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Accountability is essential to workplace safety culture

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Building a workplace safety culture is a priority for Washington Retail’s retro members. Attaining this goal requires creating a safety management system that starts with a strong management commitment and effective safety communication.

Safety accountability is the third most essential element of a workplace safety management system, according to multiple safety research sources.

Accountability directly links performance to effective consequences. When the work culture has an intentional accountability structure, employees are aware of workplace policies and potential consequences of decisions they and their colleagues make on a daily basis.

Implementing the following steps will help strengthen safety accountability:

  • Employee handbook and all job descriptions include a clear statement on employees’ safety and health responsibilities with violations examples laid out as a reference, such as policies against alcohol/drug use during work hours and the failure to wear protective equipment
  • Employees are empowered with the authority, education, and training to accomplish their responsibilities, including safety and health expectations of attending safety training and the authority to notify leaders of a hazardous situation and safety training relevant to their job assignments.
  • Praises and awards for jobs well done, including safety practices, are part of the work culture. Awards for no incidents over a specific period of time are appropriate, as is encouraging the reporting of incidents and following through with improvements to safety.
  • Employees who behave in ways that may harm themselves or others are disciplined appropriately with sincerity and care to prevent serious incidents from occurring. A progressive discipline approach through documentation and individual coaching before taking adverse actions should be established as the norm.

When management and those who oversee safety build an effective safety accountability structure, the workplace is one step closer to having a safety management system.

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