Course 112 Introduction to Safety Supervision

Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

More STAR Responsibilities

In the first module, we covered the first responsibility, Supervision. In this module we'll discuss each of the remaining four important obligations, Training, Accountability, Resources, and Support.

T - Provide Training

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Safety instruction explains who, what, when, where, and most importantly, why. Training teaches how.

Safety education (instruction and training) is vitally important, not only to the welfare of each employee, but to the long term success of the organization. Employers and supervisors should make sure a successful safety education and training is integrated into all corporate functions.

In "Why Employees Don't Do What They're Supposed to Do," Ferdinand F. Fournies states that the number one reason employees do not perform to expected standards is that they don't know why they should do them. The second most common reason is that employees do not know how to do the task correctly. Safety education address both of these reasons:

  • instruction explains who, what, where, when, and most importantly, why we do safety, and
  • training teaches "how" to do safety.

When applied together, safety education strikes at both of these causes for substandard performance.

The Supervisor Is The Key

To best ensure safety education and training is given to all workers, supervisors should be assigned safety training responsibilities. And, because we are often driven by potential consequences in our actions and behaviors, training without accountability is always ineffective.

Supervisors Should be Trainers

So, why should supervisors be trainers? Here's why: any educator, instructor, or trainer will tell you that every time they present a session, they learn more and gain greater understanding of the subject. So, it makes sense for supervisors to be trainers, so they can gain greater insight and expertise on the practices and procedures they are supervising. They are better qualified to supervise for safety by detecting and correcting hazards and behaviors. Workers will more likely perceive their supervisors as competent and knowledgeable in safety.

1. Safety instruction _____ and safety training _____.

a. tells who, when, how and where; shows what
b. explains who, what, when where, and why; teaches how
c. tells how, when and where; explains why
d. shows why and how; explains who, what, when, and where

Next Section

The Safe On-the-Job Training (OJT) Model

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Step 4 (explained in the text)- The student explains a step and then gets permission to proceed.

The Safe On-the-Job Training (OJT) model is a good method for training specific safety procedures. Measurement occurs throughout this process while keeping each employee safe from injuring themselves while learning. If, in using this training method, the employee is not exposed to hazards that could cause injury, you may be able to delete step 3. Otherwise do not skip a step.

  • Step 1- Introduction : The instructor tells the trainee about the training. At this time, the instructor emphasizes the importance of the procedure to the success of the production/service goals, invites questions, and emphasizes accountability.
  • Step 2- Trainer shows and tells : In this step, the student becomes familiar with safe work practices in each step and why they are important. The trainer explains and demonstrates each step, and responds to any questions the student might have. The trainer continues to demonstrate and explain each step until the student understands what to do, when and why to do it, and how to do it.
  • Step 3- Trainer shows and asks: The student tells the instructor how to do the procedure, while the instructor does it. It's important to include this step if injury is possible; otherwise, this step is optional. There is an opportunity for the instructor to discover any misunderstanding and, at the same time, protects the student because the instructor still performs the procedure.
  • Step 4- Student tells, asks, and shows: Now it's the student's turn. To further protect the employee, the Instructor must give permission for the student to perform each step. The student carries out the procedure but remains protected because he or she explains the process before actually performing the procedure.
  • Step 5: Trainer concludes the training: Once the formal training is finished, the trainer should:
    • Recognize the student's accomplishment - "Good job!"
    • Reemphasize the importance of the procedure and how it fits into the overall process.
    • Remind the employee about their responsibilities and accountability by discussing the natural consequences (hurt/health) and system consequences (reprimand/reward).

2. What is the purpose of the Safe Show and Tell model of safety training?

a. To teach employees how to open a safe
b. To keep each employee safe during the learning process
c. To make sure employees understand safety concepts
d. To keep employees from hurting each other in training

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Safe OJT Model (Continued)

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The trainer observes and validates student knowledge and skills.
  • Step 6: Trainer/supervisor validates the training. After the conclusion of the OJT session, the trainer, or better yet, the supervisor should observe the employee applying what they've learned in the actual work environment. Doing so results in strong documentation that helps to legally protect both the employee being trained and the employer.
  • Training tip: To prove the employee has the knowledge and skills to do a job safely, have the employee teach you how to do the job. If the employee can effectively train you how to do the job, he or she is qualified and you can sign them off. If they can't, you should not qualify them; it's time for some retraining.
  • By the way, When OSHA inspects, the compliance officer may ask employees about the job they are doing. The employees won't be able to hide their ignorance and it won't take long for the compliance officer to determine if the employee is qualified to do the job.
  • Step 7: Trainer/supervisor documents the training. The well-known OSHA adage, "if it isn't in writing, it didn't get done," is true for any kind of safety training.

