Skip Navigation

Topic - Accountability and Discipline

Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

When is Discipline Justified?

Ask Five Key Questions

Before administering discipline, managers and supervisors need to evaluate their own performance and make a judgment about how well they have fulfilled their obligations to employees. We can categorize these obligations into five general categories: Training, Resources, Supervision, Enforcement, and Leadership (TRESL). An easy way to remember this is to remember there's one question for each finger on your hand. To determine if discipline is justified, ask these very important questions:

  1. Training. Have I provided (or has the employee received) quality safety training? The employee has the required knowledge and skills to comply. The employee understands the natural and system consequences of noncompliance.
  2. Resources. Have I provided adequate resources that ensure a safe and health workplace? Do they have the physical resources and psychosocial support that gives them the ability to comply?
  3. Enforcement. Do I fairly and consistently enforce safety policies and rules? Does the employee know that I will follow through with discipline? Or, do they know that all you will do is issue a threat, "If I catch you doing that again, I'll...." Remember, a supportive safety culture insists on, not merely encourages, safe behaviors.
  4. Supervision. Have I provided adequate safety supervision? I'm not stuck in my office all day...I'm overseeing their work regularly or delegating that responsibility to someone. Adequate supervision is defined as the ability to detect and correct unsafe behaviors and hazardous conditions before they cause an injury or illness.
  5. Leadership. Have I demonstrated adequate leadership by meeting the other four obligations, and by complying with all safety policies and rules? Do I set a good example?

If a manager or supervisor can honestly answer yes to each of the above five questions, he or she is likely justified in administering discipline. If a manager cannot honestly answer each question in the affirmative, integrity might more likely require an apology along with a commitment to make improvements.