Workplace Safety Motivation


Published on

Research paper on motivating people for safe behaviours in the workplace.

Workplace Safety Motivation

  1. 1. Running head: MOTIVATING EMPLOYEES FOR SAFE Motivating Employees for Safe Work Behavior Karen Carleton, M.Ed. Boise State University
  2. 2. Table of Contents Abstract ............................................................................................ 1 Introduction ........................................................................................ 2 Theoretical Principles ....................................................................... 3 Expectancy Theory ............................................................................... 3 Self-Efficacy ........................................................................................ 5 Locus of Control................................................................................... 7 Zero Incident Protocol Safety Program ..................................................10 Practical Implications ..................................................................... 12 References .........................................................................................16 Appendix A: Zero Incident Protocol Principles ................................ 18 Appendix B: Workplace Learning Activity for ZIP ............................ 19
  3. 3. Motivating Employees 1 Abstract For organizations, promoting and supporting workplace safety means providing employees with the necessary information, resources and incentives. For individuals, workplace safety centers on: education/training, ensuring capacity, and most importantly, tapping into a worker‟s intrinsic motivation. Valuable insights are gained from expectancy theory, self- efficacy, and locus of control. These concepts are related to facilitating and supporting employee motivation for workplace safety. Working safely is strongly influenced by an employee‟s beliefs, choices, and perceptions, as demonstrated by the Zero Incident Protocol (ZIP) safety program, which involves employees‟ personally meaningful motivations and expectancies for safety. ZIP exemplifies locus of control being used to strengthen employee motivation and to some degree, expectancy and self-efficacy. The paper concludes summarizing how these concepts promote safe work behaviors.
  4. 4. Motivating Employees 2 Motivating Employees for Safe Work Behavior Introduction Today most industrial employers are well aware of the importance of attending to safety considerations for the people they employ. Not only do organizations want to avoid paying higher worker‟s compensation costs for injuries sustained at work, but they want to maintain a reputation of corporate responsibility, and retain a happy and productive workforce. One question that labor-intensive industries like mining and manufacturing ask is: how can we close the gap between current and desired motivation levels for working safely? Presuming that workplace safety needs are met in the areas of job-related safety information, resources (e.g., adequate tools), and meaningful incentives, the focus turns to the personal repertory of behavior for individual employees. On a personal level, employees must possess (or be provided with) the relevant knowledge and skills for performing safe work. Moreover, all workers need careful screening to ensure that they have the capacity (physical, mental, and emotional) to work safely given the respective conditions. Once all of these environmental and personal conditions are met, leveraging human motivation becomes the central task. As such, there are informative theories and concepts that assist instructional designers and performance technologists to tap into a worker‟s intrinsic motivation to work safely, which becomes a win-win for employees and their employers alike.
  5. 5. Motivating Employees 3 Underlying expectancy theory are employee expectations, perceptions and motivations, which integrate well with the related concepts of self-efficacy and locus of control. A common thread shared by these overarching theoretical ideas “ the attempt to explain the formation and effect of personal expectancies for success or failure in relation to behavior and its consequences” (Peters, 2001, p. 298). This paper will demonstrate clear ties between these theoretical constructs and motivating safe work behavior for employees in an organization. Theoretical Principles Expectancy Theory Expectancy theory, developed by Victor Vroom in the 1960s, helps explain employee motivation, particularly as it pertains to employee perceptions of situations. These perceptions in turn affect how they behave in response to these situations. According to expectancy theory, to effect a high level of workplace motivation, three conditions must be met simultaneously. First, the reward for an employee‟s task performance must be perceived as valuable (condition of valence). Second, the reward employees receive must be commensurate or a fair exchange for their performance of the task (condition of instrumentality). Third, there must be considerable likelihood of the employee receiving the reward, once the task is performed or the goal is achieved (condition of expectancy). Notably, all three conditions must be met to maintain a high level of employee
  6. 6. Motivating Employees 4 motivation (Huglin, 2006, slide 11). For example, to enhance safe work motivation for oil and gas workers their employer would need to ensure the reward for safe work is seen as valuable by each employee, as opposed to a mass distribution of cheap trinkets for safety rewards (i.e., condition of valence). As well, rewards should be perceived as fair in relation to the safety milestone achieved and in comparison to other employees, thereby maintaining a sense of distributive justice and equity in the workplace (i.e., condition of instrumentality). Finally, workers must be assured that they can expect to receive their just rewards soon after reaching their safety goals, in order for such rewards to be meaningfully appreciated (i.e., condition of expectancy). Nonetheless, an employee‟s risky behavior is strongly influenced by the individual‟s perception of risk or the expectancy for injury, together with the perceived likelihood of how serious of an injury that could be sustained in a given situation. Much of this perception is based on how well a person thinks they are capable of performing. For instance, critical to the risky behavior of many young drivers, is the perceived risk of crashing a vehicle or being caught by law enforcement is, since young adults tend to feel invincible and unlikely to get hurt. By contrast, older drivers tend to be risk-averse drivers, and are often less likely to share the „it won‟t happen to me‟ mentality (Williams, & Purdy, 2005). However, experienced industrial workers often speak of over-confidence based on having a wealth of experience which can