Training Documentation

For OJT safety training, documentation should be more than a mere attendance sheet. It should be a formal "certification." If the employer gives OSHA detailed safety training documentation in the form of written certifications, OSHA will be impressed, and this "first impression" can go a long way in making the rest of an OSHA inspection a pleasant experience (if that is possible).

The trainee certifies:

  • training was accomplished
  • questions were answered
  • opportunities for practice were provided
  • accountabilities understood
  • intent to comply

The instructor certifies the trainee has, through evaluation:

  • demonstrated adequate knowledge
  • developed the skills to complete the procedures

You can see sample training certification documents in course Course 721 Developing OSH Training Module 5.

3. What would be the best training documentation for handling hazardous chemicals training?

a. Training checklist
b. Employee sign-off sheet
c. Formal certification
d. Attendance roster

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A - Ensure Accountability


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Accountability isn't just about negative consequences.

If we reference Webster's Dictionary, "accountable" is defined as being "responsible, liable, explainable, legally bound, subject to". In the workplace, employees are obligated to comply with policies, rules, and standards. Accountability implies that our performance is measured, and that it will result in consequences that depend on our failure or success to meet the expected standards for which we are responsible.

Two Sides of the Accountability Coin

Some companies think accountability is only about administering progressive discipline. They emphasize only negative consequences that result from a failure to meet standards of performance. In reality, an effective accountability program is characterized by a balanced administration of consequences appropriate to the level of performance. So, what form should those consequences take?

Let's take a look at the consequences that might result from two categories of employee behavior:

  • Meeting or exceeding standards, and
  • Failing to meet standards.

Meeting or exceeding standards: In an effective accountability system, positive recognition is given regularly (and hopefully often) for meeting or exceeding employer expectations. If your company does not have a formal safety recognition program, take a look at some examples.

Failing to meet standards: Unfortunately, in some companies this is the only category that results in consequences. In an effective safety culture, corrective actions are rare and perceived as positive in the long term. Usually (not always), corrective actions involve some sort of progressive discipline

Bottom line: In an effective accountability program, recognition is given often and reprimands are rare because employees are performing above and beyond minimum standards.

4. In an effective accountability program, if you _____ regularly, you'll rarely have to _____.

a. reprimand; recognize
b. check employee behaviors; discipline
c. recognize; reprimand
d. enforce safety rules; fire employees

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First, Meet Your Own Obligations

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Supervisors must meet their own obligations first.

It's critical to understand before administering progressive discipline supervisors should first evaluate (make a judgment about) how well they, themselves, have fulfilled their own obligations to employees. This is important to make sure they are displaying effective supervision and justified in administering corrective actions.

Determining if discipline is appropriate does not have to be difficult. It can be a simple straightforward process. Again, all that's required is that supervisors ask the following questions and answer honestly to determine if they have met their own obligations:

  1. Supervision: Have I provided adequate safety oversight? I'm not stuck in my office all day. I'm overseeing their work regularly so that I'm able to "catch" unsafe behaviors and hazardous conditions before they cause an injury.
  2. Training: Have I provided (or has the employee received) quality safety training? The employee has the required knowledge and skills to comply. The employee understands the natural and system consequences of noncompliance.
  3. Accountability: Have I applied safety accountability fairly and consistently in the past? The employee knows he or she will be disciplined if caught.
  4. Resources: Have I provided the tools, equipment, PPE, fall protection and other resources to do that job safely? Tools, equipment, machinery, PPE, etc. always in good working order.
  5. Support: Have I provided adequate psychosocial support that promotes working safe?

