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The Role Of Management Commitment In Determining The Success Of A Behavioural Safety Intervention

2830 words - 12 pages

The Role of Management Commitment in Determining the Success of a Behavioural Safety Intervention
Published in: (1998) Journal of the Institution of Occupational Safety & Health. 2(2) 45-56.
Marsh, T.W., Davies, R., Phillips, R.A., Duff, A.R., Robertson, I.T., Weyman, A & Cooper, M.D. Abstract Behavioural safety interventions were implemented in 26 building sites across the United kingdom and quantitative safety data collected for some 24 items grouped into four categories: access to heights; scaffolding; personal protective equipment PPE and housekeeping. In addition behavioural measures of site management commitment, facilitator/observer performance and goal-setting quality were taken ...view middle of the document...

In continuous improvement models such as Total Quality Management, organisations attempt to manage proactively monitoring performance and applying continuous learning principles. Recently, these principles of monitoring and feedback have been applied to safety management with good results. The Manchester School of Management and Department of Building Engineering, University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST); undertook a five year programme of research, in two phases, for the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE). In phase one, the effectiveness of behavioural measurement, goal setting and feedback in improving safety behaviour on construction sites was demonstrated. In phase two, the practical problems of the use of these methods by construction contractors' own personnel were studied. This paper concentrates on the fundamental importance of management commitment in determining the success of any such intervention. It also considers the causal mechanisms by which such interventions influence behaviour. Behavioural programmes Following the principles of Heinrich's triangle (Heinrich, 1959), behavioural programmes focus on the key behaviours that lead to accidents rather than either accidents or attitudes. Accidents are relatively infrequent and can be difficult to investigate objectively after the event (there are also the numerous controversies regarding the accuracy of figures). Further, reacting to accidents rather than proactively tackling the most likely causes of accidents suggests fate may, have too much influence in dictating the application of resources.

Attitudes can prove difficult to change because of attention, understanding and perception issues. In addition, attitudinal measures can only be validated by a criterion such as behaviour. Finally, the relationship between attitudes and behaviours has been shown to be not necessarily direct. An attitude change may not lead to behaviour change and behaviour change can lead to a change in attitude (Festinger, 1957). For these reasons, behavioural programmes focus directly' and proactively on potentially risky behaviour. In part, the behavioural approach has become popular following the relative lack of success of other measures. Site inspection blitzes by the HSE (see, for example HSE 1988) and informational safety (see Saarela et al., 1989; Wilson, 1989) have not been consistently successful. Incentives and disciplinary action can have some success. However, incentives are expensive and can remove objectivity (Peters, 1991). Disciplinary action can result in reduced morale and it is difficult for organisations to meet the necessary requirements of immediacy, consistency and severity of punishment that are vital if there is to be a consistent and meaningful impact on behaviour in the long term (Skinner, 1953). Goal-setting, feedback and the behavioural approach Goal-setting, behavioural measurement and feedback have traditionally formed the backbone of the...

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