We summarise some of the safety research into the human factors that contribute to accident, incidents and unsafe work behaviours.
The Mullen (2004) research found that the following organisational factors and individual attitudes did influence the occurrence of unsafe work practices and work accidents.
Wallace & Vodanovich (2003) study finding that both Conscientiousness and cognitive failure affected the prevalence of both unsafe work behaviours and workplace accidents.
High Performance Work Systems (HPWS) are human resource management practices that together assist in the recruitment, selection, development, motivation and retention of employees.
For years research has linked HPWS practices to economic performance of an organisation however, Zacharatos & Barling (2005) found that these practices also improved workplace safety.
They also proved that the 10 High performance work practices they studied composed a single underlying construct – a high performance work system.
Vrenenburgh (2002) studied 6 common management practices in safety programmes that were used to reduce injury rates. These practices were:
Vrenenburgh surveyed risk managers from 62 hospitals about the prevalence of these practices in the workplace and studied their relationship with injury rates.
He also categorised the practices into proactive practices (those used to prevent injuries in the first place) and reactive practices (those used to fix problems once they occurred).
His study found most hospitals had reactive practices, however proactive practices reliably predicted injury rates and in particular it was found that the proactive hiring practices could reduce injury rates.
If the organisation selected employees with good safety records and trained them appropriately then the result was lower injury rates.
The conclusion was therefore the most effective step to assist in reducing injury rates was to invest in the front-end hiring and training of new personnel.
Guadalupe (2003) studied the link between workplace accidents and fixed term contracts and found that the accident probabilities increase by 5 percentage points for those on fixed term contracts.
She found that the main reasons for this difference were that people on fixed term contracts tend to have less spent on them in terms of training and other HR initiatives.
In addition, due to the uncertain nature of fixed term work also can cause workers to increase their effort to ensure they are re-hired, however this increased effort to work faster can then increase workplace accidents.
A study by Sutherland & Copper (1991) in offshore oil and gas employees found that personality did impact upon the incident of accident involvement and suggested the use of personality assessment in selection to reduce this impact.
Clarke (2006) did a meta analysis of the safety literature around safety climate/culture perceptions and attitudes, and personality traits and their relationship to accident involvement.
Clarke & Robertson's meta-analysis (2005) found low conscientiousness and low agreeableness being associated with greater accident involvement in work studies.
They also found extraversion has no significant association with work accidents but it does seem to be a valid and generalizable predictor of traffic accidents.
Reynolds & Schiffbauer (2004) found that those people with low impulse control often discounted the possible negative consequences (e.g. injury) as being an unlikely or an uncertain outcome of acting on an impulse.
The consequences are discounted or disregard as such consequences are typically uncertain and delayed in nature. They also found some evidence "that certain environmental conditions, such as those that lead to stress or sleep deprivation, may increase discounting".
Braithwaite & Grabosky (1995) found that serious violations of rules were either the cause, contributed to the cause, or exacerbated the effect of 33 out of 39 multiple-fatality coalmine disasters, in the US, UK and Australia. The willingness of employees to follow the rules rather than rebel against them is critical in intrinsically dangerous jobs.
A study by Paul & Maiti (2007) investigated the how human behavioural factors contributed to work injuries in coalmines. They found people who described themselves as less emotionally stable, more dissatisfied with the job and more risk taking (from a self assessment) were significantly more likely to have work injuries in the mine studied.