This BS will kill you
BS, behavioural safety, the STOP programme, Golden Rules and ‘Procedure for Corrective Actions for Safety Violations and Work Instructions for Corrective Actions’ - its management speak for ‘blame the worker’. Hazards warns it is more than bad language; this BS is a real threat to your safety at work.
Hazards 115, July-September 2011
Workers, science and official safety bodies all agree - behavioural safety schemes are a worker blaming scam. So, why are some companies so keen to use the discredited approach? Because the issue for them is not safety, but power.
Briefing on the hazards of behavioural safety schemes, Nancy Lessin and Rory O'Neill, October 2002
It's the hazards, stupid
As the official Health and Safety Executive pushes the discredited science of “behavioural safety,” Hazards issues a BS alert – however many hazards you face at work, when things go wrong you can now safely assume behavioural safety schemes will find “it’s all your fault.”
Hazards 79, July-September 2002
To be safe workplaces have to be properly managed. But new occupational health management systems, particularly those targeting worker behaviour, could be silencing the workforce and making the evidence and not the accidents in a hazardous workplace disappear.
Hazards 64, October-December 1998
Behavioural Based Safety - A Worker Perspective
Steve Mullins, OHS Officer, Australian Council of Trade Unions, Behavioural Based Safety In Heavy Industries Conference, Australia, 20-21 November 2007 • Big Brother Safety Kit, ACTU [pdf]
Unite ‘Beware behavioural safety’ campaign
Unite says "Beware behavioural safety! Fix the hazards, don’t blame the victims." more
Blame the Worker H&S Programs
This Unite Steelworkers guide describes behaviour based safety systems as "programs that are implemented by management with the intent to decrease the number of reported injuries and shift responsibility for maintaining a safe workplace from management to workers." United Steelworkers
Employers play a deadly game
Wishing workplace injuries away is becoming the cut price alternative to genuine safety practice. Canadian hospital workers get entered in a prize raffle if they keep on turning in, in sickness or in health. more
GPMU opposes bogus safety incentive schemes
Print union GPMU says it is concerned about the growth of "safety incentive programmes" offering bonuses or prizes when accident figures fall, because they could encourage fewer reports rather than fewer accidents. more
Behavioural safety schemes: A union viewpoint
Nancy Lessin is the health and safety coordinator for the Massachusetts AFL-CIO and is an international union authority on behavioural safety schemes. In a detailed briefing for Hazards readers she explains what's wrong with the schemes and why unions must be wary.
Hazards briefing, August 2002
¿Por qué? ¿Por qué? ¿Por qué? ¿Por qué? ¿Por qué? No hay nadie que pueda identificar mejor los riesgos en el puesto de trabajo, o aportar ideas para eliminar o reducir dichos riesgos que quienes trabajan en esos puestos. Si un trabajo se realiza en condiciones de riesgo, una buena regla del pulgar es pregutnar "por qué" cinco veces.
Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?
There is no one better to identify the hazards on a job, or come up with ideas to eliminate or reduce those hazards, than the worker doing that job. If a job is being done "unsafely," a good rule of thumb is to "ask 'why?' five times." Hazards 79
Britain: Better behaviour on HSE research
Britain’s top safety body has revised its research strategy after criticism from TUC, dropping behavioural safety research and replacing it with studies of the the impact of workers' initiatives on safety. The TUC warned an earlier draft of the Health and Safety Commission and Executive (HSC/E) Strategic Research Outlook (SRO) for 2003 paid too much attention to "behavioural safety" approaches, and called for more attention to the positive role workers’ own initiatives can make.
Risks 109, 7 June 2003
Britain: TUC wants research to make bosses behave better
The TUC wants has told the UK's safety enforcement body HSC it wants "to see less research into 'behavioural safety' approaches, and more into the positive role which workers' own initiatives can make - especially partnership and consultation with safety representatives."
What workers need from health and safety research - better behaviour or more consultation? The TUC's submission to the HSC/E draft strategic research outlook 2002/3 Risks 87, 4 January 2003
Behavioural safety is a flop - official
An officially-backed evaluation of a print industry safety project conducted between April 1998 and March 2001 found it cut deaths and serious injuries by over a quarter and led to a marked improvement in health and safety in the UK's paper mills. The Health and Safety Executive backed study also found that while the project overall was a success, behavioural safety initiatives had been a near total flop and had been ditched by almost all the companies trying them. 24 July 2002 More
Risk assessment in paper mills, GPMU guide to best practice, 18 June 2002
Blame the worker
Instead of examining how core work processes are affecting health and safety, many employers are directing attention to workers as the problem, rather than work restructuring and hazardous job conditions. Enter behaviour based safety. US union safety advisers Nancy Lessin and Jim Frederick argue that behaviour based safety programmes focus attention on worker carelessness and conscious or unconscious unsafe behaviours, an underlying shift of responsibility that places the onus for a safe workplace on workers themselves.
