Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Empowering People in Safety - Part 1

Software development companies in India


Behavior modification… safety management…. attitude adjustment… behavior based safety… culture change… cognitive alignment… person-based safety… human engineering… social influence.  All these terms used to address the human dynamics of injury prevention.  Each of these can be linked to a set of principles, procedures, or a consultant’s service which defines a particular approach to managing the human side of occupational safety. Software development companies in India are implementing these set of principles in order to manage the human side of occupational safety.  

 All of these terms, and most of the accompanying materials, are insufficient.  They are either too narrow and restricting, or too broad and nondirective.  Some focus entirely on behavior change, while others attempt to target vague and unobservable aspects of other people, like attitudes and thoughts.  Still others have the grand notion of directly targeting culture change. 
 All of these approaches are well-intentioned and none are entirely wrong.  The human dynamics of an organization include behaviors, attitudes, cognitions, and the context (or culture) in which these aspects of people occur.  However, some of these approaches are too equivocal or ambiguous to be practical, while others may be practical but are not sufficiently comprehensive. 

Systematic evaluations of our implementations have enabled successive refinements of procedures, as well as the discovery of guidelines for increasing effectiveness and the long-term impact of our interventions.  We also developed research based and practical support materials for the behavior-change and culture-enrichment process. 

Today we call this approach “People-Based Safety” (PBS).  It strategically integrates the best of behavior-based and person-based safety in order to enrich the culture in which people work, thereby improving job satisfaction, work quality and production, interpersonal relationships, and occupational safety and health.   

 This article is the first of a five-part series in which I explain the essential principles and procedures of PBS.  Here are the seven underlying principles of PBS.   

Seven Basics of People-Based Safety 

Principle 1: Start with Observable Behavior. 

Like behavior-based safety, PBS focuses on what people do, analyzes why they do it, and then applies a research-supported intervention strategy to improve what people do.  The improvement of others results from acting people into thinking differently rather than targeting internal awareness or attitudes so as to think people into acting differently.   However, unlike behavior-based safety, PBS considers that people can observe their own thoughts and attitudes.  Thus, people can think themselves into safer actions.  In other words, self-management requires self-dialogue or thinking as well as self-directed behavior.  

Principle 2.  Look for External and Internal Factors to Improve Behavior. 

We do what we do because of factors in both our external and internal worlds.  While behavior-based safety deals with only external factors, PBS teaches people how to address their internal thoughts, perceptions, and attitudes related to injury prevention.  A behavioral analysis of work practices can pinpoint many external factors that encourage at-risk behavior and hinder safe behavior.  But, it’s also possible for individuals to conduct a self-evaluation of their own self-talk and selective perception regarding safety related behavior, and choose to make appropriate adjustments. Safety is of utmost importance for all the software development companies and hence they attempt to identify external and internal factors to improve behavior.

Principle 3.  Direct with Activators and Motivate with Consequences. 

Activators (or signals preceding behavior) are only as powerful as the consequences supporting the behavior.  In other words, activators tell us what to do in order to receive a pleasant consequence or avoid an unpleasant consequence.  This reflects the ABC model, with “A” for activator, “B” for behavior, and “C” for consequence.  This principle is used to design interventions for improving behavior at individual, group, and organizational levels. 

Author Signature: Shreyans Agrawal (

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