Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Taking safety personally

Date:
April 28, 2011
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
A year after the BP explosion and oil spill, those trying to find someone to blame are misguided, says a psychological scientist. He has spent much of his 42-year career developing interventions to keep people safe, particularly helping companies develop a culture that promotes occupational safety.

A year after the BP explosion and oil spill, those trying to find someone to blame are misguided, says psychological scientist E. Scott Geller, Alumni Distinguished professor at Virginia Tech, and author of a new paper published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. Geller has spent much of his 42-year career developing interventions to keep people safe, particularly helping companies develop a culture that promotes occupational safety.

There's almost never one person to blame for an injury; instead, companies need to develop a culture where individual workers feel empowered to point out problems and raise concerns about each other's safety. Media reports have suggested workers on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig were discouraged from reporting hazards, minor injuries, and other close calls. "The disaster would have been prevented if people were willing to speak up and report the hazards," Geller says. Many companies have policies that reward a supervisor for having a low number of injuries per work hour. But that discourages the reporting of injuries, and provides no incentive for analyzing close calls.

Indeed, Geller objects to the idea the disaster, or any crash, collision, or explosion, has a root cause. "Root cause? No. There are contributing factors," Geller says. For example, take someone who falls and breaks a bone at work because he climbed on a chair to reach something. In that case, you should listen to what excuses are given. "He might say, 'I didn't use the right ladder because it wasn't available, or I didn't go and get the right ladder because my supervisor is pushing me to get the job done fast," Geller says. Listening to workers can lead to a safer workplace -- keeping the ladder closer to where it's needed, or emphasizing that safety is more important than speed.

Having a culture of safety also means using positive reinforcement rather than threats. "Psychologists know threats have only a temporary effect, if any," Geller says. And threats have undesirable side effects. People don't want to be around a supervisor who threatens them. Threats of enforcement influence some people to try and beat the system in order to assert individual freedom.

But the reflexive response to something dangerous is to make a law or policy against the related behavior. A few years ago, Geller and his students tried two ways of getting people to fasten their vehicle safety belts. They stood near the exit to parking lots at the university, and when they saw someone driving without a safety belt, they held up a sign: either one with the popular slogan "Click It or Ticket" or one that read "Please Buckle Up -- I Care." The positive sign got significantly more drivers to buckle up. "Click It or Ticket" provoked some rude gestures.

The main message is that people should take safety personally, Geller says. Countless drivers have sent a text message while at the wheel and survived. But a video circulating on the internet tells the story of real people who were killed because of a texting driver. That makes the danger seem real. "We know from experience that emotions are motivating," Geller says. Making safety a personal issue makes people care more; seeing that video may make them think twice and realize the text message can wait.

In fact, Geller says, caring about safety means actively caring for the people around you. It's caring enough to speak up when your coworker has forgotten his or her hard hat, or starting a serious conversation about safety on the assembly line. "The BP disaster got many people suddenly taking safety personally, but we've got to take it personally before the disaster," he says.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Taking safety personally." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 April 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110428124002.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2011, April 28). Taking safety personally. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110428124002.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Taking safety personally." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110428124002.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Idaho Boy Helps Brother With Disabilities Complete Triathlon

Idaho Boy Helps Brother With Disabilities Complete Triathlon

Newsy (July 23, 2014) An 8-year-old boy helped his younger brother, who has a rare genetic condition that's confined him to a wheelchair, finish a triathlon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stone Fruit Listeria Scare Causes Sweeping Recall

Stone Fruit Listeria Scare Causes Sweeping Recall

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The Wawona Packing Company has issued a voluntary recall on the stone fruit it distributes due to a possible Listeria outbreak. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The 83 new genetic markers could open dozens of new avenues for schizophrenia treatment research. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
CDC Head Concerned About a Post-Antibiotic Era

CDC Head Concerned About a Post-Antibiotic Era

AP (July 22, 2014) Sounding alarms about the growing threat of antibiotic resistance, CDC Director Tom Frieden warned Tuesday if the global community does not confront the problem soon, the world will be living in a devastating post-antibiotic era. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins