If you think that workplace safety and discipline are incompatible, think again.
Although discipline is essential for safety, many employers just aren’t imposing it. For example, a study by the Fisher & Phillips labor law firm found that 56% of large general contractors were unsatisfied with how often supervisors disciplined employees for unsafe actions.
This can create problems for several reasons. Without a record of disciplinary action, you might not be able to demonstrate to OSHA that you’re operating an effective safety program. Failure to discipline safety violations also makes it harder to use the “unpreventable employee misconduct/isolated incident” defense, which argues that an employee acted unsafely, despite your efforts to run an effective program.
Some supervisors fail to discipline unsafe workplace behavior because they fear that imposing discipline will cause trouble for the employer. Others only penalize unsafe behaviors that lead to accidents or injuries, but turn a blind eye to ‘minor violations of safety rules. The Fisher & Phillips survey also found that most companies make little effort to train supervisors on when and how to discipline employees.
The bottom line: disciplining workers for safety violations has a “pro-employee” purpose and should play a key role in keeping your workplace safe by:
- Removing poor performers
- Creating limits for employees
- Improving morale when employees see that management recognizes safe and unsafe behavior
- Limiting potential negligent retention and negligent supervision claims
- Providing the accountability that’s essential for an effective safety program
- Avoiding the appearance of discrimination and unfairness when applied consistently
- Reducing your Workers Compensation premiums
What’s not to like?