Where are the Supervisors? Supervision and Accountability

BY JOE PERFETTO ll commands are required by the Navy and Marine Corps Mishap and Safety Investigation, Reporting and Record Keeping Manual (OPNAVINST 5102.1D/MCO P5102.1B) to report all mishaps, hazards and near misses. In addition to reporting, they’re supposed to be investigated to determine what happened and how to prevent […]

BY JOE PERFETTO

ll commands are required by the Navy and Marine Corps Mishap and Safety Investigation, Reporting and Record Keeping Manual (OPNAVINST 5102.1D/MCO P5102.1B) to report all mishaps, hazards and near misses.

In addition to reporting, they’re supposed to be investigated to determine what happened and how to prevent the incident from happening again.

Personnel from the Naval Safety Center review all Web Enabled Safety System and a majority of the Enterprise Safety Application Management System reports.

Over time,we’ve learned both military and civilian personnel know how to get injured. There are no new ways to get injured. Most of the time a generic write-up can be used and all that’s required is to change the name.

Why is this occurring? The words that come to mind are SUPERVISION and ACCOUNTABILITY.

Supervisors own the process and employees are accountable to follow the process. If an employee is not performing a defined process properly, why is the process not being followed? What should be done to ensure the process is followed? Did the supervisor or another employee witness a violation and not correct the action? The majority of injuries can be categorized as compliancy, but what is the cause?

Here is an example of improper supervision and improper personal accountability: An employee is using a 6-foot ladder when an 8-foot ladder is necessary. The employee stands on the top rung. Not authorized. The thought process is “I’m only going to do this one time.” A supervisor or another employee witnessed the employee not following the process. Nothing was said. The employee did not fall; no injury.

Behavioral science would show this as a sure certain positive. If an individual accomplishes a task without regards to personal safety and does not get injured, the individual has convinced him/herself that this behavior is satisfactory. The more the task is accomplished without regards to safety, the higher the chance of a mishap.

The supervisor or employee who witnessed the violation should have stopped the job on the spot. The process should be reviewed and the proper ladder brought to the job site. What usually happens is finish the job and try to remember to bring the proper ladder next time. Did the employee using the ladder know the top two rungs should not be used to stand on? If properly trained he/she should know. Did the supervisor or other employee know? The supervisor should know, the other employee may or may not know. If the process looks unsafe it usually is.

How are dilemmas like this solved? Supervisors are not always around and when the job needs to get accomplished and personal accountability sometimes falters when the job needs to be done now.

If the employee’s lack of accountability caused a personal injury what else is counted besides the injured employee? Depending on the injury, a trip to the hospital is required. If during working hours, another employee may take them (more lost time) or emergency services are called. Either way the project is stopped. Time is lost.

If the proper ladder was brought or the project delayed until the proper ladder arrived, the chance of an injury is greatly reduced. Time was delayed, not lost.

During this time of fiscal restraint employees may hear “you need to do more with less.” No such luck. With less, what is going to be sacrificed?

Is safety culture needed? Yes, safety should always be included into the command culture or command climate. Make it common practice to stop an unsafe evolution and properly train employees or shipmates.

When using operational risk management (ORM), you must decide whether the risk overrides the benefit. There are very few results in everyday tasks were the risk overrides the benefits. Everyone who sees a safety violation should say something. If you think it is unsafe most likely it is. Bottom line, supervisors should supervise and review processes. Employees should be accountable to report processes that are not working or outdated.


Mr. Perfetto worked in the Shore Safety Programs Directorate of the Naval Safety Center, where he served as a safety and occupational health specialist.