ES&H Manual



3700 Appendix T1

Safety Observation Procedure



1.0          Purpose


By defining the process used in making Safety Observations(SO), this procedure implements the SO Program described in ES&H Manual Chapter 3700 Safety Observation Program.


2.0          Scope


Since the Jefferson Lab SO Program, an integral part of the lab’s Integrated Safety Management System (ISMS), is a lab-wide program, this procedure applies to all laboratory organizations.


Because effective use of the SO Program requires training, this procedure is not to be used by managers until they have received Safety Management Leadership training available from the Environmental, Safety, Health, and Quality (ESH&Q) Division. 


3.0          Responsibilities

NOTE:  Management Authority may be delegated at the discretion of the responsible manager


3.1            All Levels of Management

·       Receive and maintain SO Training (SAF100KD Safety Observation Procedure).

·       Conduct, Planning, Perform, Follow-up, and Document SOs, and Review Data in accordance with training. 

·       Use SO data reviews as part of the continuous improvement process.


3.2            Deputy Director – ESH&Q:

·       Provide SO Training when requested.


4.0          Process Steps


4.1            Planning


4.1.1       The plan includes:

·       When, where and for how long the SO Session will be (typically 30 to 60 minute per session)

·       What operations will be observed

·       Will the observation be done alone or with others


4.1.2       Schedule the Sessions

SOs are conducted on the following frequencies: 


Supervisors/Team Leaders

1 Observation/Week

(1 Hr/Week, 1-2 Areas)


1 Observation/Week

(1 Hr/Week, 1-2 Areas)

Associate Directors (AD) & Department Heads

2 Observation/Month

(2 Hr/Month, 1-2 Areas)


1 Observation/Month

(1 Hr/Month, 1-2 Areas)


If this schedule is followed, commitments to Department of Energy (DOE) will be met.  Although managers on vacation or other travel are not expected to “catch up” when they return, they are expected to plan ahead and conduct observations prior to their absence to maintain the required frequencies.  In addition, SO “burnout” is a concern, especially in small work groups where employees may be engaged too often (more than one time per week).  Managers may find that conversations are becoming repetitious and frustrating – a sign of burn out.  Management should review these situations and bring them to the attention of the AD-ESH&Q to make appropriate adjustments to the required frequencies.


The time of day and week should be varied and generally unannounced.  Coverage of organizations should be complete and reasonably uniform.


4.1.3       Types of sessions


·       Solo and Joint - SOs carried out by a single manager or with a peer in his organization.

·       Tiered[1] - Involves two or, at most, three managers from various levels within an organizational unit.

·       Cross1 - involve two or, at most, three managers from different organizations.


4.2            Perform SO


4.2.1       Observe people and observations in the workplace

·       Loosely guided by the SO plan observe for a short time (no more than a few minutes).

·       Formulate a question or comment.


4.2.2       Dedicate time to SO

Focusing solely on conducting the SO requires concentration, but it improves the quality of the observations, and sends a message to all employees that this is an important activity.


4.2.3       Notes

It is not necessary to take notes in the “field,” but it is OK to do so.  However, recognize that note taking during a conversation with an employee may make that employee nervous.  Explain to the employee that

·        Notes are not attributable to the worker.

·        Workers are not identified when the observation is recorded within the database. 

·        What you are using is a “Safety Observation Form” that is designed to assist you in the observation and is not a permanent record.


4.2.4       Focus on Behavior and Actions

Focus on the safety behavior and actions of employees rather than on unsafe conditions.  Unsafe acts are almost always behind unsafe conditions.  While elimination of unsafe acts is the key to improved safety performance, it is not always easy to determine what the underlying unsafe acts are from observation of unsafe conditions, and caution is required to avoid drawing unjustified conclusions.


It is usually simple to correct an unsafe condition, but doing so leaves the underlying causes in place.  These can re-generate unsafe conditions and expose workers to potential injury.


4.2.5       Talk with Employee

This conversation is the core of the SO Program.

·       To avoid creating a potential for injury engage the observed worker without startling, distracting or surprising him/her.

·       Discuss safe and unsafe behavior.

·       In the case of unsafe behavior the goal is a constructive dialog that results in worker recognition of the need to modify behavior.

·       The goal is persuasion and agreement rather than enforcement.


4.2.6       Suspend or Stop Work

In rare cases it may be necessary to terminate the SO process:

·       If a worker is observed in a repeated, flagrant, or willful violation of clear safety rules and procedures, management must use the Stop-Work Process as described in ESH Manual Chapter 3330 Appendix T2 Stop Work for Safety Procedure to initiate a Stop-Work Order.

·       For situations involving hazards of less magnitude the suspend work process (also described in ESH Manual Chapter 3330 Appendix T1 Suspend Work for Safety Procedure) is the appropriate response.

·       It may be incumbent on manager to take disciplinary action.  This is outside the scope of the SO process.  The Human Resource Department should be consulted for more information.


4.3            Follow-up


There are many cases in which safety issues identified in SO Sessions are resolved on the spot, and no further action is indicated.  In many other cases, the follow-up/actions remain with the worker.  As the SO process focuses primarily on safety behavior, this is appropriate.  However, there will also be many issues requiring correction of unsafe acts, improved tools and procedures, or additional training, which will require action and follow-up by management.  In any case, unless follow-up action actually occurs, some of the power of the SO process will be lost.  Consequently, the “Safety Observation Reports” web application contains a feature that notifies ESH&Q staff of issues that need follow-up.  These issues are then forwarded to the appropriate Division Safety Officer and safety warden to track follow-up actions in a timely way.


4.4            Document SO Session


The principal benefit of a SO comes from the direct, face-to-face communication about safety issues between a manager and worker.  But to get the full benefits of the program, it is necessary to document the SO and collect, aggregate and analyze the data.  This facilitates an understanding of safety behavior patterns in the organization and allows broader conclusions than are possible from individual observations.


The SO data represent the laboratory’s best set of leading safety performance indicators.


Use the process steps outlined within ES&H Manual Chapter 3700 Appendix T2 Safety Observation Report Procedure to document SO data.


4.5            Review Data


4.5.1       Short-term

Managers at all levels review and discuss the data from the SO with their staffs at least monthly. This ensures that staff members are familiar with the nature and the severity of the unsafe acts and behaviors in their organization.  This permits appropriate management and staff response to trends and problems, and demonstrates management’s commitment to the SO program.


4.5.2       Long-term

SO data are collected and presented in ways that enable management to review and analyze findings to gain deeper understanding of the safety issues and safety behavior patterns in their organizations.  These analysis tools are available at:



5.0          References


ISMS Program Description

ES&H Manual Chapter 3700 Safety Observation Program

ES&H Manual Chapter 3700 Appendix T2 Safety Observation Report Procedure


6.0          Revision Summary


Reviewed – 09/29/11 – Reviewed by Technical Point-of-Contact, no substantive changes required.

Revision 0 – 11/19/08 – This is new content












ESH&Q Division

Bob May





This document is controlled as an on line file.  It may be printed but the print copy is not a controlled document.  It is the user’s responsibility to ensure that the document is the same revision as the current on line file.  This copy was printed on 6/14/2012.

[1] Tiered and cross sessions may be used, but are not required parts of the current program.