How your organisation uses accountability has the potential to impact on whether you are meeting your legal safety duties. Does accountability in our organisation focus on responsibility and punishment or on driving safety improvement changes to avoid incident occurrence?
Organisations can either treat accountability as being a blame assigning exercise where individuals who have failed are identified and potentially punished. Such punishment often follows a just culture process. Whilst sometimes the conduct may amount to a really significant safety breach which justifies punishment or even termination, such actions do not usually result in a safer workplace.
Applying a safety accountability philosophy which focuses on blame can lead to employees not reporting near misses out of fear of retribution. This leads to a missed opportunity to learn.
Alternatively an organisation can focus on what caused the incident or near miss and what can be done to prevent a re-occurrence and then make people accountable for implementing the required changes in a sustainable way and following up periodically to ensure they are still in place.
Effective safety cultures accept that mistakes are an inevitable part of the workplace, what is critical is learning from those mistakes. Organisations should use accountability to help minimize the fear too often associated with the reporting of mistakes by using mistakes as opportunities to learn.
Learning from mistakes and developing proactive ways to prevent re-occurrence is an important part of meeting an organisation’s legal duty to as far as is practicable avoid exposing employees to hazards and ensuring safe workplaces. Are you using safety accountability to drive positive safety improvement in your workplace?
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