2010DC MicrositesSafety and ESGSeptember/October

HSE Corner: Behavior management: next step change in safety

By Abid Tauseef, Schlumberger

Behavior-based safety programs can bring about the next step-change in the industry’s safety performance by motivating all employees to choose the right behavior at all times and in all aspects of their work.
Behavior-based safety programs can bring about the next step-change in the industry’s safety performance by motivating all employees to choose the right behavior at all times and in all aspects of their work.

Before we explain what “behavior-based safety” is in today’s oil and gas industry, let’s first ask ourselves: What is behavior management?

There are many textbook answers. The most often heard is associated with behavior-based safety (BBS). A quick search on the Internet for “behavior-based safety programs” leads to an enormous number of links.

Safety professionals believe that behavior-based management applies to all aspects of our work – not just safety but everything associated with performing quality work.

Managing behavior is dependent on understanding why people do things in a specific way. To do that, experts have developed a model to show the human behavior selection process. It is often referred to as the “ABCs of Behavior.” The model aims to show, in a logical and simplified way, how we choose a specific behavior in any given situation.

As we progress through our lives, we continually develop a set of attitudes, values, knowledge and experiences.  This is what gives each of us our unique perception of the world and significantly influences the way we handle any situation in which we may find ourselves. In life, we come across situations that direct the need for us to take action. In this model, those things that trigger the need for us to take action are referred to as “activators.” When we experience an activator, our perception provides a filter and influences our comprehension of that specific situation.

A typical workplace activator could be an instruction given by a supervisor, reading a warning sign or hearing an alarm. Activators direct us to make a behavioral choice. To make that choice, we consider the consequences that we perceive could arise from each of the behavior options available. It is our perception of the consequences that then motivates us to choose a behavior. In general, we make behavior decisions to gain a desirable outcome for ourselves or to avoid an undesirable outcome.

Once we make our behavior choice, the result is the consequences. Sometimes we get what we anticipated; other times we get something quite different.

The model concludes by showing that the consequences provide feedback to give further input to build our perception. Consequences affect behavior in one of two ways: They either reinforce it or discourage the behavior.

Our perception is not only re-enforced by feedback from our own actions but also when we witness other people’s behavior and the consequences. If one person who is a senior employee complains, other employees may start complaining. If the manager starts his meetings with a safety topic, other managers and supervisors tend to do the same. Behaviors that others see positively reinforced are most likely to be modeled.

It is often the case that two people will choose a different behavior when confronted with the same situation. Why?

We are strongly motivated to choose a behavior that provides what we perceive to be a positive outcome. This choice is further strengthened if we also perceive that the positive consequence we anticipate is certain to be delivered – and soon. Therefore, in the language of behavior, “soon,” “certain” and “positive” are often used to describe consequences that are likely to strongly motivate a behavior choice. It is by understanding the simplified human behavior model and our knowledge of “soon,” “certain” and “positive” antecedents that we can begin to appreciate why we do the things we do.

However, in the pursuit of “soon,” “certain” and “positive” consequences, we sometimes make the wrong behavior choice.


Behavior choices can affect any part of our life and work. When parents want to encourage their children to do something or behave in a certain way, they instinctively praise their children every time the child does a certain action or displays a certain behavior the parents are trying to promote. This technique relies on the “soon,” “certain” and “positive” principle.

If the child knows that he will be praised immediately following a desired behavior and that praise always happens after the behavior is displayed, then this represents a positive outcome for the child. This combination of “soon,” “certain” and “positive” activators strongly motivates the behavior choice of the child.

Behavior management is not just focused on safety; it is also relevant to all aspects of the quality of our work. The science of behavior management is to strengthen the perception of the consequences so that they strongly align to motivate choosing the appropriate behavior. By using the simplified ABC model for behavior, we can take our understanding of the concepts and use them to encourage desired behaviors and discourage at-risk behaviors.

The same philosophy is valid whether at home or at work. Our perception of the consequences determines the behavior we choose in response to an activator. The actual consequences provide feedback to further develop our perception.

At-risk behavior can be defined as “any behavior that increases the likelihood of an incident occurring that can lead to negative consequences.” It results when poor perception leads us to misinterpret potential consequences and results in us choosing a behavior that increases the likelihood of an incident. If one is trying to get home from work quickly and chooses to go over the speed limit, he or she may reach home early without having an accident or getting a speeding ticket on the way. This consequence would let him or her misinterpret the future potential consequences of choosing the at-risk behavior of speeding.


It is now a good time for the industry to be focused on behavior management. Look at the evolution of prevention and mitigation programs in the oil and gas industry and you will see certain stages of well-marked improvement. The industry has a lot of broad-based, well-educated people, and the safety culture in the industry has improved significantly. This improvement has come in stages, and, as each process stage matured in the evolution of safety, the rate of performance improved but flattened after showing improvement.

In the first stage of the formal HSE evolution, traditional safety programs such as PPE, safety signs and machine guarding, etc, were introduced. These programs typically addressed the low-hanging fruit of safety improvement.