If supervisors can honestly answer "yes" to each of the above questions, they are demonstrating effective leadership and it may be appropriate to administer discipline because they have first fulfilled their supervisor obligations. However, other safety management system weaknesses may exist that make discipline unjustified. If you cannot honestly answer "yes" to each question, it's probably more appropriate to apologize to the employee for failing to meet one or more obligations, and make a commitment to meet those obligations in the future. That may be hard to do, but it's the right leadership response.

5. What should supervisors do before administering discipline for unsafe behaviors?

a. Make sure employees know which safety rule was violated
b. Use OSHA's "common sense" standard for discipline
c. Check the OSHA rules to make sure disciplinary procedures are appropriate
d. Ask themselves if they have first fulfilled their own obligations

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The Six Elements of an Effective Accountability System

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Accountability is one key to effective safety management systems.

Supervisors must understand how the accountability program works. Accountability is one of the most important elements within the safety management system (SMS) because if you don't have it, it's impossible for the SMS to function effectively. Although the intended purpose of the SMS is always to prevent accidents and save money, poorly designed and deployed SMS may unintentionally function to do just the opposite. With that in mind, let's take a look at the six basic elements within a Safety Accountability Program:

  1. Formal standards of performance: Everyone is expected to work to an expected level of performance.
  2. Adequate resources and support: The employer must provide the resources and support to achieve expected performance.
  3. A system of performance measurement: Performance must be measured in an objective manner.
  4. The application of effective consequences: Consequences are effective when they increase desired behaviors.
  5. The appropriate application of consequences: Consequences, such as discipline, are appropriate when they are justified, objective and administered only after careful analysis.
  6. Continuous evaluation of the accountability program: Accountability is analyzed and evaluated so that it may continually improve.

You can use the guidelines in the six elements of an accountability system to help design, develop, and deploy an effective accountability system.

With that in mind, let's take a look at an example of how each of the six elements can be evaluated to determine if the accountability program is effective.

6. How do you know the consequences administered in an accountability program are effective?

a. They are based on common sense standards
b. They increase desired behaviors
c. They affect intentional non-compliance
d. They are based on the latest psychological data

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R - Provide Physical Resources

Before supervisors are justified in administering consequences, they should first provide their employees with the means and methods to achieve the standards of performance that have been established. In other words, employers and supervisors should provide the necessary physical resources so that employees can work safe and be healthful.

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Materials, equipment, the environment, and people are all important physical resources.

There are four general categories of physical resources in the workplace:

  1. Materials: Supervisors have a very important obligation to provide the best materials so employees can efficiently and effectively produce products or provide services. Raw materials include solids, liquids, and gases. If possible the materials provided should be as free from hazards as possible.
  2. Equipment: Tools, equipment and machinery needs to be designed so that it is properly guarded and has fail-safes to prevent physical exposure to moving parts, etc. They must not be defective and proper for the task for which they are being used. Personal protective equipment, fall prevention and protection devices must be of the best quality possible.
  3. Environment: The employer must provide a work environment that is safe and healthful for workers in terms of hazardous atmospheres, noise, temperature extremes, humidity, and proper workstation design.
  4. People: Yes, people are physical resources too. It's important that supervisors make sure workers are in good physical shape, sober at work, not abusing drugs. If they are not, they may be "walking hazardous conditions." Ignoring these important requirements could have devastating effects by making the risk of injuries and illnesses in the workplace.

7. How do supervisors ensure employees have the means and methods to work safe in the workplace?

a. They provide the necessary physical resources
b. They provide clear instructions on equipment use
c. They strictly enforce all company safety rules
d. They make sure employee have bought the correct PPE

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S - Provide Psychosocial Support

We can't work safe while overly stressed!
(Click to enlarge)

The supervisor, more than anyone else, needs to make sure the psychosocial environment promotes a safe and healthful workplace. The term, "psychosocial" relates to the interrelation of workplace social factors and how they influence employee thoughts and behaviors.

Everything the employee experiences in the workplace has some effect on thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and actions. The psychosocial health of employees encompasses mental, emotional, and social well-being of employees. To gain a better idea about what we mean by the psychosocial environment, answer the following questions:

  • Are supervisors creating undue stress when they prioritize working fast above working safe?
  • Are employees more likely to have accidents when they're in a hurry?
  • Are employees more likely to become ill or confrontational if they are working under high stress?

