Recognizing Safe Behavior

The Truth: We Always Recognize Behavior in Some Form

To improve your safety recognition program, what should we actually recognize: safe behavior, or the number of lost-time accidents? That’s right, we should recognize safety behavior. The truth is that we always recognize behavior in some form. We might think we measure performance, which is a result, but no, in reality we’re recognizing all of the behaviors that resulted in that performance. We might also think we’re recognizing results when we measure the number of lost-time injuries, but no again, what we’re actually measuring is the degree to which employees are reporting lost-time injuries. Submitting and failing to submit injury reports are both employee behaviors. So, what makes more sense: recognizing safe behaviors, or inappropriate behaviors?

Measure Leading, Not Lagging Indicators

I believe we should always recognize employees for safe behaviors, not for supposedly useful results like the number of lost-time injuries. Why?

  • Measuring and recognizing safe behaviors are “proactive” actions because doing so measures behaviors that prevent injuries. These proactive leading indicators can help us dramatically improve our safety management system in the long term. For instance, we could measure and the number of observed safe behaviors over a period of time.
  • Measuring and recognizing employees for the number of lost-time injuries are “reactive” actions because doing so recognizes behaviors that occur only after a lost-time injury has occurred. That’s right, we’re really measuring a behavior. What are those behaviors? We’re measuring the degree to which employees report or fail to report lost-time injuries. Consequently, we gather after-the-fact lagging indicators that do not give us any answers at all about how to improve our safety management system.

Bottom line: Understand we only measure behaviors. Always measure and recognize safe behavior. Do not measure lost-time injuries because it actually measures inappropriate behavior – withholding injury reports.