Work safety needs a human touch

Most organisational occupational health and safety (OHS) interventions focus on controlling employee procedures and the physical work environment in an effort to maximise workplace safety.  While such efforts are important, they do not take into account the human factors related to work safety, such as individual and group attitudes and the influence of management.

Recent research involving members of the RightPeople team has found that there is an important interaction between management attitudes, work pressure and individual attitudes in determining whether an employee will follow safety procedures.

The team used the Theory of Planned Behaviour to demonstrate the factors related to safety behaviours within the workplace. The Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) is a well supported theoretical model that predicts user behaviours in various contexts (Ajzen, 2001).

Specifically, they found that management attitudes towards safety are a key factor in workplace safety.  Another important factor is group norms.  Both management attitudes and group norms influence individual attitudes, intention to violate safety procedures and actual violations.  Management attitudes also influenced group norms.  As with the TPB more broadly, intentions and attitudes do not necessarily result in behaviour that is in line with those attitudes as there are a number of factors that can influence whether or not the expected behaviour result.  It is these other factors that can be manipulated in order to maximise the likelihood of the preferred behaviour.

This research is important is it can help employers to predict under what circumstances an employee is likely to breach safety rules and to modify those aspects of the organisation which are most likely to result in more safety-conscious behaviour.  It also provides guidance as to what should be covered in workplace safety questionnaires and audits.

 

 

 

From: Fogarty & Shaw (2010)

RightPeople’s RMP Safety Inventory was developed based on the latest research about safety attitudes and behaviour and assesses:

  • Safety attitudes – individual attitudes towards safety
  • Safety behaviour – individual safety related behaviour
  • Safety perception – views about group and management attitudes and behaviour
  • Poor impulse control – tolerance and patience
  • Relevant personality characteristics – emotional control and conscientiousness

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References

Ajzen, I. (2001). The Theory of Planned Behavior. Organisational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 50, 179–211

Fogarty, G.J., & Shaw, A. (2010). Safety climate and the Theory of Planned Behavior: Towards the prediction of unsafe behaviour. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 42, 1455-1459