Right to Stop Work: Empowered vs. Enabled

February 26 2017
By: Terry L. Mathis

Several industries have instituted programs giving workers the right to stop work they deem unsafe. At some sites this right gets instant use and the desired results come quickly. At others, workers hesitate or refuse to exercise their new right. Why the difference? At several of the sites for which we consult, workers were given training and specific criteria to use to determine the safety of a job. Certainly, their own perceptions of risk were also valid reasons to stop work, but there was a sense of the right way to proceed.


At sites that had problems getting the workers to participate, no such training or guidelines were given. Workers were told they had the right but were not really enabled with training or guidelines. At sites with a history of command-and-control management styles, workers were especially hesitant to take on responsibilities historically restricted to supervisors or managers. Safety leaders who want workers to increase their engagement and participation in a new program or process should remember to not only empower but to enable workers.

Terry L. Mathis

Terry Mathis, Founder and retired CEO of ProAct Safety, has served as a consultant and advisor for top organizations the world over. A respected strategist and thought leader, Terry has authored five books, numerous articles, videos and blogs, and is known for his dynamic and engaging presentations. EHS Today has named him one of the '50 People Who Most Influenced EHS' four consecutive times. Business leaders and safety professionals seek Terry's practical insight and unique ability to introduce new perspectives that lead to real change.