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Responsibility, Authority and Accountability

When you have authority or responsibility, your performance is not necessarily measured. But when you are held accountable, your performance is measured in relation to standards or goals that result in certain positive or negative consequences.

An owner or top manager of a business delegates certain responsibilities to other worksite managers or supervisors. The owner must avoid undercutting the authority of the managers, since that will interfere with their ability to carry out those responsibilities. At the same time, the owner wants to demonstrate their own commitment to reducing safety and health hazards and protecting employees. How can this be done?

Responsibility, Authority and Accountability

Examples of measured safety behavior at various levels include:
  • Top/Mid-level managers: Measurement at this level includes personal behavior, safety activities, and statistical results, such as following company safety and health rules, enforcing safety and health rules, arranging safety and health training and workers compensation costs.
  • Supervisors: Measurement should include personal safety behavior and safety activities which they are able to control, such as making sure employees have safe materials and equipment, following and enforcing safety rules, and conducting safety meetings.
  • Employees: Measurement usually includes personal behavior, such as complying with safety and health rules, and reporting injuries and hazards.

Elements of an effective accountability system

Any accountability system should have the following elements to be effective:

  • Established standards in the form of company policies, procedures or rules that clearly convey standards of performance in safety and health to employees
  • Resources needed to meet the standards, such as a safe and healthful workplace, effective training, and adequate oversight of work operations.
  • A measurement system which specifies acceptable performance.
  • Consequences, both positive and negative.
  • Application at all levels

When managers and employees are held accountable for their safety and health responsibilities, they are more likely to press for solutions to safety and health problems than to present barriers. By implementing an accountability system, positive involvement in the safety and health program is created.

Think about it. Do you have a safety and health accountability system in place at your workplace? If so, can it be improved?

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