A Digital Do-Over: Transforming a Failing BBSO Program with Tech
Andy Pritchard | June 23, 2022 | 5 min read
Michael is the HSE manager working in a medium-sized factory in New Jersey. He works for a Fortune 100 company that manufactures consumer packaged goods.
Michael and his team were looking for ways to enhance their site safety, and after hearing so much about the benefits of Behavior-Based Safety Observations, they decided to take the plunge.
They implemented their own BBSO program, rolling out a paper-based system. They built observation cards, trained their staff, and then waited for all the impactful data and culture change promised by BBSO.
Unfortunately, after several months, the new BBSO program had fallen flat. Their safety culture wasn’t improving, and they knew something had to change. They needed help.
Like many companies, Michael’s employer was looking for ways to use more technology in their plant. Industry 4.0 and the digital revolution are creating new ways to work smarter, capture better data, and automate many tedious manual processes.
They were introduced to Weever - an operational excellence software company focused on helping companies reap the benefits of the new digital age. But before we dive further into that discussion, let's take a moment to review what BBSO is and how it helps companies foster a ‘safety-first’ culture.
A Behavior-Based Safety Observation Program enables staff to observe and coach each other’s work habits on a peer-to-peer basis. Results are then reported back to the safety team for analysis. These reports provide two distinct advantages:
- Reinforcing a “safety first” culture. Training staff on appropriate safety behaviors and requiring them to complete safety observations helps to keep safety a priority and continuously reinforces the facility's commitment to incident prevention.
- Safety trend analysis. The information submitted provides safety managers with details on at-risk behaviors. This can inform one-point lessons (OPL), training opportunities, and safety awareness signage throughout the facility.
BBSO programs have a proven fifty year track record of enhancing overall safety culture, reducing incidents, and improving employee engagement and retention. But as Michael and his team found out, before any of these benefits can be realized, it has to overcome a very difficult hurdle: change.
Problems with Paper and People
Michael and his safety team were excited to reap the benefits that Behavior-Based Safety Observations promised. They rolled out a paper-based BBSO program, opting for an open program where all staff were expected to submit once a month. The program required staff to pull cards from a rack, fill them out and place them back into the rack when complete. The backs of the cards were printed green, indicating they were completed to the Safety Committee members who would take the completed cards and manually input them into a spreadsheet.
It wasn’t working. Employee adoption was very low, and leaders felt like they were nagging their staff to participate. Veteran workers were the most resistant, with many deciding BBSO was a “fad” that would go away in time. There was little or no insight into who was participating, so early adopters felt like they weren’t being recognized for their effort.
On top of resistant employees, the administration of the program was tedious and time-consuming. It became increasingly difficult to motivate the Safety Committee to find the time to do the manual data entry. The observation cards they did receive were often incomplete, or illegible, requiring going back to staff to complete or clarify the cards. Analysis of the data was even more sporadic, sometimes only getting done quarterly.
Any insights at that point were too old and dated to take action on. Their BBSO program was falling flat.
The Digital Do-Over: BBSO Relaunch with Weever
After a year of disappointing results, Michael knew he needed help. It was around this time he was introduced to Weever through a colleague, who offered help with a digital relaunch of their BBSO program.
First, the plant’s paper observation cards were digitized using Weever software, allowing staff to easily enter observation data every month using tablets and terminals placed around the facility. Staff were retrained on the use of the Weever platform, the new BBSO form, and how to submit them. Training included the use of the enhanced features of the digital BBSO form including capturing richer data using conditional logic, drop-down fields, taking photos to embed in submissions, and others.
To encourage participation the site elected to use Weever Rewards to provide an incentive for the staff who went “above and beyond”. Participants were allotted points redeemable in the factory's self-managed rewards shop. A leaderboard highlighted the program's top contributors.
Michael realized that veteran employees would always be resistant to change, so he opted to focus on training new hires. During orientation he made BBSO a core part of their training, investing in videos that demonstrated the importance of safety observations. Every new class of trainees hit the factory floor with an enthusiastic attitude towards BBSO, and gradually the more tenured employees warmed up to the new procedures and adopted them over time.
All safety observation data was gathered and collated automatically by Weever software, eliminating tedious data entry. A detailed, entirely automated, reporting dashboard was set up to show program performance and key areas of concern. Program results were broadcast to staff in real-time, which reinforced the impact of their commitment to safety.
Better Data = Faster Results
Prior to the relaunch, Michael and the Safety committee members reviewed and evaluated submissions on a quarterly basis. Using the new data, Weever built custom dashboards that highlighted trends in the data, giving them useful insights on where to take action. This meant the factory leadership could have timely follow-up and coaching opportunities, helping staff internalize safe behavior. This in turn began the process of gradual change towards a more safety-conscious culture. “Hot spot” at-risk categories and areas were identified and the committee put physical signs in the area to remind staff of the at-risk behaviors e.g. “Don’t forget to wear your gloves.”
The Results Are In
Michael and his team agree: the positive impact of the digital BBSO relaunch was significant! 16 months following the program relaunch the new Digital BBSO program is alive and delivering as promised. Safety metrics are up across the board, staff participation, evaluation and action plan workflow efficiency has increased, and key safety outcomes have improved measurably.
Observations increased to over 400 submissions per month and over 6,000 in total since relaunch. The new influx of data that was now presented in easy-to-digest average time to close at-risk evaluations decreased substantially. 10 “hot topic” behavioral issues were identified and overcome leading to a safer environment.
After proving success with BBSO, the plant went on to implement Weever within other core operational processes including Near Miss reporting, Hoist Inspections, Pallet Rack Inspections, and 5S Audit Checklists.
“Weever is very fast and very efficient. Everything just works and flows. It’s really nice to work with. I love it.”
Carmen H - Training Coordinator