Behavior Based Safety (BBS) is an observation and feedback process that addresses both behavior and people factors to improve the safety culture—ultimately, preventing incidents and fatalities in the workplace. MoDOT has contracted with Safety Performance Solutions (SPS) to assist in BBS training and implementation. SPS, a Virginia based company, specializes in behavioral safety and safety culture assessment.

Since 1995, SPS has worked with companies to improve their safety cultures by designing, implementing and sustaining appropriate people-based processes to help reduce workplace injuries and incidents.

Safety Performance Solutions (MoDOT’s consultant for BBS) has worked with both Iowa and Utah DOTs. MoDOT has interviewed both DOTs and found their experience valuable. More importantly, their safety records improved as a result of integrating BBS into their safety culture.

Full implementation will cost about $900,000. While that seems like a significant amount of money, MoDOT wants every employee to go home safely at the end of each work day. The safety of employees and motorists is of the utmost importance. Additionally, workplace injuries and worker’s compensation costs MoDOT approximately $6 million each year. Through this effort, we hope to reduce workplace incidents and achieve a total safety culture.

MoDOT has continually made advancements in regard to safety. For example, we initiated a Safety Focus Team in 2009 and 2010. Through our efforts, we did experience a drop in incidents. From 2004 to 2014, MoDOT has gone from more than 500 incidents per year to less than 300. But our incident numbers have now reached a plateau. The environment and timing is right for a safety initiative that focuses on culture change within MoDOT.

Due to limited staff experience with culture change and behavior change, assessment and training will be conducted by SPS across the state. SPS will provide expert guidance through the culture change process. Culture change (and behavioral change, for that matter) do not occur overnight. However, by shifting our focus to ‘why’ incidents occur, we can foster the trust needed to discuss incidents and near misses openly and honestly. Eventually, the safety culture and behavior will shift in the desired direction.

BBS will not replace current safety programs or practices. In fact, BBS will work with our current safety practices to help employees identify unsafe behaviors in their workplace. By identifying at-risk behaviors—not to blame or punish employees—we hope to better understand the true causes behind those behaviors, so we can address and correct them. Employees can take the necessary steps to discuss, strategize and correct the root causes of at-risk behaviors.

No. BBS focuses on positive reinforcement when employees perform work in a safe manner. Through observations, work practices (safe and/or at-risk) are identified. When an at-risk practice is identified, strategies will be developed to improve safety practices. Once an improved practice has been identified, employees will discuss and implement it in their daily work. If employees fail to comply with our rules and regulations, our normal disciplinary process remains in effect—but this is independent of the BBS process. Observers are not expected to administer discipline, only positive and corrective feedback based on safe and at-risk behaviors.

Fear of being disciplined for reporting a near miss indicates there are trust issues. Relationships are important in all aspects of life and business, and they are particularly important in safety. It’s no coincidence that supervisors who have strong relationships with their crews tend to have safer crews. Working to develop good relationships helps with safety in three ways: 1) by building trust, 2) by increasing reinforcement effectiveness, and 3) by demonstrating care and concern.

  • Building Trust-Trust is important in safety because it is a key ingredient in engagement and talking to each other. We must trust that people understand our good intentions; we must trust that they won’t react negatively; we must trust they won’t use our words or actions against us.
  • Increasing Reinforcement Effectiveness Negativity erodes relationships, even when it is used to be helpful. Good relationships make delivery of positive reinforcement more effective because people care about what you think.
  • Demonstrating Care and Concern Relationships matter in safety because our behavior changes when we genuinely care about the people around us. As you build stronger relationships, you inevitably start to care more. In turn, the fact that direct reports know you are emotionally invested in them will make them want to behave in ways that please you and improve the total safety culture at MoDOT.

No. Observations will exist to identify if a task is being performed in an unsafe way. From there, employees will identify the proper way to perform the task. Discipline is only required if an employee knowingly disregards safety and refuses to perform a task properly.

Please remember: discipline is not part of the BBS process. Observers won’t be expected to discipline their peers! That can only be done by leaders using our existing disciplinary process. If observers see a coworker doing something they feel is in violation, they should approach the employee and ask them to stop. If the observer is uncomfortable doing this, they could find another person to help them intervene. If this intervention also fails to stop the employee, then observers can say something like, "You leave me no choice but to get a supervisor. Do you understand?"

