SAFETY NEWS-February 2020

Stop Work Authority

When performing work, it is important that an employee feels empowered and is knowledgeable that he or she has the authority to stop work if a unsafe hazard is evident that prohibits the employee from conducting a task. Stopping work is, at times, a sensitive power depending on the industry. There are employees that are fearful to use this power. The lack of confidence that employees have to exercise this right can escalate a situation and make a situation worse than it should be.

Reasons why employees hesitate to use Stop Work Authority

Fear of punishment from supervisor 

Fear of conflict with other employees

Does not want to be labeled as a snitch or soft worker

Fear of loosing job

Does not want to slow work down

Clearly, many of the reasons why employees hesitate to exercise stop work authority revolve around fear of loosing something. One recommendation to feel more confident about using stop work authority is to review all hazards associated with your job and position with your Human Resource Department and explain any grey areas that might exist.

Despite what many employers and groups express or claim, stop work authority is not just a privilege, it is a responsibility. Your job as a safe employee is to be the first set of eyes and voice while on the clock. At the end of the day, stopping work can keep you, your co-workers, and your company safe.

Example: “But Sam, it’s not that simple. I tried stopping work but my boss yelled at me and threatened to fire me.”

Unfortunately, some managers care more about how quickly a job gets completed instead of the safety of their employees. Many of these managers feel threatened or fearful that if one of their employees stops work, the company boss may think that the manager doesn’t have control over their crew. This is not the case though. Your choice and ability to identify a risk or potential hazard can save a lot of harm, if conducted correctly.

Stop work abuse

As a mentioned earlier, stop work authority is a power that comes with great responsibility. Many employers and managers have fears that employees may tend to abuse this power to get out of work. Because of this, it is important that safety talks be conducted prior to beginning a job or task to make sure all parties are aware of the potential hazards. Abuse of stop work authority can lead to reprehension and loss of job security. Be honest, be safe, and if you see something, say it.

How to stop work

If you see a potential hazard, risk or unsafe action, your job is to contact your direct supervisor or safety representative immediately. Also, alert any co-workers or employees that are assigned to the specific task as well. At that point, the manager or safety rep will analyze the issue and take corrective actions in order to resolve the issue.

Final thoughts

All things considered, stop work is a crucial responsibility that employees should feel comfortable exercising. If there is a potential safety hazard that could cause an accident, the issue should be made known. Knowing the steps for how to stop work and who to approach is the first step of using this responsibility to create a safer work environment. If you have issues or fear of using such authority, contact your supervisor directly and your Human Resources team to make you feel comfortable in the workplace.

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