Updated: Apr 29, 2020
I recently delivered a presentation on employee accountability to a group of managers. Rather than focus on the traditional command and control approach, I focused on accountability as it pertained to safety. Accountability is being responsible for someone or some actions. Although some relate accountability to discipline or punishment, accountability is actually a positive thing. A culture focused on accountability works to proactively minimize exposure to hazards in the workplace. Accountability with safety involves establishing and maintaining an environment in which people take responsibility not only for their own safety, but the safety of the team.
It is not uncommon for organizations to develop accountabilities within job descriptions that don’t include safety as an important element. If safety is in fact a component of overall success then it should be part of each job description and an important element of evaluating performance. Even more important is how we measure success in this regard. An ineffective approach focuses only on negatives such as injuries and policy violations. An effective evaluation approach pursues a balance between both positive and negative performance. Performance evaluations should include positive factors such as participation in safety training, involvement in the safety committee, near miss reporting, job safety analysis efforts and the communicating exposure to fellow employees. Often performance is evaluated on an annual basis. I encourage you to take the opportunity to meet frequently with employees and engage them on safety. They deserve to know not only what the expectations are, but how they are doing.
Accountability is a positive thing. Leaders must develop employees and ensure that they have the resources needed to succeed in all areas including safety. This includes communicating expectations regarding behavior and ensuring that the importance of safety is communicated and measured just like production and quality. As leaders we are not only accountable for ourselves, but for the success of the individual and the team.
Joe Mlynek is a partner and subject matter expert at Safety Made Simple, Inc. He has over 20 years of experience in safety at the corporate level and as a consultant. He is a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) and Occupational Safety and Health Technician (OHST). Joe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org