. This article will discuss behavior-based safety, its essentials, and how to create a behavioral safety checklist for your company or organization.


What is Behavior-Based Safety?

Behavior-based safety, also known as “behavioral safety” or simply “BBS,” is defined as “a process for identifying, measuring and improving safety in the workplace.” It’s a proactive approach to safety that focuses on changing unsafe behaviors rather than simply reacting to accidents after they’ve occurred.

BBS is based on the premise that most accidents are caused by human error, which is preventable. Therefore, identifying and addressing unsafe behaviors can eliminate the root causes of accidents and create a safer workplace for everyone.


The Importance of Behavior-Based Safety

Behavior-based safety is important because it actively involves employees in safety operations, leading to better identification and control of hazards. Companies can proactively prevent unsafe situations by focusing on the human behaviors that lead to accidents rather than just reacting to them. The following are the key benefits of implementing a behavior-based safety program:

  • Encourages Employee Participation: A behavior-based safety checklist encourages employees to actively participate in maintaining safety standards. It makes them more mindful of their actions and surroundings, reducing the likelihood of accidents.
  • Pinpoints Root Causes: The checklist helps identify the root causes of unsafe behaviors. Recognizing these behaviors allows for more targeted interventions, which leads to more effective prevention strategies.
  • Establishes Safety Norms: A behavior-based safety checklist helps establish safety norms within the workplace. It provides clear expectations about what safe behavior looks like, fostering a safety culture within the organization.
  • Streamlines Communication: Having a behavior-based safety checklist in place helps facilitate better communication within the workplace. Team members can clearly express their safety concerns or observations, fostering a more open dialogue about safety and encouraging continuous improvement.
  • Enables Continuous Learning and Improvement: A behavior-based safety checklist promotes learning and continuous improvement. As employees observe, report, and discuss safety behaviors regularly, they learn from each other’s experiences and insights.


Two Main Approaches to Behavior-Based Safety

Behavior-Based Safety (BBS) can be implemented through two main approaches, each with its unique focus and methodology. The Micro Approach centers on individual behaviors and immediate work environments, while the Macro Approach takes a broader view, focusing on the organization’s culture and systems. Both approaches are crucial for a comprehensive safety strategy but differ significantly in their application and outcomes.

Micro Approach Behavior Based Safety

The Micro Approach to Behavior-Based Safety emphasizes the observation and modification of individual workers’ behaviors within their immediate work environment. It involves direct, one-on-one interactions, usually through peer observations, feedback, and coaching to promote safer practices. This approach targets specific unsafe behaviors and seeks to correct them through personal engagement and reinforcement of positive behaviors. The behavioral safety process comprises the following seven steps:

  1. Identify Problematic Behaviors: Begin by observing and noting behaviors in the workplace that could be considered unsafe or risky. This involves monitoring the day-to-day activities of employees to pinpoint actions that deviate from established safety protocols.
  2. Determine the Root Cause: Once problematic behaviors have been identified, the next step is to analyze and understand why these behaviors are occurring. This could involve discussions with employees, reviewing workplace conditions, or assessing the current safety culture to identify factors that contribute to unsafe behaviors.
  3. Create Possible Corrective Actions: Based on the root cause analysis, develop a set of potential corrective actions aimed at mitigating unsafe behaviors. These actions could range from training and education to modifications in workplace design or processes.
  4. Evaluate Corrective Actions: Before implementing corrective actions, evaluate their feasibility, potential impact, and compatibility with existing operations. This evaluation can help prioritize the actions and ensure they are likely to be effective in improving safety behaviors.
  5. Develop Necessary Processes: Develop detailed processes and guidelines for carrying out the BBS program. This includes establishing protocols for observations, feedback, reporting, and tracking progress. Ensure that these processes are clearly communicated and accessible to all employees involved.
  6. Implement the BBS Program: With the groundwork in place, formally launch the behavior-based safety program. This involves rolling out the planned corrective actions, starting observation and feedback loops, and actively engaging employees in the safety improvement process.
  7. Evaluate the Data Gathered: After implementing the BBS program, continuously gather and analyze data related to safety behaviors in the workplace. Look for trends in the data that indicate either a reduction in unsafe behaviors or an increase in safe behaviors as a result of the program.

Macro Approach Behavior-Based Safety

In contrast, the Macro Approach to Behavior-Based Safety focuses on the broader organizational culture and systemic issues that influence worker behavior. It involves analyzing and modifying company policies, procedures, and overall safety culture to foster a safe working environment. 

