ES&H Manual



3700 Appendix T1

Safety Observations - Function



1.0            Purpose


The Safety Observation (SO) Program is an integral part of Jefferson Lab’s Integrated Safety Management System (ISMS). This appendix outlines the function of the Jefferson Lab (SO) Program.  


2.0            Scope


As referenced in the table below, designated laboratory supervisors and managers are recommended to perform qualifying SOs at the following intervals:




Supervisors / Managers

1 Observation/Week

(1 Hr./Week, 1-2 Areas)

Associate Directors (AD)

2 Observation/Month

(2 Hr./Month, 1-2 Areas)


1 Observation/Month

(1 Hr./Month, 1-2 Areas)


The AD/DM, along with the DSO, determines and communicates SO frequency for SO’s at different levels of management. 


This appendix is part of an overall program in coordination with ES&H Manual Chapter 3700 Safety Observation Program.


3.0            Responsibilities


3.1              Designated Supervisor / Manager

·         Receive and maintain SO Training (SAF120KD Safety Observation Procedure and SAF120 Safety Observation Program Check-out).

·         Understand the function of the SO Program and

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


3.2              Deputy Director – ES&H:

·         Provide SO Training when requested.


4.0            Program Functions


This SO Program assumes that the majority of unsafe conditions are the result of unsafe acts. Bringing the condition to the attention of the person(s) who created, and accepted it; and discussing ways to modify the behavior, helps prevent the unsafe act from occurring again.




A tripping hazard along a walking path


Unsafe Condition:  The object placed in the walking path. 

It is easy to correct this unsafe condition. Move the item. But this does not prevent the condition from happening again. Only by changing the behavior of the person who created, or accept, it can the conditions be eliminated and the potential for injury be avoided in the future. 


Unsafe Act: Placing and leaving the object in the pathway. 

It is more difficult to find the person responsible for the unsafe condition, and engage them in a non-threatening discussion regarding the behavior; recognizing options for mitigation; and ensuring the condition is made safe. Only by bringing the hazard to the attention of the worker, in a constructive dialog, can the full extent of the hazard be recognized and an adequate solution agreed upon. This type of activity helps to avoid the unsafe condition in the future.


Sometimes the full extent of an unsafe act is difficult to recognize and address, we tend to use the ‘unsafe condition’ label for the problem and correct it, without eliminating the causes, and thus fail to ensure prevention.


4.1              Benefits


SOs provide positive benefits.


·         Enhanced Understanding of Operations – Perform SOs in areas not under your authority. This provides a “fresh eyes” approach for activities. 

·         Build Positive Management/Employee Relations – Use SOs as a positive employee/supervisor interaction.  Successful supervisor/employee interaction leads to better cooperation between departments.

·         Opportunities for Improvement – Allow others to observe your work methods to identify specific opportunities for improvement.  Incorporate these to enhance safety in your operations. 


4.2              Philosophy


The basic philosophy behind the SO program is: Jefferson Lab management looks after its people. The program provides for training, and support tools to ensure constructive dialog between managers and workers is achieved. The goal is for everyone at Jefferson Lab to engage and commit to the improvement of personal and organizational safety.


SOs are a collaborative improvement process absent of blame or punishment. To maintain employee support of the SO program as one of Jefferson Lab’s safety management tools, it is crucial that the SO be conducted and recognized as completely separate and apart from any disciplinary activities. Although the observer’s name is included in the observation report, nothing is recorded that identifies the worker(s) observed.


4.3              Focus on Behavior and Actions


Focus on individual actions rather than the area’s unsafe condition. Unsafe conditions are almost always caused by unsafe acts.  It is simple to correct an unsafe condition, but doing so leaves the underlying act in place. This can re-generate the condition and expose workers to potential injury. While eliminating unsafe acts is the key to improved safety performance, it is not always easy to determine what they are.


4.4              Employee Engagement


Formulate questions or comments to engage individuals in a non-threatening discussion. Conversation is the core of the SO Program.


·         Avoid Injury – Wait for suitable break in the activity; do not startle, distract, or surprise an individual. 

·         Discuss Safe vs. Unsafe Behavior – Avoid lecturing or threatening verbiage.  Allow the individual to describe the activity.

·         Engage in Constructive Dialog – Assist the worker in recognizing the need to modify behavior. The goal is persuasion and agreement rather than enforcement.


4.5              Collect Data


It is not necessary to take notes in the “field,” but it is OK to do so. The “Safety Observation Form” provides a reminder of the data entry points. It is designed to assist in the observation and is not a permanent record. Recognize that note taking during a conversation with an employee may make that employee nervous. Explain the process to the employee:


·         Data Points - Notes are not attributable to the worker, they are reminders of the discussion.

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


4.6              Follow-up


There are many cases when safety issues are resolved on the spot and no further action is necessary.  However, the SO process’ focus is safety behavior where follow-up/actions are required. These include issues requiring correction of unsafe acts, improved tools and procedures, or additional training; all require action and follow-up by management. Unless follow-up action actually occurs, some of the power of the SO process is lost.  Safety Observation Reportsnotifies ES&H 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 manner.


Summary statistics based on observations are available at:  



4.7              Documentation


The principal benefit of a SO comes from the direct, face-to-face communication with individuals. However, in order to identify trends and share information with others it is necessary to collect, document, and analyze data. Use the process outlined in ES&H Manual Chapter 3700 Appendix T2 Safety observation and Reporting Procedure to record data from your SO.


Management uses SO information to allocate resources to target high risk areas.  Supervisors use it for review and discussion with each other and their staff to ensure individuals become familiar with the nature and the severity of unsafe acts. They encourage the advancement of safe behavior by implementing recognized safety methods into their work areas. These types of activities demonstrate management’s commitment to safety.


4.7.1        Short-term


When individuals are familiar with the nature and the severity of unsafe acts in their organization, they are more likely to engage in safe behavior. 


4.7.2        Long-term


SO data is collected and presented to others to gain deeper understanding of the safety issues and behavior patterns throughout the organization. 


4.8              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, use the Stop-Work Process as described in ES&H Manual Chapter 3330 Appendix T2 Stop Work for Safety Procedure to initiate a Stop-Work Order.

·         For situations involving hazards of lesser 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 management to take disciplinary action. This is outside the scope of the SO process. For more information regarding the disciplinary process consult with the Human Resource Department.


5.0            References


ISMS Program Description

ES&H Manual Chapter 3700 Safety Observation Program

ES&H Manual Chapter 3700 Appendix T2 Safety Observation Reporting and Procedure


6.0            Revision Summary


Revision 0.3 – 02/19/16 – Updated 2.0 Scope to clarify frequency of SOs  

Revision 0.2 – 09/30/15 – Periodic Review; updated to reflect minor program changes (e.g.: SO performance intervals)

Revision 0.1 – 06/18/14 – Updated to coordinate with current training requirements; separated program function (T1) from procedure steps (T2).

Periodic Review – 09/29/11 – No substantive changes required

Revision 0.0 – 11/19/08 – This is new content











ES&H 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 2/22/2016.