Evaluating Behavior Necessitates a Just Work Culture

Most workplace incidents involve personnel, and investigations of those incidents usually include looking at the behavior of those persons who were involved. The search for causes as to why the incident occurred can easily focus on the actions taken by one or more individuals, leading to judgments about whether a given person should be "held accountable" or be punished for their behavior which apparently caused the incident. This can occur even when a causal analysis is performed. An individual's behavior throughout the sequence of events leading up to the incident will consist of a number of actions, some of which were intentional and some which were not. In order to fairly evaluate an individual's behavior in an indicent sequence, the work culture should recognize that people make errors and mistakes and are influenced by the processes and environment in which they work.

If a work culture does not tolerate error, people will be unlikely to reveal errors and mistakes. If investigations are a search for someone to blame, people will do what they can to avoid being blamed. A focus on what was violated will usually miss key information of why people did what they did and why it made sense to them at the time. In the words of Korvers & Sonnemans: “The factors that influence decisions must be considered, of which, from a safety perspective, the primary influence is risk perception. In a safety context, risk is a certain level of danger to people, environment or even assets. In the performance of work, when a person assesses risk and makes a decision, they are basically asking themselves ‘What can go wrong?’, ‘What is the likelihood of occurrence?’, and ‘What are the consequences?’” (Korvers, P, Sonnemans, P. "Accidents: a discrepancy between factors and facts!," Safety Science [doi:10.1016/j. 2007.06.004.2007], 2007)

Accountability, Enforcement and Culpability

It is vital to differentiate between several terms that are often used interchangeably when discussing the behavior of an individual who was involved in a workplace incident.


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This page has been edited 2 times. The last modification was made by
- DRisley DRisley on Apr 29, 2010 11:26 am