This approach acknowledges that individual behaviors are often a product of the organizational system as a whole and, thus, seeks to make systemic changes to reduce unsafe practices. Michael Topf developed a 6-step process to establish a lasting safety solution in the workplace. Here are the 6 steps:

  1. Assess and Analyze the Culture in the Workplace: Conduct surveys and interviews to gather insights about the current safety culture. Observe routine operations to identify both positive safety practices and areas needing improvement. Analyze accident and near-miss reports to understand existing safety challenges.
  2. Teach and Train Every Employee About Behavioral-based Safety in a Work Context: Develop comprehensive training programs that cover the principles of behavior-based safety, emphasizing the importance of individual behaviors in ensuring workplace safety. Use interactive sessions, workshops, and seminars to engage employees and facilitate understanding.
  3. Encourage All Employees to Participate in the BBS Program: Create platforms for employees to share their observations and suggestions regarding safety practices. Acknowledge and reward employee participation and contributions to foster a sense of ownership and involvement in the safety process.
  4. Reinforce Awareness, Accountability, Self-Observation, and Self-Management: Implement tools and systems that encourage employees to regularly self-assess their behavior and align with safety protocols. Foster a culture where employees hold themselves and their peers accountable for maintaining safety standards.
  5. Provide Continuous Support and Commitment to the Employees: Offer ongoing support through regular safety briefings, updates, and access to safety resources. Demonstrate organizational commitment to safety by involving top management in safety activities and openly discussing safety as a priority.
  6. Evaluate and Provide Feedback: Regularly review the effectiveness of the BBS program through performance metrics, employee feedback, and safety audits. Provide constructive feedback to employees and make necessary adjustments to the program based on the evaluations.


7 Principles of Behavior-Based Safety

Behavior-Based Safety (BBS) is grounded in the psychology of human behavior, understanding that workplace accidents can often be prevented by focusing on modifying employees’ actions. By observing and adjusting the behaviors that lead to incidents, organizations can significantly enhance their safety performance. The principles of BBS offer a structured framework to identify, analyze, and improve safety behaviors effectively.

  1. The behavior interventions should be observable: Implement interventions that are visible and measurable. This means focusing on specific actions that can be seen and recorded, allowing for clear assessment and improvement measures.
  2. Determine external factors that can help improve behaviors: Identify and analyze external factors, such as the workplace environment, tools, and equipment, that influence employee behavior. Understanding these can provide insights into why certain behaviors occur and how to create a safer workplace.
  3. Use antecedents and behaviors to direct and motivate behavior: Utilize antecedents, like signs or instructions, to guide expected behaviors and employ positive consequences, such as rewards or recognition, to motivate and reinforce these behaviors.
  4. Highlight positive consequences to reinforce favorable behaviors: Focus on positive reinforcement as a key strategy. Recognize and reward safe behaviors to encourage their repetition, making safety a more integral part of the workplace culture.
  5. The BBS program should be measurable and objective. Establish clear, quantifiable indicators of success to evaluate its effectiveness. This ensures the program’s objectives are transparent and achievements can be objectively assessed.
  6. Don’t limit possibilities: Encourage a proactive approach by formulating hypotheses on potential safety improvements and cross-referencing data collected through the BBS process. This fosters a dynamic and adaptive safety culture.
  7. Create a BBS program that considers employees’ feelings and attitudes: Incorporate the emotional and psychological aspects of safety by considering the attitudes and perceptions of employees towards safety practices. This approach helps in creating a more comprehensive and effective safety program that resonates with the workforce.


How to Implement Behavior-Based Safety?

Implementing BBS can be intimidating, especially since it requires changing how we think about safety. Of course, the outcome can also be either way, but it is essential to emphasize the importance of changing behavior. Here are some tips to get you started:

Understand the ABC Model

The Antecedent-Behavior Consequence model, or the ABC model, is a well-established analysis method for changing people’s behavior. The frontline workers and management should clearly understand what causes unsafe behavior and how it impacts workplace safety. When you follow the fundamental concepts of the ABC model, you can more easily target the behavior that needs to be changed:

  • Antecedent: Refers to any condition or event that occurs before the behavior takes place and may serve as a trigger for it. Antecedents can include environmental factors, emotional states, or specific cues that influence behavior initiation.
  • Behavior: This term encompasses the actual action or conduct observed that is considered unsafe in this context. It represents the conduct itself that is of concern.
  • Consequence: This denotes the outcome or result that follows the behavior. Consequences can either reinforce the behavior, making it more likely to occur again or discourage it, decreasing its frequency.

Examine Past Incidents and Near Misses

Examining past incidents is one of the best ways to determine what behaviors need to be changed. Look at accidents and near-misses to see what went wrong and how it could have been prevented. This analysis can help you identify patterns in unsafe behavior to target them specifically. In addition, conducting regular safety audits can help identify areas for improvement and reinforce safe behaviors.

