Course 712 - Safety Supervision and Leadership

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Negative consequences can be a positive step in the right direction

Applied as a management intervention to make sure undesired safety behaviors do not persist in the workplace, some form of negative consequences must be administered. Probably the most common process, progressive discipline, can actually be a very positive experience for both the supervisor and employee. Usually progressive discipline procedures imply that increasingly more serious or severe consequences are administered if the undesired safety behavior continues. These steps might look like this:

Step 1. Informal verbal warning. This is actually an informal counseling session that might include some retraining to restate the importance of compliance. The supervisor will get best results if he or she approaches the employee with the thought that, "I don't want to see you or a co-worker get hurt, or company property to get damaged." The approach is one of concern, not control.

Remember, even though the verbal warning is informal. The supervisor should still make an "informal" note about the warning to document the fact. OSHA may want to see some form of documentation during a compliance inspection.

Step 2. Formal written warning. If the employee continues the same undesired behavior, it may become necessary to formally counsel the individual, once again restating expected standards of safety behavior.

Step 3. Suspension from work. Usually without pay, suspension usually gets the employees attention quickly. It may take this rather extreme consequence before they understand you mean business. Don't forget, up to this point the employee may have been testing the supervisor's resolve.

Step 4. Termination. If an employee continues the same undesired safety behavior after all the employer can do, then it becomes necessary to terminate the employee. After all, the employee is expressing the attitude, through action, that he or she does not intend to comply with expected standards of safety behavior at your company. The employee may be a serious liability to the company; a liability they cannot afford.

If accomplished from a tough-caring approach, out of concern for the employee's safety, the supervisor will rarely have to go apply progressive discipline beyond the first step.

Please note that OSHA does not mandate this or any other plan for progressive disciplinary procedures. This is just one of many plans used commonly by employers.