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It wasn't us-he did it!


Unfortunately, blaming an employee won't work if OSHA finds a violation. Here's how to protect yourself from being penalized for team members' mistakes.

When OSHA comes knocking with evidence of an infraction, even good team training won't protect you from penalties unless you can show that your hospital enforced the rule diligently, took reasonable steps to ensure that the team members understood the rule, and provided necessary protective equipment. If you did all that, you can defend yourself by arguing "unpreventable employee misconduct."

Philip Seibert

Of course, you're better off preventing the problem in the first place than needing to defend yourself. So if you see potential violations, investigate. The key question: Is the solution more training or disciplinary action? Here's the best way to find out:

  • Ask leading questions. For example, "I noticed that you're not following the proper safety rules for that procedure. Do you have any questions about what the proper safety precautions are?"

That gives the team member a chance to say, "I don't understand." If that happens, then retraining, not discipline, is the best course of action. If he or she says something like, "I know the rule; I just don't like it," then training will not solve the problem.

  • Be consistent. If two employees make the same mistake, you must treat them the same way. If one responds to a verbal warning and the other doesn't, that gives you even more justification for discipline.

  • Keep a record of safety infractions in the workplace. If disciplinary action is warranted, you'll want written records of the employee's behavior as well as your response.

  • Stick to the issues. Concentrate on a specific action or violation. Don't dilute the severity of the infraction by bringing up every little thing the team member has ever done wrong. Focusing on a team member's specific behavior in a specific event will help establish that the discipline was not random or unjustified.

Look online

Look online. To learn the "four strike" method of disciplining team members, click here

Philip Seibert, CVT, is an author, speaker, and consultant with SafetyVet in Calhoun, Tenn. Send questions or comments to ve@advanstar.com

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