Updated: Aug 25
Author(s): Hasan Sye
Safety behaviour is used as an attempt to prevent unsafe practices in the workplace from occurring (Kelloway et al, 2020). This is by limiting the elements of harm that can result in accidents or physical and mental harm in a work environment (Huang, et al., 2021). It is important for a workplace to implement behaviour that helps contribute to a safe working environment for employees, as harms can range from injuries to fatalities (Huang et al., 2021). Safety compliance is the extent to which an employee follows safety rules, and safety participation is how much an employee will go beyond safety behaviour expectations (Kelloway et al., 2020). This paper will understand safety behaviour in the workplace using different physical factors that can affect people in a work environment (Huang et al., 2021). There will also be an understanding of the safety behaviour perceptions by employees regarding where the responsibility should lie. The different ways that contribute to bad safety behaviour will be addressed through ways that organizations can help improve their health and safety.
Understanding occupational injuries through firefighters, mining, nursing, and farming
Smith et al. (2020) assessed how safety behaviour affected burnout with firefighters and nurses. Burnout is the physical or mental exhaustion caused by stress and overworking (Smith, et al, 2020). The role of firefighting is difficult, and burnout can negatively impact their job outcome. This is a problem as firefighters need to be alert and attentive as they go into hazardous situations to save people’s lives every day. The study found that a lack of compliance with personal protective equipment, standard operating procedure, and communication resulted in increased risks to the job; in addition, overstress results in burnout (Smith et al., 2020). A cross sectional study of over 700 firefighters asked a series of questions related to stress, organizational health, and burnout level (Smith et al., 2020). The results concluded that the largest safety hazard issue was occupational injury and illnesses. This is because these roles often overlook hazard elimination, administrative controls, and the use of personal protective equipment (Smith et al., 2020). These issues at the workplace come with the organization, overlooking the pressures that firefighters face, which has caused a lack of focus and their reduced safety behaviour (Smith et al., 2020). In a similar example, Ghasemi et al. (2022) studied safety behaviour in nurses working at hospitals. Using a Bayesian network analysis, they provided questionnaires for nurses in three public hospitals (Ghasemi et al., 2022). Of the 211 nurses, in the last 12 months, 39.3% of women had experienced occupational injuries (Ghasemi et al., 2022). These injuries were due to a lack of safety compliance and safety participation. Nurses regularly encounter biological, physical, chemical, and ergonomic hazards, and any accidents facing healthcare workers are critical as patients need support (Ghasemi et al., 2022). Long hours, irregularities in shift times, having adequate safety training, and compliance are necessary for nurses to have for their work. This study concluded that the increase in hazards and injuries is due to the supervisor's weak attitude towards safety and training (Ghasemi et al., 2022). This had the highest effect on nurses and their safety performance and resulted in occupational injuries (Ghasemi et al., 2022). This problem will be further analyzed with coal miners.
Ye et al. (2020) discussed how coal mining is a hazardous occupation in China. However, with the reinforcements by the industry towards modern and safe machines, the industry still faces many accidents yearly due to human errors. A study completed in 98 coal mining sites, through a 121 questionnaire on the commitment to safety by an organization of coal miners, showed that while team reflexivity and team-level support is together, there is still a lack of organizational commitment to the safety of miners, with their psychological factors causing harm (Ye et al., 2020). A measure was used on managers for safety behaviour by two practices: safety compliance and participation. The results showed that while managers were committed to team reliability, a positive environment, and helping to reduce harmful job practices, there is still a lack of support to reduce human errors. This neglect of safety behaviour can cause injury and harm to the miners and their team. This connects with O’Connor et al.’s (2022) journal article, which discussed similar safety behaviours that affected Irish dairy farmers. People working in the agriculture industry face many hazards such as tractors, livestock, and slurries that can result in injuries (O’Connor et al., 2022). A study with 1220 farmers asked how often they engage in safe working practices. Only 460 people responded to the survey, which shows the lack of engagement farmers had to safety (O’Connor et al., 2022). This is concerning as hazards in the workplace that are fatal are not addressed (O’Connor et al., 2022). Results showed that machinery, tractor hazards, and livestock had a medium safety score. With 73% of farmers stating they would increase safety practices, 93% of farmers had believed their current practices were already safe (O’Connor et al., 2022).
