Organisations continuously seek ways to improve safety performance. Several factors motivate them, including a genuine desire to have their workforce return home from work safely each day. There have been decades of research that investigates how to measure and improve safety performance so that organisations can learn and make positive changes.
For this article, we review research that examines several studies to look at employee factors that determine and improve safety performance. The results suggest that both the employee and the environment are important factors related to workplace safety.
Organisations can select employees that espouse safety as a priority. They can train, support, encourage and reward them for safe behaviour within a positive safety climate. Which, in turn, maximises safety motivation and safety knowledge and leads to fewer accidents and injuries.
How Can We Measure Safety Performance?
Organisational safety performance is the actions or behaviours that employees take while at work to promote the health and safety of workers, clients, the public, and the environment. Safety performance is made up of four factors:
- Using personal protective equipment,
- Engaging in work practice to reduce risk,
- Communicating hazards and accidents, and
- Exercising employee rights and responsibilities.
Employee performance affects organisational safety performance through their knowledge, skills, and motivation to work safely.
What Part Do Knowledge and Skills Play?
To improve safety performance, we need to employ people with the knowledge and skills of the job they are to do. Recruitment and selection processes need to be detailed and include safety as a measure. Psychometric testing for risk-taking behaviours can help to weed out candidates that are not as conscientious as they should be when it comes to safety performance.
Knowing how to perform safely (e.g., handling hazardous chemicals, emergency procedures) is a precondition to safe behaviours. From there, organisations need to train employees regularly to ensure knowledge and skills remain current.
Hazard perception training should be made available to educate all staff on how to work safely work and to encourage high levels of safety performance. Training delivery is essential, especially around specific workplace hazards, such as moving equipment, handling chemicals or working near suspended loads, and this is where virtual and interactive training methods make a serious difference.
Learners need ownership, an active role in the process and relevance. When you produce a learning interaction that guides and embeds knowledge, it is more likely to be ingrained during subsequent work practices and help your employees to improve safety performance.
Safety training delivery is changing and changing fast due to new employees being part of a technology-savvy generation [see our post on immersive training methods]. The increased use of smartphones, gaming platforms, social media is influencing their expectations of receiving interactive, relevant safety. This generation no longer consumes training, as it has been in the past via passive deliveries, e.g. classroom chalk and talk.
There’s now more emphasis than ever to create engaging learning experiences that adopt virtual technologies and digital sites. Proactive hazard identification learning activities have been shown to embed knowledge and significantly reduce workplace incidents and injuries.
For more information on how the Tap into Safety training platform can help, please contact us.
See our article, Near-Miss Reporting Improves Workplace Safety.
What Influences Employee Safety Motivation?
What is it that motivates some employees to be champion safe behaviour? Why are some employees more likely to take risks and ignore safe work processes? Five traits influence employee motivation to work safely. The first three are traits that can help improve safety performance.
- Conscientiousness. Conscientious employees are more likely to set, commit to, and strive for personal goals. They also are more dependable and responsible than less conscientious individuals. To improve safety performance, these employees are likely to be motivated.
- Neuroticism. People high in neuroticism may have difficulty coping with threatening situations. Employees high in neuroticism may be more attuned to signs of danger in the workplace and therefore place a greater priority on safety.
- Locus of Control. Employees with a high locus of control feel they personally control the events in their working lives rather than being controlled by the external environment. Employees who believe they can control events are likely to be more motivated to learn about and engage in safe practices.
- Extraversion. Highly extraverted employees can be detrimental to improving safety performance because the sensation-seeking aspect of the trait can lead people to engage in risky behaviour.
- The Propensity for Risk-Taking. People high in risk-taking tend to be impulsive sensation seekers, who may be more likely to engage in unsafe behaviours. The reasons for risk-taking behaviours can be that they underestimate the chances of an accident occurring or because risk stimulates them.
The research argues that conscientious employees should be a critical factor in personnel selection.
Safety Climate is a Meaningful Predictor of Safety Performance
We measure the psychological safety climate according to employee perceptions of safety-related policies, practices, and procedures. When we share these perceptions among employees in the work environment, a group-level environment emerges. A positive safety climate seeks to improve safety performance either through reward or sanctions. Also, a positive safety climate is shown to enhance safety knowledge because safety information is communicated formally through training and meetings and informally through on-the-job discussions.
Organisations with a positive safety climate often have employees who respect and get on well with their leaders. In these organisations, leaders are more likely to reciprocate when possible and improve safety performance, leading by example. Where there are high-quality relationships between employees and supervisors, there is a strong likelihood that safety performance will improve.
The research argues that organisations that provide interventions that focus on improving management commitment improve safety performance and reduce workplace injury.
See our article, Do Supervisor’s Leadership Behaviours Impact Safety?
The results of the study suggest that both the employee and the environment are important factors related to workplace safety and are predictors of safety performance. Employee performance affects organisational safety performance through their knowledge, skills, and motivation to work safely. Recruiters should employ conscientious people with the knowledge and skills of the job they are to do. Training is vital to ensure knowledge and skills remain up-to-date. Finally, leaders committed to safety are pivotal to improve safety performance. How is your organisation looking?