A thematic analysis yielded twelve categories of unsafe behaviours and fourteen attitudinal themes.
Louise Gilligan (BSc, MSc – Corporate Account Manager, SeaChange Ltd.)
An extensive literature review was undertaken to investigate the research supporting the relationship between attitude and unsafe behaviours in the workplace. Following this review, there appears to be a gap in the literature identifying the particular attitudes that lead to unsafe behaviours. At the request of a multinational organisation experiencing a surplus in unsafe behaviours, this study aims to identify the attitudes leading to these particular behaviours in order to concretely address the needs of a large multinational within the food processing industry.
An exploratory research approach was taken utilising focus groups and semi-structured interviews from five food processing sites across Ireland and France. A thematic analysis yielded twelve categories of unsafe behaviours and fourteen attitudinal themes. The prevailing attitudes pointed towards a neglect of the underlying needs of trust and value experienced by employees within the organisation. The neglect of value component (7 attitudes) suggests clear indications of the lack of value placed on both employees as individuals and on employee safety by management. The neglect of trust component (7 attitudes) implies the low degree to which employees believe in the safety message and trust management’s commitment to safety within the organisation.
The interactions between a) the trust/value dimensions and the fourteen identified attitudes; and b) their combined relationship with the identified unsafe behaviours are considered major findings of this exploratory research. The neglect of trust and value dimensions influenced the identified attitudes that contributed to the unsafe behaviours occurring within the multinational organisation. Such evidence suggests both trust and value act as latent variables that mediate employee attitudes leading to unsafe behaviours in the workplace. Future path analysis is recommended to further explore this relationship.
A transformational leadership approach fundamentally operates on the dimensions of trust and value in that effective leadership requires follower perceptions of trust and value. This leadership perspective is recommended to target the fourteen identified attitudes as part of a constructive intervention towards sustainable safe behaviours. Future research should investigate the success of a transformational leadership approach in addressing the attitudes through increasing trust and value onsite with the definitive goal of increasing safe behaviour onsite.
Interdisciplinary networking between psychologists and safety organisations from both the public and private sectors to purposefully target the role of attitudes in influencing behaviour within organisations is clearly needed to achieve sustainable results. It is recommended that future research should investigate more deeply the longitudinal outcomes that are associated with the identified attitudes in order to strengthen the study outcome. This research contributes to the organisational safety domain through the provision of an empirically based foundation from which other research can further address the gap that exists between unsafe behaviours and employee attitudes in the workplace.