NSC Labor Division news Research/studies Safety culture

Researchers call for more worker awareness in ‘moderately hazardous’ environments

Photo: D3Damon/iStockphoto

Waterloo, Ontario — Workers in moderately hazardous environments may be more likely than those in highly hazardous workplaces to underestimate the degree of safe behaviors needed to avoid injury or illness.

That’s according to Waterloo University researchers. The team recently conducted four different studies to find out in which of the two types of workplaces safety incidents are more common.

In two of the studies, they analyzed historical workplace injury data and found that moderately dangerous environments were associated with the most incidents. The other studies involved people completing work simulations in which they knew the level of danger and how to safely engage with it.

Findings show that under moderately dangerous conditions, participants exhibited only a “moderate degree” of safe behaviors. Despite being aware of the hazards in the moderately dangerous conditions, the participants under-allocated time and effort needed to work safely.

The researchers recommend safety training that explains the need for workers to increase their safe behaviors sharply in response to small increases in the hazard level of workplace situations.

“In highly dangerous environments, individuals engage in a high degree of safety behaviors, which offsets the chance of an accident,” lead study author James Beck, a psychology professor at the university, said in a press release. “In moderately dangerous environments, people usually engage in some safety behaviors, yet most people do not engage in enough safety behaviors.”

The study was published online in the journal Personnel Psychology.

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