Evaluate accountability affects performance

We have said that managers, supervisors, and employees all have individual responsibilities for safety and need to be held accountable. What, then, do you think is the role of safety professionals? How should they be held accountable? What has been your observation or experience in this regard as a safety professional or while dealing with safety professionals?


Course Learning Outcomes for Unit III

Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:

2. Evaluate how accountability affects performance management in safety management programs. 2.1 Assess the importance of establishing safety accountability measures for managers,

employees, and safety professionals.

3. Analyze the importance of clarity in assigning safety-related job tasks. 3.1 Appraise the assignment of safety-related job tasks.

6. Relate continuous improvement principles to safety management concepts. 6.1 Apply the Plan-Do-Check-Act framework to resolve a safety deficiency.

Reading Assignment

Chapter 6: Safety Professionals as Culture Change Agents

Chapter 7: The Plan-Do-Check-Act Concept (PDCA)

Chapter 8: Management Leadership and Employee Participation: Section 3.0 of Z10

Chapter 9: Planning: Section 4.0 of Z10

Chapter 10: Implementation and Operation: Section 5.0 of Z10

Unit Lesson

In this unit, we will be considering a key, central concept of safety and health management systems. Given that safety and health management approaches are based on the central tenets of Total Quality Management (TQM), this unit lesson is reminiscent of what one might read in a quality management class. In essence, management systems are based on a continuous improvement cycle that involves planning, self-evaluation, and acting set forth in a particular sequence. As you read through the materials for this unit, you will see that this cycle works in a fashion that allows organizations to base decisions and actions on information in order to improve.

Planning is an essential part of our daily activities. We plan on what time to get up in the morning, what to prepare for breakfast, and what route we will take to get to work. The remainder of the day usually follows a similar pattern of planning. Sometimes our plans do not work the way we intended. We planned to have eggs for breakfast, but there were no eggs in the refrigerator, so we had cereal. The point is that effective planning requires the right information at the right time. If we knew that we did not have eggs, then they would not have been included in the choices. Did we know we had English muffins? They might have been a better choice than cereal.

A recurring framework in ANSI/AIHA Z10 is Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA). The four steps in the process are not linear but represent a continuous cycle for continuous improvement. Indeed, one does not necessarily have to


Planning, Leadership, and Employee Involvement




start at a given point in the cycle. One could start on any of the four points. For instance, one could choose to check on the preliminary results of a project, choose to plan how to improve a project that has been implemented, or decide to move forward with implementation of an agreed upon plan. Going back to the breakfast example, if I already have eggs because of good planning in making the grocery list, then I could cook them for breakfast, or Do. If I find I do not have them, that is, Check, then I can pick some up later in the day, or Act. That will make planning for the next day’s breakfast a bit easier. This is a simplified example, but I hope you get the point. Continuous improvement requires that one apply a systematic means of evaluating the situation and acting on the findings. The Plan, Do, Check, Act approach helps to provide a system that has proven to work well in the management world.

The bottom line here for our purposes is that the PDCA cycle, although borrowed from other successful management systems efforts, is important for an effective safety management system (SMS) as well. Also, it is important to remember that the purpose of an SMS is to reduce the risk of occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.

In applying this concept to evaluating a given workplace, first, we need to determine if there is a management system in place. At this point, we have already moved over to Check. If there is a system, and usually there is some kind of system though it may only cover the basics, we then need to evaluate how well it identifies, analyzes, prioritizes, and controls workplace conditions that can cause injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. If there is no SMS or if the SMS is not particularly

sophisticated, then we will need to establish processes that identify, analyze, prioritize, and control these unwanted conditions.