Perceptions of safety behaviour and where the responsibility lies
It is important to understand the perceptions of employees and their safety behaviour. Huang et al. (2021) show that research on safety climate outcomes is various in different occupational settings. The relationships between the three dimensions—company, supervisor, and the worker—are important. However, Huang et al. (2021) used the Nordic occupational safety climate and provided this to employees of organizations to understand how they perceive safety behaviour in the workplace and its responsibilities. They measured various industries such as construction, nuclear, and commercial drivers (Huang et al., 2021). The results showed over 90% of employees believe that the supervisor and the organization are responsible for implementing safety behaviour and limiting harm in the workplace (Huang et al., 2021). Even though the responsibility falls on every person in an organization to limit harm and injury, the organization has the responsibility to ensure that employees are working in a safe environment, following proper safety behaviour, and proactively implementing changes that limit physical injury (Huang et al., 2021). An analysis of safety behaviour is important as organizations are able to learn from experiences to see how they can implement support mechanisms for their employees to limit harm. Also, the perceptions of employees on responsibility are important to determine how to move forward with safety behaviour. The next section will assess solutions and practical recommendations to help create positive safety behaviour in the workplace.
Practical recommendations and solutions for organizations for better safety behaviour
The current lack of safety behaviours that firefighters, coal miners, nurses, and agriculture workers face daily can be fatal. Here, I will assess practical recommendations that all roles can use for better safety behaviours.
1. A solution that can reduce physical injuries is fixing the hierarchy of control. Smith et al. (2020) show that organizations can implement methods using a strategy through the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. It believes that leaders set an example with the protection and improvement of workers and their wellbeing. These styles of strategy can be psychological support, therapy for injuries, and social support (Smith et al., 2020). All occupations including firefighters, coal miners, nursing, and agriculture workers will be safer at work.
2. In an article by Kelloway et al. (2020), an issue analyzed in these industries was the lack of training. This recommendation applies the needs analysis by the organization for employees. The organization and leaders can understand what the job and employee’s needs are, create the objectives that need to be made to achieve safety behaviour, how to train people, and implement it. Evaluation of training and their design can also be helpful for reflection; any of these organizations can use this to change the model, so it applies better (Kelloway et al., 2020). It is important to have a straightforward and systematic way where both compliance and good work are achieved.
3. Firefighters, nurses, and farmers can specifically seek support for burnout and methods on how to deal with it. This psychological support is specific to the employee and their occupation. Support here will help them understand the policies and procedures of their critical jobs (Ghasemi et al., 2022). This will also help reduce injuries and fatalities while working with heavy machinery, people, and chemical and biological hazards.
4. To avoid overlooking safety measures, another practical solution is the implementation of training evaluations. Kelloway et al. (2020) explain that an organization can measure their reactions, assess knowledge from training, and evaluate their application of the training and results. This all helps to contribute to good safety behaviours in the workplace.
5. Coal miners’ organizations should intervene with psychological support for their employees. By understanding the role that human factors have caused in problems for employees, intervention and support can help reduce fatalities that occur annually (Ye et al., 2020).
Ghasemi, F., Aghaei, H., Askaripoor, T., & Ghamari, F. (2022). Analysis of occupational accidents among nurses working in hospitals based on safety climate and safety performance: a Bayesian network analysis. International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics, 28(1), 440–446. https://doi.org/10.1080/10803548.2020.1768759
Huang, Y., Chang, W.-R., Cheung, J. H., Lee, J., Kines, P., & He, Y. (2021). The role of employee perceptions of safety priorities on safety outcomes across organizational levels. Ergonomics, 64(6), 768–777. https://doi.org/10.1080/00140139.2020.1859139
Kelloway, E. K., Francis, L., & Gatien, B. (2020). Management of occupational health and safety, 8th Edition. Nelson.
O’Connor, T., Kinsella, J., O’Hora, D., McNamara, J., & Meredith, D. (2022). Safer tomorrow: Irish dairy farmers’ self-perception of their farm safety practices. Journal of Safety Research, 82, 450–458. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsr.2022.07.012
Smith, T. D., Mullins-Jaime, C., Dyal, M.-A., & DeJoy, D. M. (2020). Stress, burnout, and diminished safety behaviors: An argument for Total Worker Health approaches in the fire service. Journal of Safety Research, 75, 189–195. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsr.2020.09.010
Ye, X., Ren, S., Chadee, D., & Wang, Z. (2020). ‘The canary in the coal mine’: A multi-level analysis of the role of hope in managing safety performance of underground miners. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 121(Complete). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2020.103461