Using Social Safety to Drive Behaviour Change

Using Social Safety to Drive Behaviour Change

Published June 30, 2021

5 minute read

If you are applying behavioral safety principles in your organization, when was the last time you updated them?

Have you kept up with the most up-to-date research to make sure you are supporting employees in the right ways?

The UK Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) has looked at the evidence for behavior change and has summarized what works in the EAST framework. In this post, we speak to Engage EHS CEO Darragh Geoghegan (now of EcoOnline) about how the framework applies to their product, as well as the concept of 'social safety'.


The Framework

E’ stands for Easy, and ‘A’ for Attractive. We don’t like hassle, and we are more likely to do something that our attention is drawn towards. When given choices we usually take the easiest and most attractive options.

S’ stands for Social. We are more likely to do the right thing if we see other people doing it, and when we feel engaged in the decision-making process.

T’ is for Timely, and is about providing people with the information they need, when they need it. As we have all experienced, too much information, or information at the wrong time, can be overwhelming.

In November 2019 BIT published a report on how to apply EAST to health and safety. Reviewing it, Darragh Geoghegan and colleagues noticed that this summarised exactly the approach that they had been working on at Engage EHS (nowEcoOnline). In this post, Darragh explains how the current product – and their future plans – map onto the EAST framework.

EAST Framework

The EAST framework


Easy and Attractive

Darragh explains the aims behind Engage EHS (now EcoOnline): “The user shouldn’t have to change what they normally do. Doing safety needs to be part of how they do their job. It should be frictionless.” This ties in well with two of the key rules recommended by BIT - to reduce the hassle factor of performing a task safely, and to simplify procedures, forms, and other written messages.

Simplification comes from delivering to workers only the information they need. This could be the method statement for an unfamiliar task, a risk assessment for relevant hazards, or a list of jobs that need to be done in the area.

Darragh is clear that this isn’t just about delivering information to workers. Workers need to be able to get information back to managers, without friction and without hassle:

“A lot of the roadblocks to quality reporting are down to having to go somewhere else, change what you’re doing, and fill in a form...People should be able to communicate using what they already have in their pocket – their mobile phone. The opportunity to report should be built into the daily routine.”

- Darragh Geoghegan

This relates back to a recommendation from BIT for ease, which is to make the opportunity for the right behavior a default, rather than an exception. When reporting is the exception, it requires more effort. If we make reporting any concerns or issues at the end of a job the default, hazards reporting will be an easier process.

Not all workplaces can permit mobile phone access (e.g in some manufacturing or security environments), but Darragh hopes that a walk-up kiosk can provide the same hassle-free functionality as the mobile app.

An example of a kiosk set-up

Making something attractive doesn't seem like the most important concern for an H&S Manager, but BIT explains that this is about more than using pretty colors. It’s about getting users attention and framing the message for maximum effect.

Personalization is one of the key strategies listed by BIT. The EcoOnline system lets managers configure the information provided to each individual, to people with a particular job title, or within a given department. This way the user only needs to see the information relevant to their role.

A common issue is ending up with multiple sources of actions. A list on a phone, another on a pad of paper, and several more tasks sent via email or text. As BIT outlines, having a clear call to action is a key part of making the right behavior attractive.

A key feature is the ability to raise actions within the system and to see all your actions in a single dashboard. Actions from risk assessments, incident investigations, audits, or training can be shown in priority order. This way you don't have to search through multiple systems to see what needs to be done.


As BIT points out, the actions of those around us have a large influence on our own behaviors and Darragh sees this as the key strand that runs through all the developments they are making. He explains “If you see that your colleagues are reporting hazards or concerns, you’re more likely to get the idea that you can do it too. If you see that they get positive feedback from it, like actions being taken and processes being improved, you’re even more likely to have a go.”

BIT encourages us to use the power of networks to spread new behaviors across groups. Darragh responds “There is nothing more networked than your mobile phone. It allows people to be connected to the information they need at all times. Everyone can see, depending on their access levels, what everyone else is doing. That’s the power of a social network.”

Using social media apps also relates back to ease and attraction, as Darragh explains “Consumer software like Facebook and Instagram only succeed because they are attractive, simple and very easy to use by millions of people.  EcoOnline needs to maintain those same social media design principles, while providing value to the workplace.”

Growing Engagement System Imagery_Mobile


Reporting an observation through the EcoOnline app

Another BIT recommendation that resonates with the EcoOnline approach is supporting employees to participate in making decisions. Time and resource pressures on managers often mean that genuine employee consultation is squeezed out. There is a rushed incident investigation, where not everyone involved was asked for their view of events. Or risk assessments are signed off without the people who do the task being asked for their experience.

EcoOnline provides a platform where people can collaborate, and thereby increase their involvement in decision-making.


In all honesty, how often do people look at their training notes, the relevant risk assessment, or the method statement when carrying out a task? We usually rely on memory and experience for most everyday tasks. BIT recommends that for the best performance we need to prompt people when they are likely to be most receptive.

Darragh aggress with this.“We want people to be able to get just the information they need, just when they need it. That could be micro training relevant to a task you’re about to do, or reminders of actions that need to be done, at the time they need to be done.” 

He makes a comparison with a well-known social media platform:

“If I’m in a new town and I’m hungry, I ask Trip Advisor to search for restaurants near me, and I’m offered a selection of reviews, based on where I’ve eaten before. The equivalent would be what audits or other tasks need to be done near me? Or what hazards have been reported near me? What updates are relevant to equipment near me?” Timely information provides efficiencies and reduces the chance of missing essential safety information. 

- Darragh Geoghegan



Future Plans

Looking to the future, EcoOnline plans to enhance timeliness with more location-based information. “A simple approach is already in use using QR codes on equipment” Darragh explains. “A worker can scan the QR code and immediately be presented with documents relevant to that equipment. This could be a risk assessment, or maintenance records, or fault reports. Whatever is linked to that code.”

Long term, Darragh sees that this could be much more sophisticated, using more accurate location settings, and with the social safety app pushing notifications, rather than waiting to be asked. “Already, Facebook might pop up a message spontaneously saying ‘It looks like you’re in Berlin. Here are some recommendations of places to see.’ That same approach can be used in safety management, with a pop-up on your phone saying ‘It looks like you’re in plant room A. There are three outstanding tasks for you in this location.’”

If hazards are mapped to a location, these can be flagged up to users when the mobile device detects they are nearby. Reminders could then be set to wear particular PPE for the hazard.

Location-based information will be more timely, prompting people when they are in a position to do an essential task. It also makes it easier for people to know what needs to be done, and more attractive, because they can focus on relevant information.

EAST demonstrates a modern understanding of safety behavior by treating workers as social beings, who want to be connected to each other. People who want to be engaged, not programmed with rewards. The EcoOnline system provides a way for employers to achieve this with their workforce. 

Author Laura Fitzgerald

Laura Fitzgerald is a Content Marketing Manager with EcoOnline. She has been writing about health and safety topics since 2017, with a focus on the areas of improving employee safety engagement and EHS legislation.

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