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Setting Accountability for Safety

When it comes to safety, accountability starts with effective communication. In order to hold your team accountable for safety issues, everyone must know about the expectations for their position. This includes everyone from volunteers all the way up to the board of directors. Expectations are the currency on which job performance is measured. This applies to every aspect of a job, and safety is no exception.

Make sure to be up front with everyone and clearly define his or her role in the organization. Some questions to ask include:

  • What is the Board’s role in safety?
  • What should employees expect from district managers?
  • What should employees expect from their supervisors?
  • What does management expect from district employees?

It is important to note that when it comes to safety, accountability is not necessarily punitive. If someone makes a mistake, suspending or terminating them will not improve the unsafe condition. Instead, work with the employee.

Help them step up, take responsibility for what happened, and determine the cause of the incident in order to ensure it does not happen again. Employees that have ownership over their jobs will naturally feel more accountable for their actions. Those employees will talk about the issues they encounter and help determine the best way of fixing an unsafe condition.

District leadership is obligated to create and enforce a safe working environment for all employees. This means explaining, involving, diagnosing and understanding techniques when faced with safety concerns.

Everyone needs some occasional motivation. Integrating this into your management style can have a tremendous impact on how your employees hold themselves accountable to your expectations. You can use a formal reward program to champion successes and reinforce positive behaviors. This could include performance management details, pay increases, or promotions.

Conversely, if someone is not meeting expectations, have a conversation about what some of the issues might be. You will be surprised at how far a little communication can go. Often times, mistakes are actually valuable teaching moments. You have already paid this person to learn this lesson, so capitalize on that investment by making this a chance for improvement rather than a need for punishment. Remember, failure is an incredibly powerful teacher.

After the incident, it may be best to pair the employee with a suitable peer or manager who can help guide them through correcting the behavior. At the very least, you can tell them who ask for help or seek guidance from should the need arise in the future.

The Results of Accountability

Accountability measures bear their own rewards. According to EHS Today, accountability can lead directly to positive safety outcomes. This makes every task, even things as mundane as housekeeping, much safer. Employees would know the expectations for what they are doing, how to finish the task up, and how ensure a safe condition at all times.

Take a step back and consider your district’s operations. Ask yourself if you have set clear expectations for your employees. Do they know what your expectations are of them in every task, every day, no matter how small? Better yet, ask them yourself. Their feedback could surprise you. Remember to stay consistent, set your expectations, and keep everyone (including you) accountable.

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