Safe by Design Book Cover

Safe by Design

Judy Agnew & David Uhl

Avoid Putting Good Workers In Bad Systems

Keeping workers safe on the job requires robust safety systems, yet simply having these systems in place is not enough. Despite good intentions, many organizational systems fail to produce desired outcomes and can even undermine safety performance. Understanding how systems impact behavior helps leaders minimize blame and instead work cooperatively with the front line to develop sustainable safety improvement. 

In Safe by Design: A Behavioral Systems Approach to Human Performance Improvement, authors Judy Agnew and David Uhl explain the science behind how organizational systems influence frontline and management behavior and introduce a framework for improving their impact on safety. Agnew and Uhl examine nine common systems that have unintended effects and provide practical tips for redesigning those systems to improve safety outcomes and strengthen safety culture.

With their expertise in the science of behavior and their 50+ years of consulting experience, Agnew and Uhl succinctly demonstrate how many of the safety systems and safety management strategies used in organizations are less effective than they could be and sometimes actually undermine safety culture.

Agnew and Uhl are masters in this space! This book defines the critical system and behavioral components of a highly-functioning safety system, and how to improve them within an organization. This latest book is a great reinforcement for experienced practitioners and a wonderful guide for those new to organizational and behavioral safety. The authors use real examples that demonstrate the power of leadership actions and behaviors for creating a positive work environment and a just culture.

Susie Scott, Director of Corporate Safety, Delta Air Lines Inc.

This book is an ideal resource for leaders seeking to learn the important skills needed to effectively lead safety. Without an in-depth knowledge of the behavioral principles taught in the book, leaders are likely to repeat the cycle of doing the same things and expecting different results. Safe by Design provides a template for engaging staff to seek solutions that supply the safest care to patients and themselves! There is so much value in this book that will transform the culture of healthcare organizations!

Tracy M. Abrams, Chief Nursing Officer, Retired USAF, NC

Safe by Design is an invaluable read for anyone with a desire to improve performance in the workplace through achieving and maintaining the desired behaviors which move the needle for their organization.  Judy and David really hit the mark here simplifying the understanding of how organizational systems influence behavior and showing how to bring about positive performance change in not only safety but any aspect of a business. As a practicing disciple and former student of these folks and their peers at ADI, there is nothing more impactful to bring about improvement, which I have done in my career, than utilize these tools on a daily basis.

J.W. (Jim) Latham III, General Manager, Baltimore Marine Terminal, CONSOL Marine Terminals LLC

In Part 1 the authors give a scientific explanation of how organizational systems influence frontline and management behavior and provide the reader with a framework for assessing the impact systems have on safety. They use real-world examples to demonstrate how putting good workers in bad systems increases risk, encourages blame, weakens trust, damages working relationships, and undermines engagement. They demonstrate that when leaders become trusted partners with frontline workers and focus their attention on systemic causes and systemic solutions, significant improvement is possible.

In Part 2, the authors examine nine common organizational systems that have significant impact on safety including measurement, training, incentives, near miss reporting, incident investigations, hazard identification and remediation, safety rules, goal-setting and safety technology. In each case Agnew and Uhl demonstrate how the systems often fail to encourage safe work, despite the best intentions. The authors then use the science of behavior, case studies, and practical tips to show readers how to  redesign systems to improve safety outcomes and strengthen safety culture.

Judy Agnew

Judy Agnew, Ph.D., Senior Vice President, Safety Solutions, Aubrey Daniels International

Judy is a seasoned consultant, trusted advisor, and recognized thought leader in workplace safety and safety leadership. Judy partners with clients to create evidence-based interventions that are safe by design and result in optimal and sustainable organizational change. With more than 30 years of consulting experience, Judy successfully works with diverse employee populations across a wide range of organizational issues, helping clients achieve targeted performance objectives.

Judy is an active speaker and invited presenter at major national and international safety conferences and corporate events. She is frequently interviewed for national and trade publications and is the author of three other highly-regarded safety books: Removing Obstacles to Safety (with Gail Snyder), Safe by Accident? Leadership Practices that Build a Sustainable Safety Culture (with Aubrey Daniels), A Supervisor’s Guide to (Safety) Leadership, and Safe by Design (with David Uhl).