BBS will be implemented statewide. Due to the size and scope of MoDOT’s workforce, SPS will train Central Office employees and each district at different times. The SE District will be the first district to be trained in the program. Training in other districts will take place as SPS completes a schedule.

Training throughout MoDOT will include specific action planning to identify and correct safety culture problems specific to MoDOT. Each training will provide information on:

  • Key elements of safety culture
  • Improving safety systems (i.e. incident reporting, discipline)
  • Manager/Supervisor practices to support safety
  • Improving employees’ attitudes, behaviors and personal responsibility
  • Optimizing communication skills for safety

The Executive Team was involved in the introduction and assessment of BBS. Additionally, the Senior Management Team has been briefed about the initiative and implementation status. While the BBS process is new to many SMT members, they understand the benefits BBS will provide.

The SE District has been researching and planning to implement BBS for more than a year. Discussions regarding implementation began about this time last year. Following discussions with the Executive Team, it was determined that this initiative could and should benefit every employee. Because the SE District had a good knowledge base in the program, SE leadership agreed to be the first district trained.

Every MoDOT employee will receive training in BBS. Based on the plan from SPS, three types of trainings will be held. The first will be for the BBS Steering Committee. This training will focus on providing tools, knowledge and information to assist in consistent implementation across the state. The other two will consist of training District and Central Office employees, both in field and office settings. Additionally, SPS will work with Human Resources to develop a training process for new employees.

MoDOT will work with SPS to train each employee in the BBS process. Because of the number of MoDOT employees, this process will take time to schedule and complete. As trainings are scheduled, information will be sent to employees to keep everyone updated on the progress and any updates to the timeline.

The Statewide Steering Committee is comprised of individuals from each district and divisions who support the majority of our field employees, Human Resources and General Services. This Committee will be charged with developing consistent guidelines statewide and supporting districts and divisions during the implementation of BBS.

To execute the plan, the SE District has proposed utilization of three teams in each district. The teams would include a leadership team, peer review teams and regional review teams.

  • Leadership Team – This includes maintenance superintendents and supervisors, as well as the district management team. The team will provide oversight to the other teams to ensure BBS is moving forward and working as anticipated. Communication and supporting BBS 100 percent will be key.
  • Peer Review Team – Every maintenance shed will have a peer review team onsite. The team will consist of about 10 employees. At smaller facilities, the entire shed will serve as the team. At larger facilities, employees will rotate. Teams will observe operations, ask questions and provide positive feedback when the employee is performing well. The team will discuss observations, decide what changes to make, if any, and how to perform the operation in the safest manner possible.
  • Regional Safety Teams – Regional teams are already in place (in the SE District), but the makeup of these teams may change. Currently, one person from each shed has been identified as the "safety spokesperson" and meets with Risk Management at regional safety meetings held each month. Discussions will cover near misses and observations throughout the region. At least one person from each peer review team will serve on the regional safety teams.

A safe workplace takes a coordinated effort on the part of all employees. Senior leaders establish safety-oriented visions and values; managers put safety management systems, procedures, and accountability into action; and frontline employees complete the work as safely as possible. Maintenance supervisors execute visions and values, comply with procedures, implement decisions and bring safety to the forefront. Understandably, maintenance supervisors can feel pressures from many different directions: production, quality, customer service, employee satisfaction, and of course, safety. With so many seemingly competing priorities, it’s understandable that it could be difficult to prioritize. However, nothing is more important than preventing injuries in the workplace. BBS will provide tools for every employee to understand that good safety leadership is really about good people leadership.

Part of every supervisor’s job is to develop relationships with direct reports so employees trust their supervisor enough to stop a job, challenge a decision, and tell him or her about at-risk events without fear of repercussion. The goal is to build trust to the point that direct reports would be comfortable going to supervisors and saying, "I just messed up," or "I took a safety shortcut and here is why," or "I just had a serious near miss because of something I did."