Two very important components of any successful safety management system are management leadership and employee participation (Manuele, 2014). In essence, management leadership is significant to the success of the safety and health efforts because it is critical that the leadership of the organization makes it clear that safety and health is a core value of the organization. This is often accomplished when key leaders consistently stress the importance of safety in the organization. They walk the talk, support the efforts of employees and employee committees on safety related issues, and provide funding necessary to assure implementation of hazard control measures. Celebrating success of the program with employees can also go a long way toward building a culture that embraces safety. Employee involvement is important because allowing employees to have input and control over safety related policies and practices helps to ensure their buy-in of the program. Consider something as simple as selecting safety glasses for workers. If employees are offered a number of styles to choose from and have input on what styles are made available, it just makes sense that they will be more likely to wear them as compared to purchasing the cheapest, nerdiest looking safety glasses on the market.

While it is recognized that management leadership and commitment must come first, the management system cannot succeed without employee involvement. Together, management and employees define the system of expected behavior, or culture, that drives the occupational safety and health (OSH) program. Committed leadership that leads by example and engaged, empowered employees can take the organization where it needs to go with respect to both safety and quality.

The PDCA Cycle (Karn-b, 2009)




With all this said, where does the safety professional fit in? The safety professional has a number of critical roles to play to ensure the success of the organization’s safety and health efforts. He or she serves as the resident subject matter expert on more technical aspects of safety and health. There is also a coordinating role, however, in keeping the organizational leadership and employees involved and engaged in the safety effort. Thus, the safety professional acts as a rudder and recommends adjustments in activities that will keep the safety culture moving in the desired direction. Again, this can be considered a part of Check in the PDCA cycle. The safety professional will likely play other routine, typical functions as well such as overseeing and coordinating compliance and training efforts.

Manuele (2014) stresses that a successful safety culture starts with a clearly defined set of expectations for all levels of an organization in regards to the OSH program. Responsibility and authority must be clearly defined, and all must be held accountable for their actions or inactions. As previously discussed, opportunities for employee involvement are critical. Opportunities to participate through activities such as hazard reviews, incident investigation, health and safety committees, inspections and audits, and the development of training programs and procedures should be given to employees. Once again, making workplace safety a participative activity will encourage employees to take ownership of their own safety and the safety of those around them.

Inadequate management, leadership, and employee involvement have been identified as critical causal factors in a number of serious incidents in recent years, most notably the BP refinery explosion in  in 2005 and the Columbia shuttle disaster in 2003. Lessons learned from these and other incidents should be incorporated into every safety management system.

The importance and effect of participation was demonstrated in the 1920s in what are now called the Hawthorne Studies (Roughton & Mercurio, 2002). What started out as research into employee productivity related to various working conditions revealed that the simple act of management allowing employees to participate in discussions regarding work-related improvements improved productivity even if no changes were made. This

led researchers down a new path to investigate the social environment in the workplace. The full implications of the Hawthorne Study results continue to be debated, but the essence remains true: employee involvement improves the culture.

This far, this unit lesson has discussed employee involvement, management commitment, and the PDCA approach. There were some allusions to the relationship between the two, but a clear explication of the relationship is worth exploring further. In essence, organizational leaders must be committed not only to the day-to-day routine of a given facility’s safety and health efforts, but they must also be committed to continuous improvement, and the PDCA approach has been demonstrated time and time again to serve as a useful tool for organizational self-evaluation and improvement. Likewise, the need for employee involvement in order to make the safety program a success is also closely tied to the PDCA approach because it is the employees themselves who are doing a good portion of the work with respect to safety and health program implementation. This high level of involvement makes them key players in the PDCA process, which also helps to ensure a safer workplace in return for their efforts.

This unit lesson has focused on the importance of leadership commitment and the involvement of employees in successful safety management systems based programs. These observations were also integrated with a discussion of the Plan-Do-Check-Act approach common to management systems-based continuous improvement efforts. These are all important, closely related approaches necessary for safety cultures to take hold in organizations. They are also responsible for successful quality and safety efforts implemented by many companies throughout the world.

Extinguishing fires at the BP refinery in Texas City following a 2005 explosion (Chemical Safety and Hazards Investigation Board, 2005)