Occupational safety motivation: What motivates workers to comply and participate in safety activities?

Louise Pedersen, Pete Kines

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Abstract

Background: Motivation is one of the most important factors for safety behaviour and for implementing change in general. However, theoretical and psychometric studies of safety performance have traditionally treated safety motivation, safety compliance and safety participation unidimensionally. At the same time many motivation questionnaire items are seldom founded on theory and/or do not account for the theories’ ontological and epistemological differences, e.g. of how knowledge, attitude and action are related. Present questionnaire items tap into occupational safety motivation in asking whether or not respondents ‘are’ motivated and whether they feel that safety is important or worthwhile. Another important aspect is ‘what’ motivates workers to comply to and participate in safety. The aim of this article is to introduce a new theory-based occupational safety motivation scale which is validated with interview data, observations and questionnaire items of actual safety behaviour.
Method: Seven safety motivation questionnaire items were developed based on a theoretical model with three forms of motivation for safety compliance/participation: normative, social and calculated motivations. The items were tested on a total of 550 workers from 20 different small, medium and large manufacturing enterprises.
Results: Ranking patterns of the seven items were similar across all 20 enterprises. Workers were primarily motivated due to normative safety motivations and only secondarily due to social and calculated motivations. In all enterprises the primary motivations for safety compliance/motivation were that it ‘contributed to the prevention of accidents and injuries’, and because it was a ‘natural part’ of their work. Social motivations for safety compliance/participation such as ‘gaining respect from colleagues’ and ‘avoiding negative remarks from a leader/colleague’ were of less importance.
Interview, observational and additional questionnaire data clarify these results.
Conclusion: The article provides insight into ‘what’ actually motivates workers to comply/participate in safety and possible differences between attitudes and actions.

Original languageEnglish
Publication date15 Oct 2010
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2010

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