  7. 7. Motivating Employees 5 lend itself to mindlessness or „going on autopilot‟ instead of remaining keenly mindful of potential workplace dangers (Gellar, 2006). An experienced worker may be more likely to believe he or she has control over the situation, ignoring or downplaying the significance of external factors (Geurin, & Kohut, 1989). Self-efficacy Related to the expectancy theory and employee perceptions (or personal realities), is self-efficacy, which is defined as “...a person‟s belief that he or she can perform a certain procedure or technique. It reflects self- confidence and a „can do‟ attitude” (Gellar, 2003, p. 8). In other words, self- efficacy is tantamount to an employee‟s perceived self-efficacy for preventative action (Williams, & Purdy, 2005). The notion of self-efficacy is closely allied with expectancy, or the belief that performing a task will produce the desired outcome. Expectancy can also be referred to as response efficacy, or being able to choose to perform in a certain way (Gellar, 2003). Importantly, for enhancing safety in the workplace, the power of personal story sharing, customary in safety meetings, is an important source of employee safety motivation (Gellar, 2003; Williams, & Purdy, 2005). A personalized message about injuries or „near misses‟, evokes powerful visualizations that heightens vulnerabilities. As a result, attendees develop personal apprehension towards the dangerous work situations discussed, and people generally become more receptive to avoidance
  8. 8. Motivating Employees 6 strategies. In short, people are „scared safe‟ since testimonials from workers in similar work situations are very powerful (Gellar, 2003; Williams, & Purdy, 2005). Workplace safety meetings, also known as „safety shares‟ or „toolbox talks‟, are designed to motivate and educate others and at the same time, remind fellow workers that they are capable of performing in such as way as to prevent similar safety incidents or accidents in the workplace (Gellar, 2003 & 2006). A personal story can heighten employees‟ perceptions of vulnerability so that risks become relevant, real and fear-inducing (Gellar, 2003). In fact, „loss-framing‟ or considering what a worker has to lose by taking risks at work, are more effective than ‟gain-framing‟ or focusing on safe work benefits stemming from compliance (Gellar, 2003). The Zero Incident Protocol (ZIP) does just that, by asking workers to consider „the big five‟ or the five things they value most in their life such as family, friends, job, health, and ability to play sports – all of which could be limited or lost as a consequence of a workplace accident (Sentis, 2004). The safety culture or climate of an organization, typified by the shared perceptions and attitudes of those in the work environment, has a strong influence on safe work behavior (Williams, & Purdy, 2005). Case in point, when a worker feels that protecting his or her hearing by preventing noise exposure is pointless and that hearing damage is part and parcel of the job, he or she will feel little if any personal responsibility for taking action to
  9. 9. Motivating Employees 7 prevent hearing damage from noise exposure. In the author‟s experience, one plant operator who shared this sentiment (despite being well aware of the benefits of wearing hearing protection), demonstrated his poor attitude towards his own safety, company compliance behaviors, and a lack of self- efficacy. Thus, an employee‟s attitudes affect his or her safe work behavior or lack thereof. In fact, an attitude-to-behavior process model views the individual‟s response as related to his or her perception of the situation, and also related to his or her peer group norms (Williams, & Purdy, 2005; Gellar, 2003). The opposite of self-efficacy is „fatalism‟ or the belief in accidents stemming from fate or naturally occurring consequences, which are unavoidable (Williams, & Purdy, 2005). Nevertheless, organizations “...that undertake regular OHS [Occupational Health and Safety] training/education programs intended to raise safety culture awareness....” have been shown to have measurably decrease fatalism and increase safer behavior based on peer group influence (Williams, & Purdy, 2005, p. 251). Hence, motivating safe work behavior is related to both individual self-efficacy, and whether it is promoted by a worker‟s social network or peer group. Locus of Control Linked to expectancy theory and self-efficacy, is locus of control (LoC). In organizational settings, LoC has been closely aligned with employee motivation (Geurin, & Kohut, 1989). LoC amounts to an employee‟s beliefs
  10. 10. Motivating Employees 8 about what level of control they have over their environment and “...the extent to which individuals attribute outcomes to their own efforts and behaviors” (Geurin, & Kohut, 1989, p. 58). With regard to an individual‟s psychological responses, Rotter, who proposed LoC (i.e., general expectancy) suggests that those with a high internal LoC would believe that they have more control over the outcomes in their lives. By comparison, those with a stronger external LoC “... will perceive themselves [and their outcomes] to be controlled by fate, luck or other people with power” (Bassett-Jones & Lloyd, 2005, p. 931-932). Like expectancy theory and self-efficacy, LoC presumes that what is most important for influencing an individual‟s motivations and resultant behavior, is his or her perceptions and beliefs about a situation, especially with regard to maintaining one‟s safety (Bernardi, 1997). There is evidence of a strong relationship between LoC, perceptions and performance. In other words, if someone sees himself or herself as being in control of a situation, then he or she “... will be less likely to perceive the situation as threatening or stress-inducing....” (Chan in Bernardi, 1997, p. 1). Of course, when employees perceive themselves as having greater control over a situation, they are more likely to be satisfied, motivated, committed, involved and high performing, since they are unencumbered by stress (Bernardi, 1997). Conversely, individuals who perceive little or no control over their personal circumstances are said to be externally-locused
