“Accountable” is defined as being Responsible, Liable, Explainable, Legally Bound, Subject To. “Safety Accountability” at the workplace is obligation and accountability of employees to comply with policies, rules, and standards.
Elements of Safety Accountability
The elements of effective accountability programs:
Element 1: Establishing Standards of Performance
Standards of performance should be in writing, clearly stated, and communicated to all employees so that everyone understands them.
Standards of performance are presented in several documents such as:
- The mission and vision statements
- policies, programs, and written plans
- job descriptions, procedures, and safety rules
Element 2: Resources to Achieve Standards
Before going to hold employees accountable to perform to standards, the management has to ensure that those employees are provided the resources to achieve established standards, depending on the task.
Necessary resources generally would be provided so employees can safely provide the highest quality products or service are:
- Safe tools, equipment, machinery, materials and facilities.
- Healthy physical environment that ensures minimum exposure to noise, toxic chemicals, hazardous atmospheres, and temperatures.
- Work procedures and practices that makes employees are free from hazards, injury or illness.
- a healthy psychosocial environment that minimizes distress of their work life.
- Maintain healthful relationships with co-workers and management.
Element 3: A System of Measurement
After establishing performance standards, processes should be developed to measure employee and manager behaviors against those standards. The process OSHA uses to measure your employer’s safety performance by conducting workplace inspections and issue citations that may include monetary penalties.
Measurement processes help for keeping track: quantifying behaviors. In the workplace, supervisors should measure their employees’ safety behaviors. And, managers should be measuring supervisors’ activities.In an effective Safety Accountability system, the employer also conducts inspections to measure how well employees at all levels are meeting the established standards in element one.
Element 4: Application of Effective Consequences
A “consequence” is anything that occurs as a result of something that happens. In terms of cause and effect: the initial behavior is the “cause” and the consequence is the “effect.” For every cause, there is an effect that affects you internally, externally, or both.
Effective Consequences Increase Desired Behaviors or Decrease Undesired Behaviors. There is not any escape from consequences in the workplace and there is no such thing as “no consequence” for an action.
If you think safety is not important, you take unsafe shortcuts (cause) that can get you injured (effect).
If a supervisor yells at you (cause), you might yell back, apologize, go home, or quit (effects).
You cannot avoid a consequence. For instance, a supervisor’s recognition to worker for making a safety suggestion, is a positive consequence. If the supervisor ignores the worker’s suggestion, is a negative consequence.
If performance standards are not met, perceived negative consequences occur. If performance standards are met or exceeded, perceived positive consequences occur.
In every organization, the concept of accountability must be clearly understood so that an effective accountability program can be developed and deployed. If the employee makes an informed choice not to comply with the company’s safety rules, some sort of appropriate corrective action should follow.
Element 5: Appropriate Application of Consequences
Without the expectation of consequences, accountability has no credibility. No consequences…no accountability. Consequences need to be appropriate as well as effective. Unfortunately, in some companies, consequences are either not appropriate, not effective, or both.
Criteria For Appropriate Consequences
- They are justified.
- They correspond to the degree of positive or negative results of the behavior.
- They are applied consistently throughout the entire organization.
- Employees could be held accountable for their performance only if they have sufficient control of the resources and ability to perform. If they have no control, they will attempt to somehow gain control. Their attempts may include inappropriate behaviors. Such attempt might be counterproductive as well as illegal.
- Control implies that employees can choose to meet expectations or choose to “do it their way.” Employees may have little control over their work schedules, the quality of materials provided, work assignments, production quotas, and co-workers but may have some degree of control, complying with safety procedures, policies, and rules. Their decision and the degree to which they have control over their performance, determines the nature of the resulting consequences.
Element 6: Recognition
Forms of Recognition
Positive Recognition and Negative Recognition
Positive recognition not only reinforces compliant behaviors, but it also reinforces performance beyond mere compliance.
Positive recognition can be express by:
- Thanking employees for a job well done;
- Giving employees a bonus
- Recommending for a promotion
- Rewarding employees for excellent working
- Assure their job security
In an attempt to increase the frequency of desired performance, supervisors may express Negative Recognition towards employees. Negative Recognition include:
- Yelling at employees for unsafe performance
- Blaming employees whenever they for accident or injuries
- Writing negative comments on performance appraisals.
Employees who meet or exceed safety performance standards may see the continual withholding of positive recognition as a negative consequence. They may come to believe that, “if the boss does not care, why should I?”
Negative recognition is inherently ineffective, and results in lower morale and less productivity.
Two Aspects of the Safety Accountability
Some companies think accountability is only about administering progressive discipline. They emphasize only negative consequences. In reality, an effective accountability system administers consequences for all behaviors in a balanced manner, appropriate to the level of performance.
Management Safety Behavior
Meeting Or Exceeding Standards:
In an effective safety accountability system, positive recognition is given regularly for meeting or exceeding employer expectations. In an effective safety culture, corrective actions are rare and perceived as positive in the long term. Usually, corrective actions involve some sort of progressive discipline
Five “STARS” Leadership Questions:
Before administering progressive discipline, supervisors should first evaluate how well they have fulfilled their own accountabilities. This is important to make sure they are displaying effective leadership and justified in administering corrective actions.
Determining if discipline is justified, all that’s required is that supervisors honestly answer to the following five “STARS” leadership questions.
- Oversight – Have I provided adequate safety oversight? I’m overseeing their work regularly to “catch” unsafe behaviors and hazardous conditions before they cause an injury.
- Training- Has the employee received quality safety training? The employee has the required knowledge and skills to comply. The employee understands the consequences of noncompliance.
- Safety Accountability- Have I applied safety accountability fairly and consistently in the past? The employee knows he or she will be disciplined if caught.
- Resources- Has the employee provided the tools, equipment, PPE, fall protection and other resources to do that job safely? Tools, equipment, machinery, PPE, etc. always in good working order.
- Support- Have I provided adequate psychosocial support that promotes working safe?
If supervisors can honestly answer “yes” to each of the above questions, they are demonstrating effective leadership they have fulfilled your obligations.
If supervisors cannot honestly answer “yes” to each question above, it’s probably more appropriate to apologize to employees and make a commitment to meet those obligations in the future.
Evaluation of the Safety Accountability Program
Usually, the safety coordinator and/or safety committee are involved in formally evaluating the accountability system.
In some “state-plan” states, the safety committee is required by law to conduct an evaluation of the employer’s accountability system.
The process usually involves three activities:
- Identify: inspect the accountability system policies, plans, procedures, and processes to identify what exists.
- Analyze: then dissect and thoroughly study each accountability system policy, plan, procedure, and process to understand what they look like.
- Evaluate: finally, compare and contrast each accountability system policy, plan, procedure, and process against benchmarks and best practices to judge their effectiveness.
If you find weaknesses in your employer’s accountability system, make sure to take notes on the behaviors and conditions that may be pointing to accountability system policies, plans, processes, and procedures that are inadequate or missing.
Accountability is an extremely important element in the safety and health management system. Having a firm understanding of the concept and program will help ensure safety of your people and ultimately, your company.
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