A disciplinary program for safety violations helps ensure workplace safety and health by letting the employees know what is expected of them and providing workers with opportunities to correct their behavior before an incident occurs.
Within a disciplinary program for safety violations, an employer has the exclusive right to administer appropriate disciplinary action, including discharge, to workers for just or proper cause. In most cases, a documented progressive discipline approach is required whenever a policy, rule, or safety violation occurs.
Getting Your Disciplinary Program Started
Have a clear understanding of policy. Employers above all else need to fully understand the rules and the consequences of breaking those rules. To ensure this, rules and consequences can be outlined in the employee safety handbook.
Worker’s should be privy to what’s considered a violation. Along with the rules and consequences, violations should be clearly laid out so employees have a reference to turn to if they have any questions. Examples of typical worksite violations include:
a. Drinking alcohol, and/or drug abuse prior to or during working hours
b. Fighting, provoking, or engaging in an act of violence against another person on property
c. Theft or willful damage to the property
d. Failure to wear required protective equipment (eye protection, safety helmets, etc.)
e. Tampering with machines
f. Failure to follow recognized industry practices
g. Major traffic violations while using a company vehicle
h. Failure to notify leaders of a hazardous situation
All employee should be required to attend trainings. Trainings can reduce the need for disciplinary action and reiterate the importance of workplace safety and health, the need to develop safety habits, and compliance with safe work practices.
Allow managers to provide oversite for working conditions. Supervision includes monitoring employees' work and safety habits—if there is any wrongdoing, managers should have the opportunity to correct any problems before serious situations develop.
Provide fair disciplinary actions. Disciplinary actions need to be proportionate to the seriousness of the offense and the frequency of its occurrence. Employers should provide feedback to the employee on what behavior is unacceptable, why the corrective action is necessary, and how the employee can prevent future violations and disciplinary action.
Document any infractions. One key to ensuring fairness and consistency in a disciplinary program is keeping good records. It is in the best interest of both the employer and the worker to document instances of good or poor safety and health behavior.
Are Disciplinary Programs for Safety Violations Allowed According to OSHA?
Yes, however, employers must not use disciplinary action, or the threat of disciplinary action, to retaliate against a worker for reporting an injury or illness. OSHA prohibits disciplining employees simply because they report work-related injuries.
A legitimate workplace safety program should treat all workers who violate rules in an equivalent manner, regardless of whether the violation resulted in the worker reporting an injury.
A disciplinary program does not exist to solely punish employees. Both employers and employees should understand the purpose is to control the work environment so that workers are protected, and incidents are prevented.