Encourage Positive Reinforcement

One of the most significant flaws in behavior-based safety is blaming the workforce whenever an accident happens. This only leads to resentment and further unsafe behavior. Instead, focus on positive reinforcement to encourage the right kind of behavior. When you see someone behaving safely, praise them for it! This will help create a safety culture where everyone works together to make the workplace safer.

Implement People-centered Interventions

Encouraging the right behavior is not enough; you must address the root causes of unsafe behavior. This can be done through people-focused interventions designed to change people’s thoughts about safety. At the same time, it’s essential to provide resources, such as safety training and access to safety resources, to support employees in taking action. Some examples of people-focused interventions include:

  • Safety training: Conducting regular safety training sessions can help employees understand safe work practices, emergency procedures, and the proper use of safety equipment. It equips them with the knowledge to identify potential hazards and take preventive measures to maintain a secure work environment.
  • Safety meetings: Regular safety meetings offer a platform for employees to actively engage in discussions about safety issues, report near misses or incidents, and share insights on best safety practices. These meetings foster a safety-conscious culture within the organization and encourage collaborative problem-solving.
  • Job hazard analysis: Implementing a systematic job hazard analysis involves identifying potential risks associated with specific job tasks, assessing the likelihood of incidents, and developing effective controls to mitigate these hazards. By proactively addressing workplace risks, organizations can enhance worker safety and prevent accidents before they occur.

Streamline the Reporting Process

Another way to encourage safe behavior is to make it easy for employees to report unsafe conditions and behaviors. This can be done by streamlining the reporting process so employees can quickly and easily submit reports. Ensure all reports are investigated promptly and corrective action is taken when necessary. Also, acknowledge and act on all reports, as this reinforces employees’ confidence that their concerns are heard and taken seriously. Doing so encourages a sense of ownership in safety among the workforce.

Create a Behavior-Based Safety Checklist

Once you have identified the unsafe behaviors that need to be addressed, you can create a behavior-based safety checklist. This checklist should be used to observe and track employee behavior so you can identify trends and target specific issues. Implementing BBS can be challenging, but it is an essential step in improving workplace safety.

Understanding the ABC model, examining past incidents, and applying people-focused interventions can make a real difference in how your employees think about safety. By streamlining the reporting process and creating a behavior-based safety checklist, you can make it easier for everyone to do their part in creating a safe workplace.


What is a Behavior Based Safety Checklist?

A Behavior-Based Safety (BBS) checklist is a systematic process used to identify, observe, and analyze safe and unsafe behaviors in the workplace. It’s a tool that encourages employees to become active participants in safety practices, fostering a safe work environment.

The checklist typically includes a set of behaviors considered safe for specific tasks or activities, and observers note the occurrence or non-occurrence of these behaviors. This approach shifts the focus from compliance with rules to promoting a positive safety culture.

The BBS checklist is an effective tool for ongoing feedback, enabling behavior modification, and ultimately reducing workplace accidents and injuries. At the same time, it helps managers and supervisors recognize employees who demonstrate safe behavior, which can encourage others to follow their example.


What Items to Include in a Behavior-Based Safety Checklist?

When formulating a Behavior-Based Safety (BBS) checklist, it’s crucial to incorporate items that support the identification of safe and unsafe behaviors and promote a culture of safety within the organization. Here are some essential items to consider:

  1. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Ensure the checklist includes the correct usage of PPE, addressing if employees are wearing the necessary protective equipment according to their specific tasks.
  2. Safe Practices: Add items that observe if employees are following safe practices, such as correct lifting techniques, proper machine operation, and adherence to safety procedures.
  3. Workplace Environment: The checklist should encompass the overall condition of the work environment, including housekeeping, proper lighting, and clear emergency exits.
  4. Safety Training: Include an item to check if all employees have undergone relevant safety training and are aware of potential hazards in their tasks.
  5. Hazard Identification: Incorporate items that assess employees’ proactive behaviors in identifying and reporting potential hazards in the workplace.
  6. Compliance with Safety Regulations: Ensure the checklist accounts for compliance with local and national safety regulations.
  7. Incident Reporting: Check if employees know the procedures to report an incident or near-miss and if they follow them in the event of an occurrence.
  8. Communication: Add a point to assess the quality of communication regarding safety instructions and warnings among employees and management. This could include using signs, labels, and other visual aids to convey safety information.
  9. Emergency Preparedness: Ensure that the checklist measures the level of preparedness for emergencies. This can include the availability and accessibility of first aid kits and fire extinguishers and whether evacuation routes are marked and unobstructed.
  10. Continuous Improvement: Include a checkpoint to evaluate whether a continuous improvement process is in place. This would involve regularly revising and updating safety measures, incorporating lessons learned from safety incidents, and implementing employee improvement suggestions.


