The Ten Basic Principles of Safety – PRINCIPLE #4

The Ten Basic Principles of Safety

Article by Bob Lapidus, CSP, CSMS

Dan Petersen, Safety Management – A Human Approach
Aloray, Goshen, NY

In Memoriam: Dan Petersen (1931-2007)

Dan Petersen, a guru in the field of safety management created foundational principles that should be integrated into all safety programs. Over the past three months, we reviewed the first three principles:

  • #1: An unsafe act, an unsafe condition, an accident: these negative events are symptoms of something wrong in the management system.
  • #2: Certain sets of circumstances can be predicted to produce severe injuries. These circumstances can be identified and controlled.
  • #3: Safety should be managed like any other organizational function. Management should direct the safety effort by setting achievable goals and by planning, organizing, and controlling to achieve them.
  • We will now discuss principle #4: The key to effective line safety performance is management procedures that establish accountability.

    As a safety management consultant and teacher, I have spent more time on this principle in my career than any other. For me, the most important action management needs to take is to hold everyone accountable for doing their work, including working safely. Management gives recognition and praise when employees do what is wanted. They correct when employees do not do what is wanted.

    Accountability looks like the following model:

    principle 4 table graphic

    Accountability represents mature management. Management establishes standards and requires its expectations to be achieved. In safety, employees are praised for working safely and being proactive in their efforts to prevent accidents.

    If employees are not doing what is expected, managers and supervisors coach and counsel the affected employees to bring them back to the organization’s standards. Positive accountability is the much stronger motivator than negative accountability.

    Managers and supervisors treat their fellow employees on an adult to adult level. There are no parent-child relationships. If employees do not respond to positive accountability, they will be asked if they want to continue to work for the organization. The reason for this approach is because once employees start to do childish things like refusing to work as expected, they no longer belong in the organization. They no longer fit the positive organizational culture.

    Once management has to step into negative accountability, everything goes downhill from there. It is rare that employees come back to satisfactory performance after having stopped performing correctly. There are cases of turnarounds, but they are few and far between.

    Organizations need employees who want to work there, who want to perform to the best of their abilities. The accountability process creates a positive system to recognize success, coach when problems occur, but also move problem employees out of the organization when such people do not wish to do what is wanted.

    Accountability provides the important consequences for meeting or not meeting managerial expectations.

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    For More Information:
    To become part of discussions on topics like the one above, go to www.safetycenter.org to obtain information about Safety Center’s Safety Management Specialist Certificate.

    After completing this nine-day program, graduates may take the exam to achieve the Certified Safety Management Specialist (CSMS) designation. Once this certification is achieved, successful candidates keep it for the rest of their lives without any additional requirements or fees.