Encourage Safe Behaviors Through Positive Reinforcement - Safetip #201

Safety Tip and Best Practice
February 26, 2020

Our latest Safetip is about encouraging safe behaviors by giving positive reinforcement.

It Starts with Behaviors

There are many opinions about the most effective ways to improve workplace safety. Some people believe it’s through more policies and rules, although many think this is not the right approach.

Others believe that it’s through the implementation of a safety management system and the adoption of industry best practices. These can certainly help.

And then there are those who think that employee engagement positively impacts safety performance and helps to improve safety culture. There is certainly a very strong case that can be made.

Another valid opinion is that safety starts with identifying and encouraging the right behaviors.

We can even say that behaviors, employee engagement and safety culture are all connected: The more workers are engaged, the more the safety culture is positive, leading to a workplace where unsafe and at-risk behaviors are less likely.

Give Positive Reinforcement

How can the right behaviors be encouraged?

Certainly not through blame and criticism. For example, if you have a Behavior-Based Safety (BBS) program at your company, be careful not to give the impression that you’re monitoring workers to find fault and assign blame.

Positive reinforcement is more effective. David Cant makes the following great point on Twitter: “Regular genuine praise for actions of working safely will help workers want to do more of it.

Give positive reinforcement when you observe a safe behavior. A BBS Best Practice Guideline from the Construction Owners Association of Alberta (COAA) provides a few examples of what positive reinforcement can look like:

  • Positive feedback provided either verbally or in writing.
  • A recognition or reward (e.g. participation in a draw, a gift certificate obtained after many safe behaviors).
  • Celebrating when there is a desired change, or continued improvement, in behaviors.

It’s easy to focus only on unsafe and at-risk behaviors. Look also for safe behaviors, and provide positive reinforcement to encourage them further.

Finally, consider the use of a mobile app to increase observations of behaviors directly from the field, in real-time.

Our Safetips share safety tips or best practices that contribute to safety excellence. Visit Enablon Insights regularly for new Safetips!



Jean-Grégoire Manoukian

Content Thought Leader