Behavior-Based Safety: The Impact of Culture and Leadership on Workplace Injuries and Fatalities



This paper discusses the impact of unsafe work behaviors that potentially result in workplace injuries and fatalities, and whether the position is management or supervisor, knowing the importance of that position in taking and accepting ownership for the unsafe work behaviors, while not solely placing blame on actions of the individual employee. This paper will also discuss the organizational culture and its impact on employees' perception of safety on all levels of an organization. Employees that are informed, skilled, well-trained, and continuously aware of the importance of safety will not only work more efficiently but will likely become more conscious of both their safe and unsafe behaviors that lead to accidents. Although there is no definitive date, Behavior-based or Behavioral Safety theory was said to have begun with research conducted by Herbert William Heinrich (1886-1962). He was known as an American Industrial Pioneer in the 1930s. During Heinrichs research, he wrote a book entitled "Industrial Accident Prevention, A Scientific Approach" with a theory known as Heinrich's Law which states:

"In a workplace, for every accident that causes a significant injury, there are 29 accidents that cause minor injuries and 300 accidents that cause no injuries (Marsden, 2021). Heinrich concluded that 95% of workplace accidents result from unsafe acts or behavior after extensive research” (, 2016).

According to EHS Today, Behavior-Based safety is a broad term used to describe how an employee performs during audits, to incorporating a management system designed to change the company culture" (Smith., 2018). While interning in the construction industry, my experience was to expect certain risks due to the type of work performed, such as with ironworkers, having only fall protection but nothing to grab hold of or firmly stand on while welding at extreme heights, or firm footing for the workers to resort to in case of a fall. These types of risks were expected and accepted by management and supervisors as "a part of the job." Also, having been employed as a line worker in general industry/manufacturing, the job becomes repetitious, and employees become complacent. In many cases, supervisors have witnessed employees taking shortcuts, all for the sake of production and without correcting observed unsafe behaviors.

Keywords: Behavior-Based Safety, Safety Compliance, Safety Triangle

Year Manuscript Completed

Spring 2021

Senior Project Advisor

Michael G. Barton

Degree Awarded

Bachelor of Integrated Studies Degree

Field of Study

Safety Sciences

Document Type


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