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Safety Highlights From the Society of I/O Psychology Conference

May 6, 2015

IntelligenceThe 30th Annual Conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) took place in Philadelphia, PA last month, bringing together some of the greatest minds in I/O Psychology in both academia and industry. These psychologists conduct work on a wide variety of issues related to the workplace. I was pleased to see that the topic of workplace safety was well represented at this year’s meeting, so today I will share with you some of the highlights among the many outstanding presentations, while relating them back to our SafetyDNA framework.

Development of New Workplace Safety Measures

Recent strides in safety assessment and its application to industry and real-world settings were discussed in a symposium titled ‘The Development and Validation of Nine New Workplace Safety Measures.’ This discussion was led by Stephanie Payne and Nathanael Keiser, researchers from my program at Texas A&M University, and featured Select’s own Matthew O’Connell, Esteban Tristan, Kristin Delgado, and Allison Tenbrink. To avoid any issues with proprietary ownership, I will not discuss the details of these measures here, so inquiries should be sent directly to the authors. Rather, my purpose of mentioning these works is to emphasize that safety research is actively seeking to improve our methods in assessing the individual- and organization-level factors that influence employee safety. These studies show great promise for reducing accident and injury rates in organizations. Furthermore, in past Safety Perspectives blog posts I have discussed at length our S.A.F.E. and L.E.A.D. models of SafetyDNA which identify the unique levels of safe behaviors exhibited by individual employees, and the strategies managers and safety leaders can utilize to minimize safety incidents by promoting changes in behaviors related to an employee’s particular safety blind spots. A great deal of research went into designing the measures for these programs, and we believe them to be at the forefront of innovation in workplace safety.

Safety Behaviors are Affected by Perception

A study conducted by William Taylor and Lori Snyder at the University of Oklahoma found a positive relationship between risk perception and safety behavior, meaning that employees’ safety behaviors depend on how dangerous they believe the task or job environment to be and how that danger is conceptualized. The Exhibits Caution factor of the S.A.F.E. model of SafetyDNA is a good fit for this research, as some employees are naturally more likely to display unsafe behaviors on the job than others due to their individual comfort levels with working in dangerous environments. As we better understand why the behavior of employees low in caution is less influenced by hazards at work, management can improve the safety of these individuals by addressing their specific blind spots to reduce unnecessary dangers beyond those inherent to the job.

Personality Traits Influence Safety Performance

Other research performed by Stephanie Andel and Paul Spector at the University of South Florida reported that an organization’s safety climate can influence the relationship between individual employees’ personality traits and their safety performance. Thus, it is critical that safety leaders effectively implement the strategies presented in the L.E.A.D. model of SafetyDNA to build strong safety cultures in their organizations, consequently minimizing the negative safety outcomes associated with each employee’s safety behaviors and blind spots.

I will continue this discussion in my next Safety Perspectives post with a greater focus on current research addressing the influence of leadership on workplace safety.

Blind Spots: 4 Psychological Factors That Can Get Your Injured

Craig White Craig White is a doctoral student in the industrial/organizational psychology program at Texas A&M University. His research domains include selection test development, training, and team processes and performance. He has been closely involved in applied safety and health research projects at the Michael E. DeBakey VAMC Health Services Research and Development CoE in Houston, TX.