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Tap into Safety Research
September 2015, Issue 7
 
A WORD FROM THE TIS DEVELOPERS...
 

Development is moving along well with new staff coming on board as well as moving the 360/180 degree panoramic scenarios to transition between areas and spaces.
Just a reminder, we are now providing a forum for your comments on the newsletter topics at: http://www.linkedin.com/company/tap-into-safety.

 
 
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wellbeing_awareness_and_assessment   supervision & Safety
Leadership
 
 
 
topic under review
 
 
In this issue we review a paper that was published in the international journal Accident Analysis and Prevention in 2010. Data was drawn from a multi-organization study of 425 employees across 5 industry sectors: light manufacturing, energy, dental clinics, a pulp and paper mill and restaurants in the US. The study set out to confirm that workplace accidents are under reported. But more importantly to test the effect of safety climate and supervision enforcement of safety policies on accident reporting.
It is the findings about the critical role of the supervisor that intrigues us most.
 
 
under-reporting
 

Research examining why employees fail to report workplace injuries has been undertaken by notable scholars since the early 1980's. There are several reported reasons: fear of reprisals (loss of workplace perks and pay incentives); fear of losing their job; onerous reporting procedures; and the belief that getting injured while at work is just part of the job ('macho ism'). We would add an additional reason: fear of ending the 'XXX days LTI free' records.

The authors point to other factors such as:
1. A lack safety training or poor communication. Employees may not know what to report, or how to report an accident.
2. Management is perceived as devaluing safety. Employees may believe that their company does not want to know about injuries that they can manage themselves.
3. Punitive safety systems. Assigning rewards to safety outcomes rather than behaviours. 

 

study results and under-reporting

 

In this study, 54% of the sample (230 employees) reported that they had been involved in a workplace accident in the previous year that they had failed to report. The most common reasons for not reporting the accident were that the employees took care of the problem themselves and they thought that even if they did report the accident, nothing would be done to fix the problem. They chose not to report the accident to either "avoid follow-up interviews, a loss of scorecard safety points, or breaking the company’s 'accident-free record'” (p.1442). 

 
 
 

They chose not to report the accident to either "avoid follow-up interviews, a loss of scorecard safety points, or breaking the company’s 'accident-free record'” 

 
 
 

the results

 
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The results demonstrated organisations with a positive safety culture had both fewer reported and unreported accidents. The ratio of unreported to reported accidents was 1.46:1. These organisations also had fewer accidents. 

In organisations where supervisors enforced safety, accidents declined and when accidents occurred were reported more fully. 

However, when employees felt that the organisation had a poor safety climate or their supervisor would not enforce safety policies, greater accident under-reporting occurred. The ratio of unreported to reported accidents was greater than 3:1.

Combining the results, there was an average of 2.48 unreported accidents for every accident reported across the studies sampled organisations.

 
 

implications 

 

This study, and a number of others dating back decades, shows that organisations with a poor safety climate and high levels of under-reporting do not have fewer accidents. They just have fewer accident investigations and reports.  Some organisations treasure their accident free records and hold them up as a testimony of their safe practices all the while under-reporting injuries. This may provide short term benefits (e.g. winning that contract), but unless accidents are investigated the long-term health and safety of their employees is at risk. The costs associated with the failure to rectify the root causes of the injuries or accidents will affect them in the long run. The results of this study indicate that fostering a positive safety climate sees not only a reduction in workplace accidents, but also improvements in the accuracy of accident reporting. This study also clearly shows that supervisors level of enforcement of safety polices and safe practice is paramount to reducing workplace accidents and encouraging full and open reporting. 

 

Conclusion

 
Positive safety climate and supervisor safety leadership behaviors that enforce safe work practices are critical to determining whether safety problems are addressed. These two factors also determine whether employees report safety concerns and incidents or will fail to report incidents leading to repeated workplace accidents. This leads to two important topics and several questions. Do you have a positive safety climate in your organisation that encourages incident reporting and investigation into safety problems?  How do your supervisors view workplace accident and incident reporting? Is this a positive practice or an activity that cuts into production? Is getting injured part and parcel with the job? The role of the supervisor is a complex one with numerous push and pull factors affecting their decisions and ultimately how they run the job. Placing health and safety first above all other pressures is sometimes a difficult decision, but ultimately one that will save the organisation in both time and money in the long run, let alone the peace of mind that those they supervise can go home safe and sound at the end of each shift.

Reference: Probst, T.M. & Estrada, A.X. (2010). Accident under-reporting among employees: Testing the moderating influence of psychological safety climate and supervisor enforcement of safety practices. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 42,1438–1444.

Available at: http://www.researchgate.net/publication/44663588
 
 
 
 
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