Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Empowering People in Safety - Part 2

Software development companies

Principle 4.  Focus on Positive Consequences to Motivate Behavior. 

Control by negative consequences reduces perceptions of personal freedom and responsibility. Think about it.  Do you feel freer or empowered when you are working to avoid an unpleasant consequence or working to achieve a pleasant consequence? Unfortunately, the common metric used to rank companies on their safety performance is “total recordable injury rate” (or an analogous count of losses) which puts people in a reactive mindset of “avoiding failure” rather than “achieving success.” PBS provides proactive measures employees can achieve in order to prevent occupational injury. These days, Software development companies are focusing on People-Based Safety (PBS) as well.

We can often intervene to increase people’s perceptions that they are working to achieve success rather than working to avoid failure.  Even our verbal behavior directed toward another person, perhaps as a statement of genuine approval or appreciation for a task well done, can influence motivation in ways that increase perceptions of personal freedom and empowerment.  Of course, we can’t be sure our intervention will have the effect we intended unless we measure the impact of our intervention procedures.  Hence, the next basic premise of PBS. 

Principle 5.  Apply the Scientific Method to Improve Intervention. 

People’s actions can be objectively observed and measured before and after an intervention process is implemented.  This application of the scientific method provides critical feedback upon which to build improvement.   The acronym “DO IT” says it all:  D = Define the target action to increase or decrease; O = Observe the target action during a pre-intervention baseline period to identify natural environmental and interpersonal factors influencing it (see Principle 1), and to set improvement goals; I = Intervene to change the target action in desired directions; and T = Test the impact of the intervention procedure by continuing to observe and record the target action during and after the intervention program. 

The systematic evaluation of a number of DO IT processes can lead to a body of knowledge worthy of integration into a theory.  This is reflected in the next principle. 

Principle 6.  Use Theory to Integrate Information. 

After applying the DO IT process a number of times, you will see distinct consistencies. Certain intervention techniques will work better in some situations than others, by some individuals than others, or with some work practices than others.  You should summarize relationships between intervention impact and specific interpersonal or contextual characteristics.  The outcome will be a research-based theory of what is most cost-effective under given circumstances.  By doing this you are using theory to integrate information gained from systematic behavioral observation.   

Principle 7.  Consider the Internal Feelings and Attitudes of Others. 

Feelings and attitudes are influenced by the type of intervention procedure implemented, and such relationships require careful consideration by those who develop and deliver the intervention.  This is the essence of empathic leadership taught by PBS.   

The rationale for using more positive than negative consequences to motivate behavior (Principle 4) is based on the different feeling states resulting from using positive versus negative consequences to motivate behavior. Likewise, the way an intervention process is introduced and delivered can increase or decrease perceptions of empowerment, build or destroy interpersonal trust, and facilitate or inhibit an interdependent teamwork. 


The PBS principles reviewed here provide a perspective that improves how people view injury prevention and talk about this challenge to themselves and to others.  Besides providing a paradigm that improves the quality and increases the quantity of safety conversations, PBS provides specific tools and methods, which software development companies are using extensively, for increasing safe behaviors, decreasing at-risk behaviors, and motivating participation in safety-related activities.   

Author Signature: Shreyans Agrawal (

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