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Study of Employee Behavior causing Accidents at the Workplace

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Published: Tue, 02 May 2017

Safety behavior is the key for reducing the injuries at the workplace and indirectly influencing the outcomes of the event before the injuries or accidents occurred (Johnson, 2003). There are many studies in occupational safety concluded that the root of the accident causes is human behavior (Geller, 2000; Cooper, 1998, 2000; Johnson, 2003). Therefore, it shows the relationship between the human and their behavior on causing the accident at the workplace. Studies indicate that more than 85% of workplace injuries and accidents can be linked to human error of commission or omission (LaBar, 1996). Granot (1998) also admits it in his review that industrial disaster is truly about people and their behavior.

Most of studies in human safety behavior issues concerning only on the concept of safety culture (safety climate), defined as “the product of individual and group values, attitudes, perceptions, competencies, and patterns of behavior” that determine the organization’s safety performance (Health and Safety Commission, 1993, p.23). Rasmussen (1990) expresses concern that despite the growing complexity, size and change in today’s technical system, they continue to depend on human involvement for their safe operation.

Previous researcher such as Mullen (2002), Subramaniam (2004) and Mahmood, Isa, Mustafa, Aziz & Salleh (2009) did study several factors that have direct relationship with safety behavior such as organizational factors, safety commitment and human factors but they did not stressed out any variables that could mediated the relationship between those variables. Therefore, no study conducted to identify whether these relationship could be mediated by another factors such as attitudes, perceptions, knowledge, beliefs and personality.

This study will not only help to improve the safety behavior at the workplace but it will also increase Small and Medium Enterprises’ (SMEs) knowledge and perception towards safety behavior. The purpose of this study is to investigate what are the main factors that influence human safety behavior among SMEs manufacturing chemical products in Northern Area of Malaysia. It is also seeks to identify the crucial parts in safety and health that is human factors which will influence the safety measures at the workplace. Besides that, it is also to identify the factors that need to be improved to achieve excellent standards of safety management at SMEs. To dig deeper into the causes of accidents at the worksite, one must understand the role of human factors, which are often the cause of human error. It is also to understand the factors that influenced the safety measures at the workplace.

Industry Background

Small and Medium Enterprise (SMEs), plays a major role in the Malaysian economy. The development of SMEs has received much attention since the implementation of the New Economic Policy (1971 – 1990). It was then emphasized in the Second Long Term Malaysian Plan (1991-2000). A survey done in 1994 found that there were 12,000 SMEs established in Malaysia made up of 88% small enterprises and 12% medium-sized enterprises. These SMEs employed 33% of the workforce in the manufacturing sector.

The importance of small and medium-sized businesses in helping the economic development of our nation cannot be refuted. Besides creating job opportunities, SMEs play a crucial role in contributing to the prosperity of big and multinational corporations. They enhance the industry through their creativity and innovation.

In Malaysia, various agencies adopt different definitions of SMEs depending on their business interests. However one common definition is that provided by the Small and Medium Industries Development Corporation (SMIDEC) which defines SMEs according to two main factors i.e. annual sales turn over and number of full time workers. Medium sized business is a business establishment with an annual sales turnover of between RM10 million and RM25 million and which employs more than 150 full-time workers while a small sized business is a business establishment8 with an annual sales turnover of not more than RM10 million and which employs not more than 50 full time workers. SMEs offer different and unique challenges to the manager who is generally the owner of the business.

Considering their importance to the country’s economic development agenda, the government’s commitment to the development of SMEs has been clearly evident since the early 1970s (Saleh & Ndubisi, 2006). Various forms of assistance have been given by the government to ensure the successful development of SMEs. Examples of the assistance are access to market and financial support, R&D, the use of ICT, technology to enhance productivity and quality control as well as access to skilled labors (SME Performance Report, 2005).

As a result of the growth of SMEs, safety measures should be taken into account seriously. It is because accidents at workplace can be prevented if employers and employees are more sensitive or have good safety behavior (Makin & Sutherland, 1994; Christian, Wallace, Bradley, & Burke, 2009). Moreover, to get better understanding of safety behavior, employers need to cater the human factors that can contribute to accidents at workplace and the employees to have some responsibility towards their own safety. Accidents at workplace involve monetary cost as the amount of compensation paid out to employees cost more than what it is perceived. The amount has been high in the last few years and this costs a lot of money to the economy, which can otherwise be used for other productive purposes such as an investment in new technology to boost productions. In 2003, compensation due to accidents amounted to a staggering RM 745 million. The amount increased to RM 817 million in 2004 and continued to rise to RM 883 million in 2005 (Labor and Human Resources Statistics 2001-2005, 2009).

According to Thye (2009), 70% of all occupational diseases are due to the chemical exposure, which results in problems like skin diseases, poisoning and respiratory disorders. Previous studies showed that the occurrences of diseases and sickness were partly due to the improper use of personal protective equipment, from selection of such equipment to its washing or disposal (Thye, 2009). Therefore, this study will focus on SMEs manufacturing chemical products for agricultural industries and cleaning services. It is because from the data obtained most of the SMEs company at the Northern Region are producing chemical products for the agricultural and cleaning services.