Blame the worker: The rise of behavioural-based safety programmes, James Frederick and Nancy Lessin, Multinational Monitor, November 2000 - Vol. 21 - No. 11
UFCW behavioural safety guide
US food workers' union UFCW says behavioural safety programmes can be a hazard to trade unions. It says they shift the focus away from workplace hazards, can weaken hard won protections and can discourage members from taking a more active role in the union... and none of this is an accident.
The hazards of behavior based safety programs, UFCW
Bosses behaving badly
By Cathy Walker, national health and safety director of CAW, the Canadian autoworkers' union
WHIN, July-December 1998: [pdf]
CAW behaviour based safety guide
Behaviour based safety programmes seek to identify unsafe behaviour and punish those who practice it. But isn't the idea of behaviour based safety just a less fatalistic version of "accident proneness", that wonderful theory that says that some people just can't stop hurting themselves? CAW says it isn't a worker's behaviour that determines their safety; it is the nature of their work.
Behaviour based safety programs, Cathy Walker CAW [pdf]
United Steelworkers of America
Resources available on the USWA website:
Blame the worker safety programs pages
The steelworker perspective on behavioral safety: Guide from the United Steelworkers of America [pdf]
Safety incentive and injury discipline policies: The bad, the even worse and the downright ugly [pdf]
United Steelworkers of America (USWA): Presentation on health and safety [pdf]
Global: Study sets the direction for container port safety
A new study could pave the way for significant improvements in the health, safety and welfare of workers in the global container port industry. The Cardiff University research, commissioned the global transport unions’ federation ITF and UK safety professionals’ organisation IOSH, identifies continuing dangers, causes for concern, and flaws in the blame-the-worker behavioural management systems commonly employed by operators.
ITF news release. Experiences of arrangements for health, safety and welfare in the global container terminal industry, full report and summary, Cardiff University, IOSH/ITF, September 2016. IOSH container terminals webpage. Risks 768. 17 September 2016.
Global: Behavioural safety dangers exposed
DuPont, a US multinational promoting its own workplace ‘behavioural safety’ programme worldwide, has received a series of citations for the serious, wilful and repeat violations that exposed its ‘failed safety programme’. The enforcement action in the US prompted UK union body TUC to issue a renewed warning about behavioural safety approaches.
TUC health and safety facebook page and behavioural safety guide. OSHA news release. DuPont Stop Programme UK. Risks 711. 18 July 2015
Britain: Unite questions HSE silence on Chevron deaths
The union Unite has expressed concern at a failure by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to provide information on the causes of a fatal refinery blast two years ago. The explosion and fire at the Chevron Pembroke Refinery on 2 June 2011 killed four workers and seriously injured another.
Unite news release • Risks 608 • 8 June 2013
USA: Construction boss jailed in safety bonus scam
A former safety manager with a construction firm working on US government nuclear sites has been jailed on eight counts of major fraud after hiding worker injuries to obtain $2.5 million in safety bonuses for his firm. A federal judge sentenced 55-year-old Walter Cardin, who worked for the Shaw Group, to 78 months in prison for deliberately falsifying records of workplace injuries.
US Justice Department news release • Charlotte Observer • Risks 601 • 20 April 2013
USA: Watchdog steps back from voluntary programmes
The official US workplace safety enfor cer OSHA is stepped back from the controversial Voluntary Protection Programmes (VPP) that reward workplaces reporting lower-than-average injury and illness rates, and is supporting greater employee involvement and whistleblowing instead.
Testimony by Jordan Barab, OSHA, to the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections Committee on Education and the Workforce, US House of Representatives, 28 June 2012. i-Watch news • Risks 563 • 7 July 2012
Britain: Behavioural safety gets a drubbing
Behavioural safety “came in for a bit of a bashing” at a major safety event last week, where even proponents of the approach agreed that it can go horribly wrong. SHP Online, published by the Institution of Occupational Health, was commenting on contributions at last week’s Safety and Health Expo in Birmingham.
SHP Online • Unite Beware Behavioural Safety campaign • Risks 557 • 26 May 2012
USA: How to make injury reports disappear
An official US report has exposed how safety incentive programmes and post-incident drug and alcohol testing can discourage workers from reporting workplace injuries and illnesses. The report from the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) presents the results of its survey of US manufacturing companies and found that 75 per cent of firms had safety incentive programmes or other workplace safety policies that can affect workers’ reporting of injuries and illnesses.
