Can you teach good behaviour?

Thoughts

Well, there’s an awful lot of time, effort and money spent trying to do that so I suppose technically the answer is “Yes”. However, given the number of non-compliances picked up in audits, never mind the shortcuts that go undetected, the better question might be “Can you teach good behaviour effectively?”

I’d say the answer to that is a resounding NO.

To justify that I’d like to refer back to some research done in the 1930s by a pioneer social psychologist, Kurt Lewin. He created a simple formula which pretty much explains everything we do:- B = f(P,E), which reads as “Behaviour is a function of a Person and their Environment.”

Now here’s the thing, when we start to talk about psychology and behaviour what springs immediately to mind for many people is Behavioural Safety. It seems to me the problem with a lot of Behavioural Safety implementations is that they’ve forgotten the basic equation that drives it all. So the focus, like a lot of “classic” Health & Safety”, is on modifying the Person and there’s the danger. At the extreme end a really bad behavioural safety implementation can be summarised as “We’ve told you the rules, now BEHAVE!”

Essentially much of classic H&S is the same.Procedures are written, training is given, toolbox talks and safety alerts reinforce the initial training, audits are done. When a slip-up comes to light the mantra is “time for a refresher”. MORE time effort and money expended. Incidentally, it’s often seen as “Punishment Training” and it’s both the workforce and the budget that get hit!

So what’s the answer? Simple! – look again at Lewin, remember the environment and realise that you can only influence a person never completely control them (even in extreme political regimes!) but what management can control is the environment.

By environment, we mean the physical environment of course, so site layout, access routes and also the tools and equipment provided. More than that though, for a really in-depth implementation, we need to consider the soft environment too – the Safety Culture.

That’s why we believe the real solution for ensuring best behaviour lies beyond Behavioural Safety in Cultural Safety® .

By Paul Bizzell

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