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Science of or treatise on morals; moral principles.


Ideals, standards.


One`s principles or standards; one`s judgement of what is valuable or important in life.


What one accepts as true.


Insights, understanding.


Refinement or improvement of one`s mind by education and training; form or type of civilization, customs of a people.

Decision analysis

Defining a coherent and consistent set of preferences.

Cost/benefit analysis

An individual`s preference for something, interpreted and measured as a willingness to pay for that thing.


Reason or inducement to act.


Strengthening or support of a stance or action taken.


Return or recompense for service or merit.



When safety standards are too low, it is necessary to correct the situation expediently for the sake of personnel, the organisation and those with whom it deals.

It’s one thing to know the theory of how to improve safety and health, quite another to get things happening in practice.

Mention ‘behavioural change’ and most people run for cover. For some, the thought of changing ‘what comes naturally’ is too painful to contemplate. For others, visions of authoritarian regimes using violent methods of ensuring conformity come to mind.

Given such knee-jerk reactions to the idea of changing behaviour, it is not surprising that many workplaces have trouble translating safety policies into action.

For the behaviourists, who view the old Freudian notion of a submerged and inaccessible psyche controlling our behaviour and motivating conduct sometimes in stark contradiction to our conscious attitudes, changing habits isn’t as painful as traditional thinking would imagine.

The core of the new behaviourist-cognitive approach is its acknowledgement of the need for people to know the why and the what of risk-taking behaviour and its positive feedback in motivating change.

There are many negative forms of feedback in the workplace, and in broader society we are bombarded with negative messages telling us what not to do.

To get workers, or anybody else for that matter, involved you need to present your message in positive terms and to give positive feedback when people respond positively.

In practical terms this comes down to the difference between, for example telling someone that they are doing the wrong thing by not wearing PPE and the alternative approach of acknowledging the fact that someone is wearing PPE.

It may seem a subtle difference but the effect on subsequent behaviour has been shown to be dramatic.

All of us prefer praise to punishment, none of us like being reprimanded, and like all animals, we respond to reward by doing more of what we’re rewarded for doing.

The behavioural safety process incorporates a positive-feedback approach, which assists work groups establish priorities, examine and improve group decision making and problem solving. It improves work operations by addressing a range of issues directly and indirectly related to behavioural change.

Involving employees in all aspects of risk identification and management, control and assessment of performance creates ‘ownership’ of safety. Employees must be given the tools of risk understanding if they are to manage their risk taking behaviour more effectively. A shift in the centre of control and responsibility for safety and health from management to employees is essential for fulfilling the safety-performance targets of organisations who are serious about safety as a core business function.

In organisations which are entrenched in a hierachical management model – where structure is seen in vertical rather than horizontal terms – such a shift in thinking can be threatening.

For old-school managers entrenched in the control model of management, the thought of giving away what they see as their core function can raise the spectre of redundancy.

In Australia management tends to manage things, but not people well. When managers face workers they may be fearful of criticism, and some may bark as a defence mechanism. Mature managers are not threatened by the thought that they might not have all the answers. As a result they’re able to accept criticism and the idea that they aren’t – and don’t have to be the sole sites of expertise in their organisations.

They’re also able to accept that hands-on employees have the most expertise in the practical realities of the job they do, without feeling that that acceptance undermines their own status.

Forming work groups so that employees can identify, assess, control and evaluate success in the management of the particular risks, which exist at a workplace, is crucial to getting safety on the move at grassroots level. In addition ‘safety sampling’ can be a powerful motivator towards improved behavioural performance, once risks and behavioural aspects are known.

Safety sampling measures how often (agreed-to) standard practices (identified ‘safe’ or minimal risk behaviours) are used.

It is important that such sampling is conducted by employees and supervisors at the hands-on level, not by management, since the perception that sampling might be in reality a policing exercise is against the spirit of the behavioural safety approach.

In practice sampling might involve a member of the safety team sitting for a short time in an unobtrusive spot and noting down the number of times safe (or standard) and unsafe ( or substandard) procedures are used. The sampling should be conducted regularly and anonymously, to avoid any question that the behavioural safety program is being used as part of a management strategy to identify the behaviour of particular employees.

The results of sampling should be analysed by workgroups, and the sampling statistics represented by graphs of positive achievement. Once people realise it is within their power to influence the shapes of the graphs, they respond by behaving more safely.

The advantages of safety sampling are:

Safety should be integrated into people’s lives beyond the workplace. It’s only when safety becomes a philosophy of life, not just an occupational necessity, that real results can be achieved. This is also a key to getting real involvement in safe behaviour at work.