An analysis of the effectiveness of a behavioural based safety intervention in a UK paper mill

  • R.M. Brown

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This research examines a behavioural based safety (BBS) intervention within a paper mill in the South East of England. Further to this intervention two other mills are examined for the purposes of comparison — one an established BBS programme and the other an improving safety management system through management ownership. BBS programmes have become popular within the UK, but most of the research about their efficacy is carried out by the BBS providers themselves. This thesis aims to evaluate a BBS intervention from a standpoint which is not commercially biased in favour of BBS schemes. The aim of a BBS scheme is to either change personnel behaviours or attitudes, which in turn will positively affect the organisation's safety culture.
The research framework involved a qualitative methodology in order to examine the effects of the intervention on the paper mill's safety culture. The techniques used were questionnaires and semi structured interviews, in addition to observation and discussions which were possible because of the author's position as participant observer. The results demonstrated a failure to improve any aspect of the mill's safety culture, which worsened following the BBS intervention. Issues such as trust, morale, communication and support of management showed significant signs of negative workforce response.
The paper mill where the safety management system approach was utilised demonstrated a significantly improved safety culture and achieved site ownership from middle managers and supervisors.
Research has demonstrated that a solid foundation is required prior to successfully implementing a BBS programme. For a programme to work there must be middle management support in addition to senior management commitment. If a trade union actively distances itself from BBS, it is also unlikely to be effective. This thesis proposes that BBS observation programmes are not suitable for the papermaking industry, particularly when staffing levels are low due to challenging economic conditions. Observers are not available when there are high hazard situations and this suggests that BBS implementation is not the correct intervention for the paper industry.
Date of AwardAug 2009
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorRichard Booth (Supervisor)


  • safety culture
  • behavioural based safety
  • safety management systems
  • paper industry

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