3 Reasons Why Your Behavior-Based Safety Program is Failing

August 31, 2020 | Safety

A construction worksite can be a dangerous place. In fact, 10% of all construction workers are injured every year – and this accounts for 47% of all on-site job injuries in the country. The majority of these injuries include falls, slips, trips, or accidents with equipment – which is why having a behavior-based safety plan in place is so important.

Behavior-based safety training is a popular methodology that many construction companies implement. The goal of this type of program is to correct unsafe behaviors throughout the entire company – and hold every person accountable for their actions.

It is also designed to create a collaborative approach to worksite safety by focusing on four key elements:

  • Observation
  • Checklists
  • Feedback
  • Goals

This means that employee behavior is first observed and based on a pre-set checklist. Then, feedback is given regarding both positive and negative actions. From there, goals are set to correct any unsafe behavior – and the process repeats itself.

Now, this type of safety program can be extremely effective when followed through properly – which is why it is a popular training approach that many businesses utilize. However, behavior-based safety can quickly fall apart if it isn’t implemented correctly, which can lead to a plethora of workplace safety issues.

Today, we are going to cover some of the major reasons why behavior-based safety models can fail – and explain how to create a better company safety program.

1. Your Behavior-Based Safety Program is Creating a Toxic Work Environment

As the name implies, behavior-based safety programs focus on the behaviors of each employee. Everyone is observed by supervisors as well as fellow employees and their behavior is reported if deemed unsafe.

A poorly planned behavioral safety program can end up putting a lot of unnecessary pressure on employees. In turn, this creates a heightened fear of making mistakes or reporting hazards.

Behavior-based safety programs often implement penalties for breaking protocol or unsafe behavior. While this may be as minimal as a warning from a supervisor, more serious offenses could result in employees being temporarily suspended or fired.

This fear-based mindset commonly results in a more secretive culture where employees cannot trust their leaders and co-workers. As a result, it can be incredibly harmful to the culture of the company – and decrease morale.

While it is certainly important that potentially dangerous behavior is reported and handled, there needs to be a greater emphasis placed on proper safety training and corrective behavior. In order to create a safe, productive working environment, the focus must be on constructive conflict resolution and solutions – rather than finger-pointing and punishment.

For instance, if unsafe behavior is noted, the employee and supervisor should meet one-on-one to discuss solutions – rather than issue a punishment. If the problems are consistent (or if multiple employees are exhibiting the same behavior), then it may be best to require further company-wide training focused on specific instances.

2. It Puts the Bulk of Responsibility on Employees

In behavioral-based programs, supervisors are required to monitor their team’s behavior and adherence to safety regulations. However, issues can occur in how blame is placed in instances of negligence.

In some cases, there can be an unfair emphasis on each individual’s behavior, rather than the organization as a whole. Essentially, this can shift the blame to the worker who made a mistake, rather than addressing the underlying issues, such as inadequate safety training or a lack of effective leadership.

Now, in one-off occurrences of negligence or if there are recurring incidents from one person, blame may be fairly placed on the individual worker. But, if there are patterns of negligence from a multitude of workers, this is a sign that responsibility should be placed on supervisors and the organization as a whole.

Rather than looking at specific instances, supervisors should be examining patterns and identifying fundamental problems causing these unsafe situations. When there are widespread patterns of negligence, ineffective behavior-based training makes safety the primary responsibility of employees, rather than supervisors.

For example, say that an employee does not put away tools properly and someone cuts themselves because a saw was not in the correct spot. Obviously, this is a major safety issue. If the mistake happens once, it was likely a mistake made by the worker.

If this has happened multiple times, the employee may have put the tool away incorrectly because they were not properly trained to do so or they observed their co-workers practice the same poor behavior with no repercussions. This shows that there is an underlying issue of inadequate training procedures or a lack of adherence to the rules. 

While some mistakes may be one-time occurrences, patterns of unsafe behavior are almost always traced back to poor training and faulty leadership. Instead, supervisors should be taking clues from these behavioral patterns and questioning their approach to leverage workplace safety solutions – rather than blaming the individual time after time.

3. It’s Lacking Technological Integration


A common mistake that’s made in many behavior-based plans is to think it’s merely a sequence of activities or a process of observation, instead of actionable solutions for changing behavior.

Solving behavioral problems relies on data collection, number-backed insight, and meticulous tracking. If a supervisor is tracking the issues on pen and paper, they might not have an easy time pulling together the information necessary to document how many incidents were reported in any given time frame. Relying on word-of-mouth or an inefficient filing system almost always leads to problems down the road.

Integrating online technology is a helpful solution. By entering data into an online platform, patterns can be identified and issues can even be detected before they become hazardous. Without the right technology in place, organizations are essentially operating on borrowed time. In behavior-based safety, data regarding unsafe practices and onsite injuries or accidents must be recorded and analyzed to find solutions.

Another common issue we see is a company’s failure to track which of their employees are up-to-date on all their training and certifications. If a training lapses and goes unnoticed, it can potentially result in a fine or worse. Companies need a way to track who is up-to-date on their training easily and effectively.

MSC Safety Solutions has developed an online training record system, called C.L.A.R.K, which helps administrators keep track of which employees have completed their required training and when those training certifications expire or need to be retaken.

Integrating technology into workplace safety is no longer a fancy option. Additionally, leaders need to be comfortable with the technology, as well as be in the know for emerging solutions to create a safer working environment.


Behavioral-based safety training plans are a great workplace safety solution. However, it only works with an airtight system in place.  If you are looking for a better approach to workplace safety training and risk management, please reach out to MSC Safety Solutions by calling 303.477. 1044 or emailing [email protected].

We take a more solution-based approach to behavior-based safety with the goal of delivering more meaningful, measurable results.

We offer safety training courses, in-person classroom courses, and construction safety consultant services to help organizations find the solutions they need to create a safer workplace for everyone.