However, BBS isn’t just about your supervisor. It is about engaging every employee in our workforce. Through training, MoDOT employees will learn how to become a more engaged workforce by:

  • Participating in safety discussions
  • Planning for and anticipating hazards
  • Actively working to keep peers safe
  • Reporting near misses and hazards
  • Challenging decisions when you have concerns

Education and training will be provided to each MoDOT employee. There will be checks and balances in place for district steering teams to monitor buildings participating in BBS. Each work unit will implement the BBS process in their respective sheds, etc. If a supervisor refuses to implement and/or participate in the process, concerned employees can contact their BBS Steering Team rep and ask them to speak to the supervisor. If this fails to bring about change, that supervisor’s leader should step in to mentor the supervisor about the benefits of the BBS process.

Reporting near misses is important to determine focus areas for improvement. If several near misses of the same nature are being reported, then it may indicate that an area, district or the entire Department needs to focus on how to improve. Reporting near misses is important because even if no one is hurt, the potential for an incident has been identified. By knowing there is a potential for injury, we can focus on change.

Near misses can be tracked in one of two ways. The SE District is working with IS and our MoDOT Now app developer to update the existing app. This improved app will provide observation and near miss reporting forms. A printable version of these forms will be available on MoDOT’s Sharepoint site. Information on all observations and near misses will be reviewed and analyzed to ensure we are working to improve. All near miss forms will be sorted by type, so areas of focus for safety improvements can be developed.

When reporting a near miss, employees will have the option to report anonymously or identify themselves. It is anticipated many of the near misses will be reported anonymously until employees are more comfortable reporting near misses without fear of peer pressure, criticism or discipline.

At some point, every employee can and should make observations. Some individuals may never be comfortable providing input to their co-workers or may feel uncomfortable in certain circumstances (i.e. observing an employee who has been at MoDOT much longer than you). SPS will train every employee in actively caring about each other, the role of human error, and observation and feedback. If you are having issues communicating with others following training, you may contact a member of the Steering Committee for additional tips.

Every MoDOT employee will be trained in BBS. While the trainings may vary between divisions and departments, it is important for every MoDOT employee to have a basic understanding of BBS and how it works. While those who work in offices don’t have the same risk exposure as those in the field, we can’t deny there is some risk—albeit small (soft-tissue damage, ergonomics, slip/trip hazards, etc.).

While no decisions have been made about current safety incentive programs, discussions about appropriate incentive programs are taking place. Research shows that incentive programs do not guarantee safer work habits or results. For example, MoDOT has participated in safety incentive programs, and we continue to see approximately the same number of incidents each year. While incentive programs may continue to be part of MoDOT in the future, it has not been determined at this time.

It is not likely MoDOT will implement any additional awards or incentive programs with BBS. The point of an incentive system should be to motivate employees to engage in safe behaviors that will prevent injuries, illness and damage to equipment. The ultimate vision of a total safety culture is zero incidents. Incentive programs sound reasonable on the surface. But the issue is that the employees can receive incentives in three possible ways:

  • Employees work safely and thus earn the reward through desired safe behavior. In this case, the incentives are operating in the intended fashion; they are motivating safe behavior and ultimately preventing incidents.
  • Employees engage in some or many at-risk behaviors but are lucky in that none of the at-risk behaviors result in an accident. In this case, the incentives are rewarding luck and possibly teaching employees that at-risk behaviors are okay: "It won’t happen to me!"
  • Employees engage in at-risk behaviors and some of those at-risk behaviors result in accidents, but the accidents are not reported in order to avoid losing the incentive. In this case, incentives are motivating non-reporting of incidents.

The last point is the one more often cited as a reason to avoid injury-based incentives.

While BBS is not a new concept and has been around for many years, it is a new process and change of culture for MoDOT. MoDOT’s goal with this initiative is to create a highly functioning safety culture. But, this will take time and should not be expected to occur overnight.

SPS will be training every employee to give them the necessary tools to understand behaviors, communication and how to nurture the safety culture once it is established. BBS focuses on proactive processes to prevent incidents, as well as positive reinforcement to highlight employees’ safe practices. BBS also recognizes the need for continual improvement and strives to make that process positive instead of using negative reinforcement and fear.

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