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Behavior-Based Safety Evolution: Employee Controlled Observations

Thousands of companies around the world are performing employee observations – the same way. You design an observations system, you create an observations checklist then you perform an observation and record the data.

One big problem is that many people don’t like being the object of an observation or the company culture does not favor people watching each other and giving feedback – even if it is positive.

The solution is to put control of the observations into the hands of the employees; when an employee is ready for an observation, he takes an observation form (or card hopefully) and approaches an observer with whom he is comfortable.Instead of being observed, he requests an observation.

It sounds like a small change, but I think it has big implications. For one thing, why shouldn’t I be able to have some input to my safety observation card? What’s wrong with training employees to play an active role in their own safety – as well as look out for their coworkers?

I might have an unsafe habit I want to break; maybe I am concerned about a specific aspect of my job where it is good to have some help – an observer who is my safety angel; someone to watch over me.Sound too “soft?”

There are a lot of people who do dangerous jobs in America; and, a lot of jobs have very dangerous tasks that have to be performed routinely or intermittently. Why not allow an employee to take his or her safety card to a “safety facilitator” (I like that better than observer) and say, “Hey Jim, how about giving me a look while I’m up here.I want to make sure I put all the safety steps in.”

Lets make observations employee controlled and “on demand.”An “On - Demand” observation is discretionary. An employee can get the oversight they want from a peer; he or she can help themselves build safe job habits by asking someone to make sure they put in all the steps and procedures.

So, let’s take the observation process to the next level:

  • Let’s allow employees to initiate an observation when they want one
  • Allow employees to add behaviors, conditions, or practices to their observation list that they want on there.
  • Allow employees to move to the next level of safety management – “self-management.”
  • Let’s move to a new level of comfort with the behavior-based safety process – employee controlled observations.

I think this is just the kind of redesign that will put new energy into your foundering, struggling, strangling, suffocating….am I going too far?