Safety 2013At lunch Tuesday at ASSE’s Safety 2013 I had the pleasure of dining with Mike Williamsen, one of sharpest minds I’ve met in safety, a longtime friend and working colleague of the late Dan Petersen, and now a consultant for Caterpillar Safety Services.

I asked Mike to explain the difference between responsibility and accountability. What'a the difference between I am responsible and I am accountable?

Mike put it this way: You start by outlining the major responsibilities of a job. Then the critical next step, you examine those responsibilities and identify the specific activities that will allow you to fulfill your responsibilities.

Accountability comes in when it comes executing those activities. You either do them or you don’t. You track accountabilities by tracking day to day, week to week, month to month: are those activities being executed in a manner to successfully meeting your job responsibilities.