Safety education (instruction and training) is vitally important, not only to the welfare of each employee, but to the long term success of the organization. Employers and supervisors should make sure a successful safety education and training is integrated into all corporate functions.
In "Why Employees Don't Do What They're Supposed to Do," Ferdinand F. Fournies states that the number one reason employees do not perform to expected standards is that they don't know why they should do them. The second most common reason is that employees do not know how to do the task correctly. Safety education address both of these reasons:
When applied together, safety education strikes at both of these causes for substandard performance.
To best ensure safety education and training is given to all workers, supervisors should be assigned safety training responsibilities. And, because we are often driven by potential consequences in our actions and behaviors, training without accountability is always ineffective.
So, why should supervisors be trainers? Here's why: any educator, instructor, or trainer will tell you that every time they present a session, they learn more and gain greater understanding of the subject. So, it makes sense for supervisors to be trainers, so they can gain greater insight and expertise on the practices and procedures they are supervising. They are better qualified to supervise for safety by detecting and correcting hazards and behaviors. Workers will more likely perceive their supervisors as competent and knowledgeable in safety.
The Safe On-the-Job Training (OJT) model is a good method for training specific safety procedures. Measurement occurs throughout this process while keeping each employee safe from injuring themselves while learning. If, in using this training method, the employee is not exposed to hazards that could cause injury, you may be able to delete step 3. Otherwise do not skip a step.
For OJT safety training, documentation should be more than a mere attendance sheet. It should be a formal "certification." If the employer gives OSHA detailed safety training documentation in the form of written certifications, OSHA will be impressed, and this "first impression" can go a long way in making the rest of an OSHA inspection a pleasant experience (if that is possible).
The trainee certifies:
The instructor certifies the trainee has, through evaluation:
You can see sample training certification documents in course Course 721 Developing OSH Training Module 5.
If we reference Webster's Dictionary, "accountable" is defined as being "responsible, liable, explainable, legally bound, subject to". In the workplace, employees are obligated to comply with policies, rules, and standards. Accountability implies that our performance is measured, and that it will result in consequences that depend on our failure or success to meet the expected standards for which we are responsible.
Some companies think accountability is only about administering progressive discipline. They emphasize only negative consequences that result from a failure to meet standards of performance. In reality, an effective accountability program is characterized by a balanced administration of consequences appropriate to the level of performance. So, what form should those consequences take?
Let's take a look at the consequences that might result from two categories of employee behavior:
Meeting or exceeding standards: In an effective accountability system, positive recognition is given regularly (and hopefully often) for meeting or exceeding employer expectations. If your company does not have a formal safety recognition program, take a look at some examples.
Failing to meet standards: Unfortunately, in some companies this is the only category that results in consequences. In an effective safety culture, corrective actions are rare and perceived as positive in the long term. Usually (not always), corrective actions involve some sort of progressive discipline
Bottom line: In an effective accountability program, recognition is given often and reprimands are rare because employees are performing above and beyond minimum standards.
It's critical to understand before administering progressive discipline supervisors should first evaluate (make a judgment about) how well they, themselves, have fulfilled their own obligations to employees. This is important to make sure they are displaying effective supervision and justified in administering corrective actions.
Determining if discipline is appropriate does not have to be difficult. It can be a simple straightforward process. Again, all that's required is that supervisors ask the following questions and answer honestly to determine if they have met their own obligations:
If supervisors can honestly answer "yes" to each of the above questions, they are demonstrating effective leadership and it may be appropriate to administer discipline because they have first fulfilled their supervisor obligations. However, other safety management system weaknesses may exist that make discipline unjustified. If you cannot honestly answer "yes" to each question, it's probably more appropriate to apologize to the employee for failing to meet one or more obligations, and make a commitment to meet those obligations in the future. That may be hard to do, but it's the right leadership response.
Supervisors must understand how the accountability program works. Accountability is one of the most important elements within the safety management system (SMS) because if you don't have it, it's impossible for the SMS to function effectively. Although the intended purpose of the SMS is always to prevent accidents and save money, poorly designed and deployed SMS may unintentionally function to do just the opposite. With that in mind, let's take a look at the six basic elements within a Safety Accountability Program:
You can use the guidelines in the six elements of an accountability system to help design, develop, and deploy an effective accountability system.
With that in mind, let's take a look at an example of how each of the six elements can be evaluated to determine if the accountability program is effective.
Before supervisors are justified in administering consequences, they should first provide their employees with the means and methods to achieve the standards of performance that have been established. In other words, employers and supervisors should provide the necessary physical resources so that employees can work safe and be healthful.
There are four general categories of physical resources in the workplace:
The supervisor, more than anyone else, needs to make sure the psychosocial environment promotes a safe and healthful workplace. The term, "psychosocial" relates to the interrelation of workplace social factors and how they influence employee thoughts and behaviors.
Everything the employee experiences in the workplace has some effect on thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and actions. The psychosocial health of employees encompasses mental, emotional, and social well-being of employees. To gain a better idea about what we mean by the psychosocial environment, answer the following questions:
The answers to the questions above indicate the degree to which job stress is present in the workplace. Job stress can be defined as the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker. Job stress can lead to poor health and even injury. Factors that increase job stress include:
All of these situations affect the psychosocial environment in the workplace. Supervisors are responsible, to the extent possible, to ensure a workplace that is free from undue job stress.
We can't complete the course without discussing the supervisor's leadership responsibilities as it affects the psychosocial work environment. Remember, everything we experience influences what we think, feel, and do in the workplace. Employees are much more likely to work safely when their supervisors demonstrate effective leadership. Without effective leadership, supervisors might be able to manage quite well, but the resulting work culture may be counterproductive.
It's important to understand that management and leadership are not the same concepts. Management is an "organizational" skill and leadership is a "relationship" skill. Look at it this way; which would you rather work for, (1) a supervisor that was a good organizer, but had very weak leadership skills, or (2) a good leader but had poor organizational skills? Most likely, you will choose the latter situation. In the first instance, a good organizer cannot delegate leadership skills to another person. It just doesn't work. However, a good leader can assign organizational duties to another person.
"Tough-caring" leaders are tough on employees because they really care about their safety and success. This leadership approach is also called the "servant-leader" model in which leaders serve those they lead.
Tough-caring supervisors are also tough on safety. They have high expectations and insist their followers behave. Most of the time they care about the success of their employees first. This is a self-less leadership approach that exhibits the following characteristics:
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A WorkPlaceBC documentary-drama that examines issues related to supervisor responsibility for workplace health and safety. The video graphically depicts the emotional, legal, and financial consequences of a fictionalized workplace accident that leads to the death of a young worker.