Human Factors in Occupational Safety

Posted: October 17th, 2013

Human Factors in Occupational Safety




Human Factors in Occupational Safety

The health, safety and welfare protection of people who earn a living is an element that constitutes occupational safety. An unintentional injury, as common as it may be, makes up a large percentage of loss of life causes. According to U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (1998), injuries are the primary cause of death in the United States. As such, injuries require a lot of medical attention and incur huge costs as well.

1) The key purpose of this document is to bring out the risks and consequences of lack of safety discipline while working as well as possible remedies.

2) Of utmost importance to us is to ask, ‘What is the impact of occupational jeopardy and how can it be reduced?’

3) Apart from the trauma experienced by co-workers, friends and families due to unforeseen industrial casualties and mortalities, there are also economic and social effects. Estimates attributed to economic and social consequences can be made

4) From the start of the 20th century to present day, safety practitioners and employers have adopted the philosophy of education, engineering and enforcement (three E’s) to provide light in this matter (Geller, 1996). This meant strategies had to be formulated to prevent injuries; employees were to be educated on discipline at work and policies; and finally policies were enforced on safety precautions and handling.

5) In 1844, the Great Factory Act was approved in Britain and later on by 1850 working conditions were a priority of industrial engineers. William Haddon hypothesized that the largest impact on injury reduction would be engineering modifications. He became the drive behind automotive safety, which included padded dashboards, headrests and airbags. Haddon’s philosophies led to the development of protective equipment such as gloves, safety goggles, hard hats, steel tipped boots and earplugs. Apart from health promotions, many different models and theories address occupational safety and behavioral aspects of health. Glanz, et al (1997) surveyed 24 related health journals between 1992 to 1994 and found out that 45% were dependent on not less than one model or theory.

6) A quarter of a million potential years of people’s productive lives are lost annually (Baker, et al., 1992; Leigh, 1995) as compared to disease related deaths. . A recent account of injuries related to work was coming to $ 116 billion as per the United States’ National Safety Council (1993). The costs include equipment damage, insurance claims, medical expenses, production delays, lost wages, indirect costs, fire losses and lost time of coworkers (Miller, 1997; National Safety Council, 1998).A model known as transtheoretical model analyzed and identified techniques that could be used to accomplish specific health behaviors. The ten techniques model received criticism from Bandura (1997) who mentioned that the model did not give any results as to why people would not consider changes from unhealthy occupational actions. This model has been useful in various aspects but not applicable to occupational safety.

7) Self-efficacy sensitized on training employees to provide them with relevant skills needed to carry out their tasks safely. Another model that came up with solutions and strategies was conceived. The flow of behavior change by Geller (1998) assists health professionals come up with remedies to fix the problem. In this model, employees are segmented into four stages by their management upon which the intervention needed for each stage is applicable. Geller suggested three behavior types: automatic behavior, self-directed and other-directed. This resulted to an expansion of the model by modifying stages of change model. The four stages thus became pre-contemplation, action, contemplation and maintenance. Also contained in this model were a greater number of injuries for employees who did not deliberate upon safety issues.

8) A redefinition and critical examination of safety research in industries will reduce mortality as well as morbidity and increase any industrial worker’s life. Thus, safety discipline requirements in an organization from a properly conducted industrial survey are a proper fit for this article. A brief history into occupational safety dates back to Hippocrates (460-377 BC) who wrote about the harmful consequences of an unhealthy working environment on slaves. Caesar (100-40 BC) had an officer to address safety concerns of his multitude. Bernadino Ramazzini (1633-1714) was the pioneer of occupational health and discipline in workplaces. He wrote about the tragedy befalling employees because of harmful working conditions. Ramazzini came up with quite a number of preventive measures to fight this menace. Such people paved the way for modern approaches used to counter the same.

9) Outcome expectancy, stages of change and self-efficacy were all keen on individual attainment of discipline in work performance. Other health programs focused on providing the employees with tools to achieve an individual change.

10) An analysis of workplace behavior and significant applications forthwith has made tremendous contributions to occupational safety and work discipline. This is because of documentation, development of successful behavior change intercession and eventual applications of these interventions in various domains such as traffic safety, environmental protection, health behavior and behavioral medicine.






Baker, S. P., Conroy, C., & Johnston, J. J. (1992). Occupational injury prevention. Journal of Safety Research, 23(2), 129-133.

Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York, NY: W. H. Freeman and Company

Geller, E. S. (1996). The psychology of safety: How to improve behaviors and attitudes on the job. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Geller, E. S. (1998d). How to select behavioral strategies. Industrial Safety and Hygiene News, 32(9), 12-13.

Glanz, k., Lewis, F. M., & Rimer, B. K. (1997). Health behavior and health education (2nd Edition). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Guastello, S. J. (1993). Do we really know how well our occupational accident prevention programs work? Safety Science, 16, 445-463.

Heinrich, H. W., Petersen, D., & Roos, N. (1980). Industrial accident prevention: A safety management approach (5th Edition). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Leigh, J. (1995). Causes of death in the workplace. Westport, CN: Quorum Books.

Petersen, D. (1996). Safety by objectives: What gets measured gets done. New York, NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold

Wilde, G. J. S. (1998). The concept of target risk and its implications for accident prevention strategies. In A. M. Feyer & A. Williamson (Eds.) Occupational injury: Risk, prevention and intervention. Bristol, PA: Taylor & Francis Inc.

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