Behavioral Observations sounds simple enough. Watch a person do their job then fill out a checklist …right?

Actually, there is more to conducting a MEANINGFUL behavior observation than that. The best behavior-based safety initiatives are unique to a particular company and are developed specifically to suit its circumstances. With that said here are some general steps that should be taken within any organization.

1) Employee Involvement

Man on ladder

  • Employee observations are the backbone of the behavior-based safety system, thus the workforce must understand the need for behavior-based safety.
  • Communication and trust among members of the organization increases as the team concept toward safety is developed.

2) Determining “Critical Behaviors”

  • A hazard analysis should be done in order to identify the company’s “at-risk” behaviors.
  • This can be done using data from employee surveys, interviews and injury and near-miss records.

3) Observation Form Development

  • The selected at-risk behaviors will be used as the basis of the observation form.
  • The form typically includes a list of the critical behaviors in addition to field check off “safe” or “at-risk.”
  • Also a section should be added to allow the observer to make comments.

4) Conducting Observations

  • Observer training is critical. Untrained observers have the potential to turn the Behavioral Observation process into a negative experience for employees which can cause harm to your culture.
  • Typically the process starts with supervisors and managers observing and monitoring employees. Eventually as the culture develops employees can become involved in the observation process as well.
  • Both positive and at-risk behaviors are noted on the checklist. The employee and the observer discuss the results and the employee gives explanations and feedback. Suggested behaviors are discussed and praise is encouraged.
  • The employee being observed should not be named on the observation form.

5) Performance Measurement and Feedback

  • The data collected on the observation checklist should be entered into a spread sheet or database.
  • This will allow the outcomes to bed analyzed and compared to previous months.
  • Solutions for potential problems are based on this data with the ultimate goal of improving workplace safety.

6) Want to take it to the next level?

  • A great way to take your Behavioral Observation process to the next level is to incorporate a “quality scoring” section into them.
  • This will remind the observers to create a meaningful document with the checklist and not simply “pencil-whip” the form.
  • You can create questions to improve the quality of the report such as:
  • Was your employee feedback dynamic (2-way)?
  • Was the feedback positive, negative or both?
  • Did you focus on the monthly safety behavior? (If applicable)

Incorporating a behavior-based observation process into your over-all safety management strategy can be a meaningful way to improve the safety culture at your company and, ultimately, to keep your employees safe at work.

If you would like more information on setting up an effective behavioral safety system contact Trevor Reschny at 407-760-6170 or email him at treschny[at]