In the next stage of development, more powerful tools were added. These were often extensions of the initial programs but more sophisticated. In the next stage, the effect of the implementation of QHSE management systems, including global standards and the power of information technology systems, was realized, and a significant improvement was seen.

What can bring about the next step-change in the industry’s safety performance? Because the systems are already in place, we need people to implement them. We need a system that motivates all employees to choose the right behavior at all times and in all aspects of their work. This can be managed through behavior-based safety programs. The goal of these programs is to encourage safe behaviors and correct at-risk behaviors in the workplace.

At Schlumberger, this program is called “WorkSMARRT,” a term used to convey behavior management of all types of risks – certainly safety but also environmental management, service delivery, work-product quality and so forth.

Using knowledge of human motivation and behavior to manage safety is not new to the industry or Schlumberger. However, WorkSMARRT represents the first time the company has used a single overarching name to organize its behavior management efforts in all segments and functional applications.

The initiative is supported by three main components: accountability, risk management and communication.

Accountability is a shared commitment and an obligation of every employee to intervene not only when they see something wrong but also when they observe something right, to encourage the continued use of correct behaviors.

Risk management is about differentiating the right ways from the wrong ones. Active participation in hazard identification and the analysis of associated risks is a key behavior that every employee must strive to develop. It is imperative that one understands all the activities involved in a process so that any exposure to hazards during those activities is recognized, and one can apply appropriate risk-control measures to eliminate the risk or reduce the risk to an acceptable level.

The company has a hazard analysis and risk control (HARC) standard for all operations. It describes what to do and what tools to use when doing hazard analysis and related risk control. At-risk behaviors can be anticipated and documented using this process, and the appropriate prevention and mitigation measures planned.

Communication is a vital part of WorkSMARRT. People communicate with each other to determine what is required and to understand what needs to be done. The “RR” in WorkSMARRT represents “recognize and respond.” This principle applies to the improvement of one’s own behaviors by requiring every employee to recognize consequences accurately and respond with appropriate behavior choices.

Additionally, one can recognize when others are choosing an at-risk behavior and must be prepared to respond by intervening. Employees are required to take time to observe fellow workers and their workplace and intervene appropriately. As one recognizes the need to address behavior factors, the need to know how to respond also becomes very important.

Schlumberger introduced the Observation Intervention Program under WorkSMARRT. The program gives everyone absolute authority and an obligation to stop any activity that may threaten service or product quality, health, safety or the environment.

The program gives managers the resources they need to support their teams in complying with quality and safety standards. The Integrated Project Management (IPM) group of Schlumberger initiated the program through its worldwide operations in 2010. It soon became clear that the intervention techniques, though seemingly simple, are complex, and that workers require specific training and practice in order to implement them.

Two training programs were developed for the Observation Intervention Program. Level 1 training was developed as an awareness-level initiative applicable to each employee of IPM. This level of training was based more on what is the observation intervention program and why it is being implemented.

A second, more advanced level of training was developed, Level 2 training. The target audiences for this training were line managers and field supervisors. Level 2 training is a combined classroom and field-practice training program, and classroom studies were based on these modules:

1. Introduction

2. STEPS of an observation intervention

3. Human factors

4. Classroom workshop

5. Reporting in Quest (company database)

6. Supervisor toolbox

The program focuses on the behavior aspects of the safety programs already in place. Employees can report on different issues related to driving, injury prevention, the environment or general observational interventions based on the correct or incorrect use of specific techniques.

For example: Observers may report the safe or at-risk behaviors regarding driving techniques taught as part of the company DriveSMARRT program. The same is true for the Schlumberger Injury Prevention Program (SIPP), and an SIPP observation intervention could report on the correct or incorrect use of the injury-prevention techniques witnessed. The data that will be available after a few years into the program will help the company direct the human and financial resources where they are most required.

Genuine management commitment is critical to the success of such behavior-based safety programs. Top-level managers have recognized the value of the program as it was rolled out globally with a message of support from Schlumberger IPM president Miguel Galuccio.

The program is seen as a tool that can make the difference between life and death and may stop a catastrophe even when all other systems have failed. It is being practiced by thousands of employees across the globe, and it is our belief that such an approach will bring about the next step-change in the safety culture of this company.

WorkSMARRT is a mark of Schlumberger.


Ayers, H. (1995), “Perspectives on Behavior: A Practical Guide to Effective Interventions,” David Fulton, London.

Bandura, A. (1969), “Principles of Behavior Modification,” Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York, NY.

Daniels, A.C. (1989), “Performance Management: Improving Quality Productivity Through Positive Reinforcements,” PM Publications, Turker, Ga.

DePasquale, J.P., Geller, E., 1999, “Critical Success Factors for Behavior-Based Safety: A Study of Twenty Industry-Wide Applications.” Journal of Safety Research 30, 237–249.

Geller Scott, 1994, “Ten Principles for Achieving a Total Safety Culture.” Professional Safety, pg 18.

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