Using Accountability to Drive Safety

When individuals are injured, or accidents occur in a facility, there is almost always a lot of blame going around. If asked, the individual involved with the accident will typically blame the company for not keeping the facility safe enough. If the safety manager of the facility is asked, they may comment on what the employee did improperly that resulted in the accident.

Even in minor problems with safety, there is almost always more people pointing fingers at each other than there are people stepping up to take responsibility. In virtually all cases, there is fault with more than one party, and rather than trying to blame everyone else, it is much more effective to try to get to the root cause of problems. By helping everyone involved identify the role they played in an accident, as well as they role they should be playing in accident prevention, improved safety will be achieved.

Types of Safety Accountability

Accountability isn’t always as simple and clean cut as people would like it to be. In order to keep everyone safe, it is important that everyone understands what accountability is, and what they are actually accountable for when it comes to their facility.

Like safety, there are proactive and reactive sides to accountability. True accountability is ensuring you and others do what is necessary to accomplish certain results, before checking to see if the results are received or not. This means you are just as responsible for your own safety as those responsible for the environment you work within; and accountability needs to evolve to focus on safety performance, not safety results. – By: Shawn M. Galloway

Essentially, this means that both the people responsible for the facility safety, and all the employees, share a responsibility for keeping themselves safe, as well as everyone else working in the area. While most safety programs focus on improving the numbers, a better way of doing it would be to help everyone behave in safer ways. This will, in the long run, help improve the safety numbers of course, but it will do so in a much more effective way.

Creating Good Safety Goals

This may start with setting good safety goals for a facility, or a specific department. These goals shouldn’t be focused on the number of accidents or injuries, however, but rather on how people are actually behaving. Setting goals for how many people completed a safety training program, for example, may be a good idea. Another good goal could be to get 100% of people to perform a ‘check-in’ safety inspection on their machinery before starting their work day.

These types of goals will hold individuals (and the company) responsible for their safety. It also focuses on finding the root cause of safety problems, and getting them addressed. Unlike simply focusing on the numbers of accidents, which often ends up having individuals and companies just trying to cover up problems, rather than actually eliminating them.

Who is Accountable

When a company has proper safety goals, everyone should be held accountable for their own safety performance, as well as that of the whole facility. In most cases when an accident occurs, it should be the goal to find what the actual problem was, and take steps to prevent it from happening again. Regardless of who made the mistake or why, it is far more important to keep it from happening again.

By reducing the stress on blaming someone for problems, it is much easier for individuals and the entire organization to figure out how to actually solve the problem. In summary, accountability is often used improperly when it comes to improving the safety of a facility. It is typically used to assign blame, or avoid blame, depending on the situation. Instead, it should be used to help everyone improve their own actions as they relate to safety, and benefit the entire facility.

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