  11. 11. Motivating Employees 9 and are sometimes referred to as ELoCs or „externals‟. ELoCs tend to dwell on the idea of luck or fate directing their lives, failing to appreciate elements that they have control over. People who are internally-locused (i.e., ILoCs) believe for the most part that they can influence outcomes of events because most things are within their control, therefore they accept responsibility for managing their lives, and their own safety (Bernardi, 1997; Sentis, 2004). ELoCs by contrast, who have a tendency to blame the external environment or others for their circumstances, do not believe they have the ability to influence the outcomes of their own situations through individual actions (Bernardi, 1997; Geurin, & Kohut, 1989). Threatening to workplace safety is the notion that ELoCs who largely feel powerless, are more likely to experience the negative effects of stress, be less satisfied at work, and have a higher risk of quitting (Bernardi, 1997). ILoCs, on the other hand, tend to see challenge in stressors and in turn, effective stress management is conducive to safe work performance (Bernardi, 1997). In fact, the „fight or flight‟ response inherited from early humans can be triggered in response to a perceived environmental threat, perceived lack of control over the outcome (Sentis, 2004). As a result, this response does not support clear thinking such as taking safety precautions. Further, when something or someone in the environment is perceived as being more powerful than the individual, it can signify that the individual has an external locus of control. An ILoC, on the other hand, tends to adopt the
  12. 12. Motivating Employees 10 safer, more responsible attitude of „stay and play‟, where positive energy supports the individual‟s ability to take charge of the situation and affect its outcome positively (Sentis, 2004). Hence, ILoCs are more likely to react constructively to frustration, as compared to ELoCs (Anderson in Bernardi, 1997). Notably, some research suggests female employees are more likely to be externally locused than male employees (Bernardi, 1997; Geurin, & Kohut, 1989). The phenomenon of female ELoC tendencies could very well be related to systemic institutional bias inherent in organizations, and/or based on individual experiences which can reinforce a woman‟s perceptions of her inability to control her life‟s circumstances, including having control over work or life stressors. Regardless of gender, research has clearly shown a correlation between stress and perceived LoC, which has ramifications for maintaining workplace safety (Bernardi, 1997). Zero Incident Protocol Safety Program Zero Incident Protocol (ZIP) is a workplace safety training program based on a cognitive protocol designed to achieve zero safety incidents in the workplace through thought and perceptual change (Sentis, 2007). It is a psychologically based process for empowering people to take control of their own safety, by providing insight into how the brain works, and the effects of thoughts, attitudes and values on safety. ZIP is a tool to aid employees in taking control over their thinking and emotions to improve their life by
  13. 13. Motivating Employees 11 getting the results they want, namely in the area of safety. ZIP moves beyond the typical behavior-based safety training to unleash the power of individual thinking (Sentis, 2007). ZIP‟s has three main purposes are to: facilitate greater control over personal safety and well being life, explore five thinking patterns or attitudes shown to protect individual safety, and use brain-based tools to control one‟s thoughts and therefore influence outcomes related to safety (Sentis, 2007). As with everything in life, an ILoC is critical to ensuring one‟s own safety. Examining the brutal and sometimes horrifying aspects of failing to comply with safe work performance and take all necessary precautions is essential, while “...[and] at the same time keep an unshakeable belief that we will succeed in staying safe” (Sentis, 2004, p. 1). Strengthening or developing an ILoC orientation means employees take ownership responsibility for their own situation, so that they are „responsible and in control‟, which is the first of five ZIP program mantras which are reiterated throughout the training program and its follow-up. If people own their own circumstances they can change them, and therefore stop being a victim of situations in which they find themselves. To encourage responses that reflect an ILoC outlook, people are advised to enter the „ILoC Room of Mirrors‟ which involves reflecting upon a series of items:
  14. 14. Motivating Employees 12 1. “What” or “How” questions enlighten me about how I am contributing to my own situation (never asking unproductive “Who” or “Why” questions) e.g., What was my contribution to this situation? 2. “I” or “My” statements are constructed next, with reference to the role I have played in my current situation. e.g., How can I control myself in this situation? 3. “Do” actions are descriptions of the behaviors I will perform to improve my circumstances. e.g., What do I need to do? (Sentis, 2004). As a result of entering the ILoC Room of Mirrors, employees are able to own their own responsibility for a potentially hazardous situation at work, and therefore they can take action to remedy the situation (Sentis, 2004). Practical Implications In organizations, promoting and supporting workplace safety involves promoting a safety culture and creating a supportive peer network. Presuming personal capacity issues have been isolated, improving employee motivation becomes a focus for facilitating workplace safety. Expectancy theory, self-efficacy and locus of control, illuminate how organizations can leverage individual motivation for safe work behavior. ZIP exemplifies a safety program with an attitude-to-behavior process, or cognitive behavioural process (Sentis, 2007) for a mindset of safe work performance, based on individual perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes.
