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SBO program, safety based observation program, safety culture, construction safety, HCSS safety, Brennan safety, J.F. Brennan Company

4 Steps to a Successful Safety-Based Observation Program

Posted by Samantha Schmitz on Fri, Oct 7, 2016

We live in a world where focus on construction safety is advancing as rapidly as the development of new microchips.  When it comes to safety, a construction company cannot afford to learn by mistake.  Reacting and correcting is not a sustainable method to our survival in this day and age.  We have to look forward and predict problems before they happen. 

Unfortunately there is a shortage of crystal balls out there so we look for other methods, such as forming a Safety-Based Observation program (SBO).  At Brennan, we did not invent the concept of the SBO, but we have successfully implemented it and we are experiencing some fantatstic results! 


Here are a few pointers that helped us to succeed:

  1. Incentivize participation

Nobody likes to have their feet held to the fire, but that does not mean strong incentives can’t be given.  Our SBO program is such a big part of the safety focus at Brennan that we tied it in with our bonus system. 

  1. Make it Corporate Cultural

The true success of any safety program is embracing it as a major part of your corporate culture.  Our SBO program is not intended to create blame, but it is used to promote ownership and empowerment.  We ask that individuals report deficiencies and shortcomings, AS WELL AS better practices and exemplary performance.  This puts the concept of safety innovation in the forefront of everyone’s mind as they work throughout the day.  Not only will an individual continue to work safely, but he or she will look for a better, safer way to do things.  In fact, the vast majority of the improvements in our safety program begin with a change initiated during a work task in the field. 

  1. Computerize itsafety based observation program, brennan safety, construction safety, sbo programs, brennan

It’s the 21st century and we have more computer technology in our pockets than the Apollo 11 crew had when they landed on the moon.  Take advantage of this!  At Brennan, we worked with HCSS and helped develop an app for both smartphones and tablets that enable real-time submission of observations.  This lets the user enter a short description, categorize, and include photos!  Corporate safety managers then receive the information real-time and analyze the data (see our dashboard image at the top of this page).

  1. Communicate, Communicate, And Communicate!

Even the best SBO program is not worth its weight in boiler slag if the information is not collected, organized and then disseminated to the rest of the organization.  This is where systematic improvements take place.  Deficiencies found on one site may be indicators of a corporate weakness.  Good ideas developed by one individual, no matter what his or her position may be, could just save a life.  Every Thursday we hold a corporate safety meeting in which all levels of management and crew leaders identify and discuss standout observations.  This results in a continuous refinement of policies and best practices that are shared during daily safety meetings in the field. 


There is no one size-fits-all to a successful Safety Based Observation Program.  It took us a few years to implement the program and we continue to adjust our methodology.  However it is worth it, with over 100 observations per week the information we receive from the field has enabled our safety program to evolve, and as we approach 4 years without a lost time incident it shows in our safety ratings. 

Topics: safety, Health and Safety Programs, Construction Safety, Safety Based Observation Program