Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Job design and safety voice

A recurring question in OHS is why workers stay silent in the face of unsafe workplaces. Staying silent undermines the effectiveness of the internal responsibility system which relies upon workers identifying hazards for employers to remedy.

A recent article in Accident Analysis and Prevention entitled “Staying silent about safety issues: Conceptualizing and measuring safety silence motives” reports on three studies that identified various safety silence motives mostly in the health-care industry. The studies found:
… there were several reasons that employees refrained from speaking up about safety issues, such as the fear of altering relationships, perceiving management as unsupportive, assessing issues as nonthreatening, and having heavy time pressures or excessive workloads (p. 153).
The importance of the last factor (i.e., how job design can increase or retard safety behaviour) was particularly notable. This finding suggests that employer job design choices affect not only which hazards are present in the workplace but the likelihood of workers raising concerns about them.

-- Bob Barnetson

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