By Paul Robbins
Stop Work Authority empowers any employee to stop work without fear of retaliation if they observe an action or activity they believe to be unsafe. It is the link between psychological safety and physical safety, allowing employees to share their perspectives in a respectful and inclusive environment without fear of negative consequences.
For Stop Work Authority to be effective, however, employees must understand that WAPA enables them to speak up, and it is their responsibility to do so. “The safety of employees is our top priority,” said Administrator and CEO Mark A. Gabriel. “Safety must be infused in our culture, just as it is in our core values. Every employee is empowered to stop potentially unsafe behavior or activities.”
When should Stop Work Authority be initiated?
Integrating SWA empowers employees and strengthens WAPA’s culture. WAPA promotes this culture by building a foundation of trust and understanding, establishing expectations and responsibilities, communicating effectively and resolving conflicts when they occur. Employees are empowered to watch out for each other and stop work if unsafe conditions exist.
Safety and Occupational Health stresses that each employee has the right and responsibility, without fear of retaliation, to not participate in any action or activity believed to be unsafe. Further, each employee has the right and responsibility to stop any operation he or she believes would place a person in imminent danger.
Stop Work Authority should be initiated whenever there is a perceived threat to people, equipment or the environment.
Stop Work Authority doesn’t only stop work; it offers a six-step process dedicated to addressing and correcting hazards.
- Stop work if you see a jobsite behavior or condition that poses imminent danger to coworkers, equipment or the environment. It is important to stop work as soon as possible before additional hazards can occur. If stopping work immediately would introduce further hazards, first bring the job to a safe stopping point.
- Notify all affected personnel of the stop work action. Clear all employees away from the threat and stabilize the situation.
- Assess the situation. Gather site personnel, discuss the hazard and present required corrective actions. Document the reason for stopping work and what will be done to correct the problem.
- Correct the hazard. Work should be suspended until the concern is addressed. A person directly in charge, typically a foreman or supervisor, must verify resolution of the issue prior to returning to work. When safety modifications are complete, they should be noted and reported to the supervisor and Safety office.
- Resume work after the supervisor, foreman or other person in charge validates the resolution. Hold a tailgate meeting or project briefing with employees involved as work resumes and summarize what happened and the corrective actions taken.
- Report on the lessons learned. All documentation and other information related to Stop Work Authority should be shared with Safety, which will prepare a Learning Summary including a description of the event, contributing factors, lessons learned, questions for discussion and other data.
Watching out for one another is at the core of maintaining a safe workplace and healthy culture. All WAPA employees are empowered by and responsible for using Stop Work Authority to protect themselves and each other.
If something doesn’t feel right, if you see a potential danger or if safety conditions change for the worse on a worksite, stop work and address the hazard. Make sure that everyone goes home safe at the end of every day.
Situations requiring Stop Work Authority include but are not limited to:
- Emergency situations.
- Unsafe work conditions.
- Lack of information, knowledge or understanding.
- Changes in conditions.
- Near misses.
- Improper equipment use.
- Triggered alarms.
Note: Robbins is a technical writer who works under the Wyandotte Services Contract. Information in this article is adapted from guidance provided by the National Safety Council and the Bureau of Reclamation.