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Hierarchy of Controls

Behaviour based safety - a union perspective

Every now and then Behavioural Based Safety programs pop up in Australian workplaces. This week Post is running one of these programs for its managers. It has brought out Jim Spigener from the US to run the presentations.

The reason unions don’t like Behavioural Based Safety is because it is dangerous. It shifts the focus from identifying the hazards in workplaces and then eliminating or reducing the risks associated with them - which is what employers have a legal duty to do. 

Instead the emphasis of the safety program is on getting workers to work more carefully around hazards. Workers are supposed to duck, dodge, jump out of the way, lift safely, wear personal protective equipment, avoid the line of fire, and keep their eyes on the task.

When a worker is injured, it is viewed as his or her fault for not working carefully enough. Discipline becomes management's preferred response to worker injury. Does it sound familiar?

Even where there is no discipline workers still often suffer inquisitions when they report injuries. Fear and

intimidation descend upon a workplace with a behaviour-based safety program in place. Workers avoid inquisitions into their behaviour by ceasing to report accidents and injuries. When injuries aren't reported, hazards don't get identified or corrected. 

It’s a win-win for the boss with decrease in claims and lots of money saved. But for workers the opposite is true with harmful and tragic results. 

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