Incorporating these items in your BBS checklist will better equip you to observe and analyze behaviors, encouraging a safe work environment. This can lead to improved safety performance, reduced workplace accidents, and a stronger safety culture.


Creating a Behavior Based Safety Checklist

If you’re interested in creating a behavioral safety checklist for your company or organization, there are a few things you’ll need to do to get started. Here’s a quick overview of each step:

  • Identify Unsafe Behaviors: The crucial first step in improving workplace safety is to meticulously identify the unsafe behaviors that need addressing. This can involve conducting a comprehensive safety audit or closely observing the day-to-day workings of your workplace to pinpoint potential hazards.
  • Create a Plan: Once you have a clear picture of the unsafe behaviors, the next step is to craft a detailed plan for effectively tackling them. This plan should outline precise steps and protocols that employees must adhere to in order to eradicate unsafe practices from the work environment.
  • Implement the Plan: With the plan in place, it’s time to put it into action. Implementation involves training employees on the new safety procedures and ensuring they understand and follow the guidelines provided. Equipping them with the necessary resources and support is also crucial for successful execution.
  • Track Your Progress: Monitoring and tracking progress is essential to gauge the effectiveness of the safety plan. Regularly collecting data on accidents and near-misses provides valuable insights into the impact of the implemented measures. Additionally, engaging with employees to gather feedback on their experiences with the new safety protocols can offer further refinement opportunities.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1: What makes Behavior-Based Safety (BBS) different from other safety programs?

BBS focuses on identifying and changing unsafe behaviors as opposed to solely relying on compliance with safety regulations and procedures. It involves active participation from employees at all levels, emphasizing observation, intervention, and feedback to promote safer workplace behaviors.

Q2: How do you ensure employee participation in a BBS program?

Employee participation can be encouraged by involving them in the development of the BBS process, providing clear and consistent communication about its benefits, and recognizing or rewarding safe behaviors. Creating a non-punitive environment where employees feel comfortable reporting hazards and incidents is also crucial.

Q3: Can BBS programs be used in any industry?

Yes, BBS programs can be adapted to suit any industry. While the specific behaviors and hazards may vary between different work environments, the fundamental principles of observing behavior, providing feedback, and fostering a culture of safety are universally applicable.

Q4: How often should the BBS checklist be updated?

The BBS checklist should be regularly reviewed and updated to reflect any changes in workplace processes, environments, or regulations. Additionally, feedback from employees and data from incident reports should be used to make relevant adjustments, ensuring the checklist remains effective and comprehensive.

Q5: Is it possible to measure the success of a BBS program?

Yes, the success of a BBS program can be measured through various metrics, such as the reduction in the number of workplace accidents and incidents, improvements in safety audit results, and increased employee engagement with safety practices. Surveys and feedback from employees can also provide qualitative data on the program’s impact.

Q6: What role do managers and supervisors play in a successful BBS program?

Managers and supervisors play a pivotal role in modeling safe behaviors, actively participating in observations and feedback processes, and ensuring that safety remains a priority in daily operations. Their commitment to the principles of BBS and their ability to effectively communicate and enforce safety protocols are essential for the program’s success.


Streamline Behavior-based Based Safety with DATAMYTE

DATAMYTE is a quality management platform with low-code capabilities. Our Digital Clipboard, in particular, is low-code workflow automation software that features a workflow, checklist, and smart form builder. This tool lets you easily design, build, and deploy a BBS checklist. By automating the data collection process, you can save valuable time while ensuring accuracy and consistency in your observations.

DATAMYTE also lets you conduct layered process audits, a high-frequency evaluation of critical process steps, focusing on areas with the highest failure risk or non-compliance. Conducting LPA with DATAMYTE lets you effectively identify and correct potential defects before they become major quality issues.

With DATAMYTE, you have an all-in-one solution for streamlining your BBS program and enhancing your overall safety performance. Book a demo now to learn more about our quality management platform and how it can benefit your organization.



Implementing a Behavior Based Safety (BBS) program can significantly transform the safety culture within an organization, making it more proactive, participatory, and performance-oriented. By focusing on identifying and modifying unsafe behaviors, companies not only work towards a safer working environment but also build a collaborative atmosphere where employees feel valued and responsible for their actions.

Regular updates to the BBS checklist based on feedback and incident data ensure the program remains effective and responsive to the evolving workplace landscape. Ultimately, the success of a BBS program hinges on the commitment from all levels of the organization to cultivate and sustain a culture that prioritizes safety above all. Achieving this not only reduces workplace accidents and injuries but also enhances overall productivity and satisfaction among the workforce.



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