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The Safety Dance: Nail employee safety accountability in 5 moves

Industry Trends | By | 26 Apr 2017 | 5 minute read

Many of us use the widely-accepted definition of employee accountability as “the responsibility of employees to complete the tasks they are assigned, to perform the duties required by their job, and to be present for their proper shifts.

It simply states that employees should show up on time, do their jobs, and go home. 

But in a world that is contending with a global pandemic, community safety is everyone’s responsibility. Today, employee accountability means something else entirely. It’s not just high-risk industries like mining or construction that need attention. Now all workplaces and businesses of all industries need to think about safety. Businesses can no longer rely on a top-down approach where teams are told what to do and when to do it. With the world changing at such an exponential rate, agility is key. Look instead to a bottom-up approach – a model where teams are empowered to have control over their work and make decisions about safety – so they feel inspired to do their best work every day.

Enter… the Safety Dancer.

What is a Safety Dancer?

Safety Dancers are employees who bust safety moves in their workplace. Zipping from crowd control to doing the sanitizer shuffle, they’re the champions of workplace safety culture. So how do you get employees into the safety groove?

Here are 5 simple safety moves for you and your team to ensure safety becomes everybody’s business:

Safety Move #1 Raise The Bar

Creating accountability in your employees is really all about setting expectations for safety.

1. Guide your team in establishing attainable goals both at the organization and individual levels. This might include several layers, for example, employee, department, and company-specific goals. You might even want to draw up a Quality Policy, which is a commitment to how you will be upholding standards of quality and safety in your organization.

2. Set employees up for continued success, by giving them the resources they need to reach these goals. These resources include time away from their daily operational responsibilities to set up safety programs, technology to support safety activities such as a checklist app, or investment in operational changes. 

Safety Move #2 Establish Employee Ownership

  1. Build a team of employee volunteers from all areas and all levels of your organization (including management) who are interested in developing a new health and safety program or evaluating your company’s current plan. Give ownership to this group as they work towards a common goal by digitizing the health and safety checklist.
  2.  Lay out a communication plan that makes the group’s work completely visible to the entire organization. With a checklist function like corrective actions, everyone can see who has done what, and when.
  3. Develop an input mechanism for non-team members to comment on and contribute to the program. Even if an employee chooses not to participate, he/she will have more connection if they feel they had the opportunity to participate, and that their coworkers were an integral part of the process. A live, real time chat function allows everyone to observe issues, and comment on them, as you work together to solve the problem.
  4. When asked for help, guide your employees to develop the right solution. If you hear “I don’t know” as an answer, break the issue into manageable pieces and ask questions to guide them to create and think about options. Insights and data can help employees solve problems as they can drill down into the detail, and feel more empowered as they see the history of the safety issue.

Safety Move #3 Review Progress

1.  Help your team to define performance review timing and criteria based on the established expectations. Review progress frequently and visibly. 

2. Utilize employee review committees for group performance, and make them feel part of safety processes. With a tool like SafetyCulture (formerly iAuditor), you can track issues and observations, meaning your whole team can flag when something doesn’t look right. This will help everyone feel empowered.

Safety Move #4 Reward Performance

The key to effective reward is setting up visible, attainable, and clear goals with predefined rewards. These rewards should be tokens of minor value, but high visibility.

Bonuses that work include safety logo t-shirts to workers serving on safety and health committees, throwing a recognition party at the successful completion of companywide safety and health training, or modest gifts ($10 Starbucks, McDonald’s, or gas card) for outstanding contribution to your safety programs.

Safety Move #5 Individual Employee Accountability

There are two components to every employee’s individual focus on safety. 

First is their own personal safety and how they act in the workplace. This includes how they do their jobs, and how they respond to the workspace and activity around them. With the advent of COVID-19, this is now a central focus for all staff. Every staff member has to be responsible what they are personally doing to keep themselves and others safe.

The second is how they proactively build a safe environment for the company, including their own departments and work area, to the broader operation. You want your employees to be fully accountable for both pieces. During a pandemic, we each have responsibility to be accountable for ourselves, but also our other colleagues and the business as a whole.

Employees must be encouraged and supported in reporting incidents, near misses, and potential safety hazards, both in their own space and actions and anywhere else in your operation. By empowering every employee with the capability to conduct safety checks, they’ll feel much more aligned to serving the needs of your business.

How do you make this cultural shift?

Since the pandemic hit, every business has now automatically shifted towards safety. Health risks are now in the forefront of everyone’s minds; both staff and customers alike.

If your employees spots a safety issue, don’t make reporting an incident an opportunity for management to punish or discipline the employee. Instead, make it an opportunity to correct the action or situation, through using a digital solution such as SafetyCulture. 

Use an employee-based review committee to determine corrective actions, including processes, equipment, communication, and even discipline if necessary. 

Employees must feel free to report incidents or injuries, or the entire workforce is put at risk. The goal is to learn from the incident, not to retaliate against the employee. By turning issues into actions, we create accountability.

Unreported incidents, including near misses, leave dangerous situations in place, and will eventually result in an injury. Ultimately, that can lead to higher workers’ compensation costs.

The bottom line to embedding employee safety accountability into your operation is to put your safety protocol into the hands of every employee. 

Guide them in the design, communication, roll-out, and ongoing implementation of the processes and procedures. Be a role model, throw your management weight behind them, and be transparent with what is feasible and realistic. 

Take the fear out of reporting incidents by responding quickly and positively to resolving safety threats, and putting any disciplinary actions in the hands of an employee committee. Publicize and act on your commitment to the program by championing a solid safety culture

When we are all accountable for safety, we do our best work. 

We collaborate on safety issues, we look out for each other, and most of all, we reduce our risk and keep everyone safe and well. Ensure operational efficiency and empower your teams by using digital checklist templates from SafetyCulture (formerly iAuditor).

Want to continue managing your safety standards as we navigate the pandemic? Check out our COVID-19 resource hub.

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