What causes Unsafe Acts?

Unsafe acts can undo even the best attempts to minimize unsafe conditions, but there are no easy answers to the question if what causes people to act recklessly. For years psychologists assumed that some employees were simply more accident prone than others, and that accident-prone people generally caused more accidents. However, studies have failed to consistently support this assumption.

Therefore, while some believe that most accident-prone people are impulsive, most experts today doubt that accident proneness is universal that some people will have more accidents no matter what the situation. Instead, the consensus is that the person who is accident prone on one job may not be so a different job. They say that accident proneness is situational.

Various human traits do relate to accident proneness in specific situations. For example, accident-prone drivers performed worse on a test of motor skills than did drivers with fewer accidents, and older adults with impaired vision were at a higher risk for falls and motor vehicle crashes. People who were more fatalistic, negative, and cynical were more likely to exhibit violent behavior on the job. We’ll turn to how employers reduce unsafe acts and conditions next.

Reducing Unsafe Acts through Selection and Placement:

Screening is another way to reduce unsafe acts. Here, the manager’s aim is to isolate the trait (such as visual skill) that might predict accidents on the job in question then screen candidates for this trait. As noted above, tests have distinguished between those who do and do not have more car accidents, falls and violent outbursts. Studies suggest that a test like the Employee Reliability Inventory (ERI) can help employers reduce unsafe acts at work. The ERI purportedly measures reliability dimensions such as emotional maturity, conscientiousness, safe job performance, and courteous job performance. While the findings of one study were not definitive, using the ERI in the selection process did seem to be associated with reductions in work-related accidents.

Also, ask a few safety related questions during the selection interview – for instance, What would you do if you saw another employee working in an unsafe way? and What would you do if your supervisor gives you a task, but didn’t provide any training on how to perform it safely?

The Americans with Disabilities Act has particular relevance for safety related screening. For example, under the DA it is unlawful to enquire (prior to hiring) about am applicant’s workers compensation injuries and claims. You also cannot ask applicants whether they have a disability or require them to take tests that end to screen out those with disabilities. However, you can usually ask whether an applicant has the ability to perform a job. You can even ask, do you know of any reason why you would not be able to perform the various functions of the job you are seeking?

Research Insights: A related study involved a survey of about 16,000 employees in Australia. The study focused on the relationship among (1) high quality jobs, (2) employee satisfaction, and (3) occupational injuries. The researchers defined high quality jobs with questions such as the employer provided job training last year. They measured job satisfaction with items such as unsatisfied with management treatment. They measured occupational injuries by, for instances, having respondents indicate whether they had experienced an injury in the past year.

The researchers and indirect via job satisfaction affects on occupational injuries: Providing employees with high quality work in terms of increased opportunities for autonomy, increased involvement, and more training seems to improve safety conscious behavior directly by promoting employee earning, heightening, problem solving and enabling preventive action. High quality work also improves safety industry: It enhances job satisfaction, and it is clear from this study and others that higher job satisfaction is associated with employee safety.