  15. 15. Motivating Employees 13 In summary, to close the gap between current and desired motivation levels, organizations need to focus on a worker‟s intrinsic motivation to work safely, along with improving his or her expectancy for safe outcomes. A worker‟s self-efficacy or belief in his or her ability to perform safely in a given situation, is enhanced by ongoing safety education/training programs (Clark, 2006), strengthening an organizational safety culture, and developing a peer support network. Encouraging and supporting an internal locus of control will enable employees to see that they have considerable power to influence their own safety through their own beliefs, choices, and performance (Clark, 2006). By accepting responsibility for their own safety, employees are less likely to experience the unsafe work situations. Enhancing employee self- awareness and continually reinforcing mindfulness of safety expectancies, safe work performance abilities, and personal accountabilities, are criticalto workplace safety. Of course, “there is nothing that can be done to increase safety on the shop floor unless management wants it, originates it and keeps supporting it” (Williams, & Purdy, 2005, p. 251).
  16. 16. Motivating Employees 14 References Bassett-Jones, N., & Lloyd, G.C. (2005, March). Does Herzberg‟s motivation theory have staying power? Journal of Management Development, 21(10), 929-943. Bernardi, R.A. (1997, Fall). The relationships among LoCus of control, perceptions of stress, and performance. Journal of Applied Business Research, 13(4), 1-8. Clark, R. E. (2006). Motivating individuals, teams, and organizations. In J. A. Pershing (Ed.), Handbook of Human Performance Technology (3rd ed., pp. 479-497). San Francisco: Pfeiffer. Gellar, E. S. (2003, February). Scared safe: How to use fear to motivate safety involvement” Occupational Health and Safety, 6(1), 6-10. Gellar, E.S. (2006, December). The human dynamics of Injury Prevention (Part 3): The thinking and seeing components of people-based safety. Occupational Hazards. Geurin, V.T., & Kohut, G.F. (1989, February). The Relationship of Locus of control, and participative decision making among managers and business students. Atlantic Journal of Business, 25(4), 57-66. Huglin, L. (2007). IPT 564: Motivation in IPT, Week 7: Process theories, Part II, slides 8, 10-12 (October 11, 2007).
  17. 17. Motivating Employees 15 Peters, F. (2001). ARCS motivational design. In K. L. Medsker & K. M. Holdsworth (Eds.), Models and strategies for training design (pp. 297- 317). Silver Spring, MD: International Society for Performance Improvement. Sentis. Retrieved November 3. 2007 from, Sentis. Module 1: Creating a powerful locus of control. (Received April 18, 2004), from Sentis corporation, Melbourne, Australia (pp. 1-2). Williams, S., & Purdy, S. (2005). Perceptions of workplace noise and safety climate. Journal of Occupational Health and Safety. 21(3), 247-252.
  18. 18. Motivating Employees 16 Appendix A: Zero Incident Protocol Principles The Big 5 Attitudes and Principles to keep me safe: Safety Control “I’m responsible and I’m in control.” Risk Awareness “I see it; I manage it.” Stress Management “I’m feeling it; I’m channelling it.” Operating Attitude “How I operate drives how I operate.” Professional Orientation “I do it well; I make it better.”
  19. 19. Motivating Employees 17 Appendix B: Workplace Learning Activity for Zero Incident Protocol Training “Personal Big 5” These are the important things in my life that I “buy” with my safe choices at work and at home: 1. ______________________________________ 2. ______________________________________ 3. _______________________________________ 4. ______________________________________ 5. _______________________________________