Inderscience Publishers

On the difficulty of promoting workers' safety behaviour: overcoming the underweighting of routine risks

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The paper seeks to explain the seeming paradox whereby workers' safety behaviour during routine work depends largely on supervisory contingencies (i.e. pressures and rewards), rather than on self-preservation. We identify three behavioural tendencies accountable for underweighting of outcomes associated with safe behaviour, i.e. delayed outcomes (i.e. melioration bias), rare or uncertain outcomes (i.e. recency bias), and outcomes concerning social externalities. Jointly, they result in a tendency to favour unsafe behaviour in many routine work situations. Examination of effective and ineffective intervention programmes suggests that the key to success lies in providing frequent, personally meaningful, and immediate rewards for safe conduct, overriding the costs associated with that behaviour and exceeding the benefits of unsafe behaviour.

Keywords: safety behaviour, risk perception, safety climate, routine risks, work environment, effective interventions

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