Workplace safety and health: Better OSHA guidance needed on safety incentive programs, GAO, 2012 [pdf] • USW news release • Risks 556 • 19 May 2012
USA: DuPont victimised safety whistleblower
Chemical giant DuPont Co victimised a worker who raised concerns about potentially deadly safety problems in a chemical reactor. A New Jersey Superior Court ruled this week in favour of John “Jack” Seddon, and a $500,000 (£312,000) punitive damage settlement awarded by a lower court in a whistleblower lawsuit.
NJ.com • Risks 531 • 12 November 2011
Britain: Behavioural safety theories challenged
Criticism by the TUC of the use of behavioural safety methods to control workplace hazards were given a boost by a report by the influential US National Safety Council (NSC). Behavioural safety is based on the theories of Herbert Heinrich whose work forms the basis for behaviour-based safety, an approach that focuses on identifying and changing unsafe worker behaviours.
NSC article. TUC guidance • Risks 527 • 15 October 2011
USA: Court tells firm to ditch BS
A labour rights court in the US has ruled that a manufacturing company that tried to impose a behavioural safety system broke the law and should have negotiated with the union USW. After the ruling, USW commented: “This win by our union is timely in that some paper companies are trying to go to health and safety programmes that focus on worker behaviour.”
USW news release • NLRB decision • Risks 515 • 23 July 2011
USA: Death highlights behavioural safety dangers
Serious safety failings at a DuPont factory in the US which led to a workplace death highlight the dangers of a ‘blame the worker’ system of safety management. The report of a US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) investigation published last week criticised behavioural safety champion DuPont after Carl Fish, 58, died at the company's Belle facility in West Virginia, in January 2010. CSB news release • Unite news report [pdf] and behavioural safety campaign • Not Walking the Talk: DuPont’s Untold Safety Failures, USW report • Risks 514 • 16 July 2011
Britain: Chevron refinery blast kills four workers
Three male painting contractors and a female fire-watch officer have died in the huge explosion at the Chevron refinery at Pembroke Dock, south west Wales. The Health and Safety Executive is undertaking a joint investigation with Dyfed Powys Police and other agencies after a large storage tank blew up late on Thursday 2 June during routine maintenance, rocking houses and sending a plume of black smoke into the sky.
Chevron statement • Dyfed Powys Police statements on support for the families and naming of the victims • Multiagency statement on the disaster and update • The Guardian • Western Telegraph • BBC News Online plus coverage of the Terra Nitrogen and Kingsnorth fires • Risks 515 • 11 June 2011
Britain: ‘Beware behavioural safety’, says Unite
Unite has launched a campaign to warn members in the paper and corrugated packaging sector about the dangers of behavioural safety initiatives at work. The union says the approach, which includes a number of different programmes with worker behaviour as the prime target, is a ‘blame the worker’ system that doesn’t work.
Unite news release • Behavioural safety: A briefing for workplace representatives, TUC • Hazards behavioural safety webpages • Risks 515 •
Hazards news, 11 June 2011
Britain: Steel union concern over punitive policies
Unions at a global steel producer are warning that a “heavy handed” safety policy, based around behavioural safety approaches and which treats breaches of “golden” safety rules by employees as automatic disciplinary offences, should be ditched. The warning came from the union side of the ArcelorMittal Joint Global Health and Safety Committee.
IMF news report • Risks 490 • 22 January 2011
USA: Confronting blame-the-worker programmes
When US firms get lean-and-mean, injuries can increase, official safety inspections become more likely and workers’ compensation premiums soar. But many employers have found a novel response: hide the injuries.
Labor Notes • USW webpages on BS programmes • Hazards behavioural safety webpages • Risks 458 • 29 May 2010
Britain: Reps told to be wary of BS
The TUC is warning union reps to be on the lookout for behavioural safety (BS) schemes that pin the blame for injuries and illness at work on “unsafe acts” by workers. The union body says the schemes – which also go by the name of “behavioural modification” or “behaviour based safety” – require that “management should target specific behaviours and aim to change these based on observing and monitoring workers.”
Behavioural safety: A briefing for workplace representatives, TUC, May 2010 • Risks 457 • 22 May 2010
Global: Paper deaths prompt transatlantic campaign
An increase in workplace fatalities and serious injuries in the paper industry may have been brought on by employers trying to increase profit margins at the expense of health and safety, unions in North America and the UK have warned. In January, Workers Uniting will offer a freephone number for members to report unsafe work practices, which will be then be reported to the health and safety authorities in both the US and the UK.
Unite news release • USW news release • Risks 434 • 28 November 2009
USA: Workers dare not report injuries
More than two-thirds of injured or sick workers in the US fear employer discipline or even losing their jobs if their injuries are reported, a study from the official Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found. The GAO survey of more than 1,000 occupational health practitioners found a third of these health professionals reported being pressured by employers to provide insufficient treatments to workers to hide or downplay work-related injuries or illnesses.
Workplace safety and health: Enhancing OSHA's records audit process could improve the accuracy of worker injury and illness data, GAO report, published online 16 November 2009 [pdf] • New York Times • AFL-CIO Now blog • Risks 433 • 21 November 2009
USA: How to make injury reports disappear
When one of the USA’s largest construction sites boasted injury rates a fraction that on comparable jobs, it looked too good to be true - and it was. There had been a systematic falsification of injuries and illness numbers by KFM - Kiewit Pacific/FCI Constructors/Manson Construction - a joint venture to rebuild the eastern span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge.
Risks 275 • Hazards behavioural safety webpages • 23 September 2006
USA: “Safe” construction giant done for record fraud
The contractor building the new California Bay Bridge eastern span, KFM (Kiewit/FCI/Manson), which once boasted the job was five times safer than the average heavy construction project, has been cited by state safety authority CalOSHA for an accidents cover up.
Risks 260 • 10 June 2006.
USA: Union denounces DuPont’s bad behaviour
A North American union has denounced DuPont corporation’s “abominable” health and safety record and has criticised its behavioural safety programmes. A report from the Steelworkers’ Union (USW) launched at the World Congress on Safety and Health at Work in Florida “illustrates that DuPont’s many violations and accidents are not just isolated incidents of worker failure, but establish a clear pattern of denial of corporate responsibility,” said the union.
Risks 226 • 1 October 2005
USA: Major site’s safety record too good to be true
The “immaculate” safety record of a massive San Francisco construction project has been challenged after evidence of an accidents and occupational disease cover-up came to light. Reports suggest the excellent health and safety record on the new Bay Bridge construction project has more to do with bullying, bribes and other “behavioural safety” initiatives than good practice.
Risks 202 • 16 April 2005
USA: Company admits falsifying safety data
Southern California Edison Co. used faulty workplace safety data - and in some cases may have suppressed reports of workplace injuries - over the last seven years to win performance-related bonuses from the state, the company has admitted. It admits behavioural safety schemes - including financial compensation and recognition lunches - "may have discouraged the reporting of some incidents" and may have produced "pressure to not report injuries."
Risks 180 • 30 October 2004
Canada: Rail firm buries work accident cases
Canadian union CAW says national rail firm CN is using "punitive harassment tactics in response to accidents and injuries." Workers who report incidents are "surrounded" by managers and "watched" afterwards, the union says.
Risks 164 • 11 July 2004
USA: Employers play a deadly game
Wishing workplace injuries away is becoming the cut price alternative to genuine safety practice. Canadian hospital workers get entered in a prize raffle if they keep on turning in, in sickness or in health.
Now the Los Angeles Times has got in on the act with its own game of "safety bingo". US website Confined Space reports that from 1 October employees in the pressroom, mailroom, machine shop and other parts of the workplace will be rewarded to the tune of $50.00 a month (£30), if employees from their team do not take time off with on the job injuries.
However, "an on the job accident which results in lost time or restricted duty to a team member will result in ineligibility for the next month's game for the entire team."
Management add: "If the entire Operations Department goes for three consecutive months without a lost time or restricted duty injury, the prize per bingo following the three-month period will be $75 (£45) and six months will up the prize money to $100 (£60) per bingo."
Confined Space editor, Jordan Barab, says "incentive games like safety bingo can do more harm than just discouraging reporting. Minor injuries - the type that are most likely not to be reported - should be seen as warning signals of much more serious injuries: In a Massachusetts workplace last year, a worker was caught in an unguarded machine and crushed to death. Minor injuries that had occurred on that machine weren't being reported because the plant utilised both a safety bingo game that rewarded workers for not reporting injuries and a post-injury drug testing policy that mandated drug testing for all workers who reported injuries."
Britain: GPMU opposes bogus safety incentive schemes
Print union GPMU says it is concerned about the growth of "safety incentive programmes" offering bonuses or prizes when accident figures fall, because they could encourage fewer reports rather than fewer accidents.
A GPMU circular to union reps says they "should make clear to their employers the GPMU opposition to safety incentive schemes based on reporting fewer accidents." The circular says: "GPMU policy is to oppose such schemes where they pay bonuses, or are included in payment systems, based on the recording of fewer accidents. The GPMU is sceptical about all safety related payment schemes, but where they do exist, they must only be based on measuring positive contributions to safety."
GPMU says it wants to hear about any workplaces covered by safety incentive schemes. In the USA, where these schemes have been heavily promoted, US national union federation AFL-CIO opposes their introduction. Several national white collar and blue collar unions in the USA and Canada have said union reps should avoid the safety incentive schemes.