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A Behavior-Based Safety Checklist

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Having an effective behavior-based safety (BBS) checklist can make the difference between a secure and an at-risk work environment. As far back as the 1930s, industrial safety pioneers such as Herbert William Heinrich recognized that the majority of accidents and injuries on the job could be traced back to workers’ unsafe behavior. BBS checklists were formally developed in the 1970s. Each company creates a unique checklist to suit its circumstances, but certain elements prevail.

Employee Buy-In

Meetings are conducted with employees so they understand the need for a BBS checklist. They accept the fact that accidents and injuries on the job will decline as a safety checklist is utilized. Management indicates that employees will be involved in all facets of the checklist creation. Workforce observations are the backbone of behavior-based safety checklists, thus the workforce understands that they will all search for safety hazards and fix them. Communication and trust among members of the organization increases as the team concept toward safety is developed.

Data Collection

A company’s at-risk behaviors are determined and used as the basis of the safety checklist. This data results from the safety surveys completed by all employees. Management interviews workers and records their input. Accident and injury reports are analyzed. Common tasks are observed. Notes are taken as to the types of tools, clothing and gear that are utilized and employees note their effectiveness.

List Development

At-risk behaviors that emerge from the collected data are used as the basis of the safety checklist. Employees are informed of the results. The organization puts a task force into effect that includes all levels of employees, top to bottom. They establish common goals and determine best practices that will keep all workers safe. The information is typed onto a data sheet checklist. It includes behaviors that will be observed and spots to check off “safe” or “at-risk.” A comment section is added.


Employees observe and monitor one another with the BBS checklists. Employees know in advance that they will be observed. Positive feedback is noted first on the checklist. Behaviors such as the incorrect use of a tool are cited. Potential problems are recorded. The employee and the observer discuss the results and the employee gives explanations and feedback. Suggested behaviors are recommended. Praise is encouraged.


Checklist observations are entered into a computer database. The outcomes are analyzed and compared to previous results. Solutions for potential problems are based on this data. The feedback improves workplace safety features.