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Worker safety can improve with behavior-based programs

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Behavior-based safety programs can help companies encourage safe behaviors among their employees and reduce workers compensation claim frequency and severity, a behavior expert said Tuesday at a meeting of risk management and safety professionals.

Daniel J. Moran, a behavioral psychologist and Joliet, Ill.-based senior vice president of Quality Safety Edge Inc., presented the benefits of behavior-based safety at a joint meeting of the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc. and the American Society of Safety Engineers in Oak Brook, Ill.

Mr. Moran said employees tend to engage in unsafe behaviors because improper shortcuts often have benefits, while accidents are rare.

"If you're not wearing your hard hat, you're a lot more comfortable," he said. "If you cut a few corners to make deadline, you ... make that money."

Companies can encourage safer behavior by rewarding employees who follow proper procedures, Mr. Moran said.

This includes pinpointing work procedures that would make employees safer, measuring the use of safe behaviors among employees, giving positive feedback to employees who follow procedures, reinforcing good behaviors with group rewards and social recognition, and conducting regular evaluations to see if safety can be improved.

Mr. Moran showed claims data from a major refinery, an energy company and a logging company that showed a reduction in lost-time workers comp claims after the companies implemented behavior-based safety processes.

Companies can see about a $3 to $6 savings in workers comp claim costs for every $1 spent on behavior-based safety programs, said Mr. Moran, who was citing statistics from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration and Mercer L.L.C.