Improving Process Safety Behaviours


Applicable across a wide variety of disciplines, Behavioural Safety is a proven process for reducing injuries and incidents by eliminating unsafe behaviours in the workplace. It is known to produce many business benefits that include fewer incidents, improved communications, reduced bottlenecks and lower operating costs.

Process Safety Management is currently a major issue in the Chemical, Oil & Gas, and Petrochemical Industries after disasters such as Bhopal, BP Texas City, Esso Longford, Buncefield, Macondo, and numerous others.  A British Petrochemical Company has been simultaneously addressing Process Safety Management and people’s safety behaviours since 1997 using Behavioural Safety as a primary mechanism.


A high hazard, petrochemical installation, the plant processes some 3m metric tons of hydrocarbon products. In view of the hazardous materials in use, safety is a paramount requirement. The plant began implementing Behavioural Safety 15 years ago, after eight years without a reportable injury, but with recordable injuries ranging between 5.5 and 0.75 per 200,000 hours.

Process Development

A project team consisting of a champion and a full-time coordinator manage the project on a day-to-day basis. The project began with a review of the plants previous incident records to identify the repeat behaviours triggering the majority of incidents. These were developed into a single checklist containing 20 specific behaviours, which was circulated to each shift and extensively discussed and refined by each workgroup until a final version was agreed. Six months later this was developed further to include both behaviour and outcomes targeting Process Safety Management Issues (for example, ‘All relevant hot and cold surfaces are lagged‘) to cater for some minor burn injuries that had been experienced during the first 6 months.

Rollout and Execution

Two people from each of the shift teams, plus managers, were trained as observers. After a short time-period to establish current levels of behavioural performance, each shift team set their own safety improvement target. Thereafter, each week’s data was collated and analysed, with tabulated reports presented and discussed at weekly team briefings. Behavioural performance improved by 30% over the next 24 weeks.

At the same time, the process was rolled out to Storage & Distribution and the Day Maintenance teams, following the same procedures described previously. These new groups also used mixed behaviour and outcome checklists, containing very specific behaviours and Process Safety  items. Performance improved during this stage by around 30 percent, with Zero recordable injuries.

Four years later, using the same approach, the process began to include all the long-term resident contractors. After 5 years of starting, the plant had achieved a Zero reportable incident rate, the first time ever in its history, though a few recordable incidents occurred. The same year, the process was adapted for a major overhaul. With 495,000 man-hours worked, a Zero reportable injury rate was maintained. At this time, the plant calculated the cost-benefits at $500,000/year savings from reduced steam leaks. This reduction in energy consumption also directly reduced taxes incurred via the Climate Change Levy, and reduced insurance premiums by 32 percent.

The process has continued to the present time and has been extended to other business units. After 10 years, a review was held with the shift teams, and some minor adjustments made to the process to maintain its sustainability. The following year, a further major overhaul with an excess of 1 million man-hours worked maintained the Zero reportable injury rate, and achieved its lowest ever recordable rate at 0.14.

Long-term results

After an initial surge during the first few months of operation, while the process became embedded, recordable incidents show a continual downward trend that has removed the cyclical nature of the incident rate that was evident prior to Behavioural Safety (Exhibit 1).  By and large, two-thirds of each checklist has targeted outcomes (i.e. plant integrity issues), and one-third behaviour. The key to success has been involving people in the improvement effort, supported by extremely strong managerial safety leadership, and an effective project team.

Exhibit 1

After 11 years operation, the combined Company  businesses in the UK had achieved a Total Recordable Injury Rate of 0.05, inclusive of resident contractors. With no lost-workday injuries for the previous two years by year 13, the company received the Diamond Award for Safety Performance from the UK’s Chemical Industries Association.

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