The answers to the questions above indicate the degree to which job stress is present in the workplace. Job stress can be defined as the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker. Job stress can lead to poor health and even injury. Factors that increase job stress include:

  • Work demands: Work requires that employees work very fast, with intensity, have a high work load, work a lot of overtime, and are under constant time pressures. Supervisors should control these factors in a fair and objective manner.
  • Job control: Workers have little control over the various aspects of their job such as scheduling, breaks, task variation, and very little opportunity to make their own decisions. Supervisors exhibit trust when they allow employees to make decisions that affect their jobs.
  • Co-worker support: Supervisors and others offer very little help or are unwilling to listen to problems. Supervisors should regularly offer to help if employees are having problems.
  • Management feedback: There is little opportunity to talk with supervisors and managers about the job. Supervisors should take the time to listen to employees and give regular feedback.
  • Leadership: Supervisors and managers are overly controlling, coercive, or uncooperative. Supervisors and managers should exhibit high standards of personal tough-caring leadership. Accountability should be administered objectively and fairly.
  • Physical stress: Supervisors need to control work to prevent high levels of fatigue, frustration, and lack of balance between home and work-life.

All of these situations affect the psychosocial environment in the workplace. Supervisors are responsible, to the extent possible, to ensure a workplace that is free from undue job stress.

8. All of the following are characteristics of a positive psychosocial environment in the workplace, EXCEPT _____.

a. supervisors allow employees to make job decisions
b. supervisors reprimand and recognize employees objectively
c. supervisors display tough-caring leadership styles
d. supervisors make all decisions about how jobs are performed

Next Section

Leadership and the Psychosocial Environment

Kevin Burns - How To Intensify Safety Participation

We can't complete the course without discussing the supervisor's leadership responsibilities as it affects the psychosocial work environment. Remember, everything we experience influences what we think, feel, and do in the workplace. Employees are much more likely to work safely when their supervisors demonstrate effective leadership. Without effective leadership, supervisors might be able to manage quite well, but the resulting work culture may be counterproductive.

Management vs. Leadership

It's important to understand that management and leadership are not the same concepts. Management is an "organizational" skill and leadership is a "relationship" skill. Look at it this way; which would you rather work for, (1) a supervisor that was a good organizer, but had very weak leadership skills, or (2) a good leader but had poor organizational skills? Most likely, you will choose the latter situation. In the first instance, a good organizer cannot delegate leadership skills to another person. It just doesn't work. However, a good leader can assign organizational duties to another person.

What Works: Tough-Caring Leadership

"Tough-caring" leaders are tough on employees because they really care about their safety and success. This leadership approach is also called the "servant-leader" model in which leaders serve those they lead.

Tough-caring supervisors are also tough on safety. They have high expectations and insist their followers behave. Most of the time they care about the success of their employees first. This is a self-less leadership approach that exhibits the following characteristics:

  • Managers understand that complying with the law, controlling losses, and improving production can best be assured if employees are motivated, safe, and able.
  • Management understands that they can best fulfill their commitment to external customers by fulfilling their obligations to internal customers: their employees.
  • Communication is not "one-way," or "Top-down" from managers to employees. Instead, communication is typically "all-way," with everyone communicating with each other to share information. This results in dramatic positive changes in corporate culture which is success-driven.
  • Although positive reinforcement is the primary strategy used to influence behaviors, tough-caring leaders are not reluctant in administering discipline when it's justified because they understand doing so is a matter of leadership.

9. Supervisors exhibiting a tough-caring leadership are _____ because _____.

a. better able to control behaviors; they have zero tolerance for violations
b. tough on safety; care about their employees
c. hard-nosed when it comes to safety; they don't trust employees
d. best a getting compliance; they discipline every time

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A WorkPlaceBC documentary-drama that examines issues related to supervisor responsibility for workplace health and safety. The video graphically depicts the emotional, legal, and financial consequences of a fictionalized workplace accident that leads to the death of a young worker.

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