Problem Statement

One of the topics in human resource management that is gaining attention is safety management. Generally, previous studies on safety focused on areas such as safety and health legislative compliance (Townsend, 1998), OSH implementation (Surienty, Hong & Hung, 2010), OSH performance (Surienty, Hong & Hung, 2010) safety climate (Zohar, 2000; Flin, Mearns, O’Connors & Bryden, 2000; Dedobbeleer & Belan, 1991) and safety culture (Abd. Aziz, 2008; Clarke, 1999; Cooper, 1998; Cox & Flin, 1998). In term of the context of the study, previous research have concentrated more on investigating safety behavior and lifestyle involving employees in construction sites (Aksorn & Hadikusumo, 2007; Tam & Fung, 1998; Toole, 2002) and less research focusing on manufacturing.

Review of related literature revealed studies that emphasized on human factors and safety behavior are relatively spare. For example, Granot (1998) in his review of human factor in industrial disaster comprises that human beings are at the heart of disaster. They frequently play an active role in causing industrial failure through their shortcoming and fallibility. Human error can occur in every stage of industrial activities. Similarly, Yon (2007) states that consideration in studying human factors that influence safety behavior and lifestyle at the workplace has been a crucial reason for the researcher to study further on these matters. Yon’s (2007) study involved SMEs in Penang which focused on the factors that associated to the chemical safety. The factors are management of chemicals, employees cooperation, training and education, process hazard analysis and hazard identification, safe work procedures and practices, chemical safety data sheets, personal protective equipment programmes, emergency measures and first aid, operational control measures, medical surveillance programme, monitoring of workers exposure, warning sign and recordkeeping. Yon (2007) admitted that human is the key factors to ensure safety at the workplace but since her study are not focusing on the human factors, no further discussion was made. Eventhough human factors can be one of the factors on that studies, little consideration had been given. Workers play an important role in causing occupational accident but many researches continue to see human factor in a very narrow perspective. Previous researcher such as Mullen (2002), Subramaniam (2004) and Mahmood, Isa, Mustafa, Aziz & Saleh (2009) did study several factors that have direct relationship with safety behavior such as organizational factors, safety commitment and human factors but they did not stressed out any variables that could mediated the relationship between those variables. Therefore, no study conducted to identify whether these relationship could be mediate by another factors such as attitudes, perceptions, knowledge, beliefs and personality.

One of the models that emphasized on safety behavior is a model proposed by Subramaniam (2004). According to his model, safety behavior is the outcome of predisposing, enabling, and reinforcing factors. However, his model is lacking because the model did not take into account several important variables such as personality, communication, and knowledge and his model only proposed a direct relationship between human factors and safety behaviors. His study conducted at residential colleges in a local Malaysian university. Therefore, this study will conducted on the working environment because the situations are more expose to the hazard. This study will utilized his model and proposed predisposing factors as intervening variable in order to help gain further understanding of the antecedents of safety behavior at SMEs.

In terms of theoretical perspective, Ajzen’s (1980, 1991) theory of planned behaviour (TPB) appears well-suited to the explanation of the link between human factors and safety behaviour in this study. This theory derived from previous research that started out as the theory of attitude, which led to the study of attitude and behavior. The theory was, “born largely out of frustration with traditional attitude-behavior research, much of which found weak correlations between attitude measures and performance of volitional behaviors” (Hale, Householder, & Greene, 2003, p. 259). The key application of this theory is prediction of behavioral intention, spanning predictions of attitude and predictions of behavior. The subsequent separation of behavioral intention from behavior allows for explanation of limiting factors on attitudinal influence (Azjen, 1980). This theory will help refining the model that will be used to explain variance in the aspect of safety behavior. The TPB draws our attention to the role of subjective norms and the intervening construct of intentions, which in this case are the enabling and reinforcing factors as intervened by predisposing factors, which are useful additions to the network of variables that interact to influence safety behaviors. Why human factor should be related to safety behavior? Employee with high level of reinforcing and enabling factors will reflect a highly awareness (predisposing) employee. On the other hand, safety behavior is regarded as desirable among employees. So, we can expect that employees with high level of enabling and reinforcing factors that mediated by predisposing factors should be related positively to safety behavior.

Meanwhile, SMEs in Malaysia continue to face many challenges both traditionally and new challenges. Previous studies by Watfa, Awan and Goodson (1998) showed that occupational safety and health conditions at the small medium enterprises (SMEs) were a cause for concern. One of the many challenges that SMEs face is the high workplace accidents rate which may reflect badly to the way safety and workers’ well-being are being handled by Malaysian SMEs. It is further supported by the Director General of Department Occupational Safety and Health Malaysia (DOSH), Che Man (2010) who estimated about 80 to 90 percent of the accidents reported to workmen compensation scheme (SOCSO) is from SMEs. Also, the Chairman of National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Thye (2009), studies showed that the occurrence of diseases and sickness in workplace were partly due to improper use of personal protective equipment, from selection of such equipment to its washing or disposal. He also stated that almost 70% of all occupational diseases are due to chemical exposure, which results in problems like skin diseases, poisoning and respiratory disorders (Thye, 2009). The enforcement of applicable occupational safety and health legislation is also often limited to large enterprises due to inadequate inspection capacity of the SMEs by the competent authorities. Thus, millions of workers in SMEs are not sufficiently protected by the existing legislation. In addition, workers in informal sectors are often out of reach of most of safety and health programs.

Hence, given the importance of safety behaviors among employees working with SMEs, this study will focuses on examining the effect of human factors; enabling and reinforcing factors mediated by predisposing factor on safety behaviors. This study is relevant in order to investigate the extent of safety implementation in manufacturing setting in particular in SMEs. In focusing on the human factors, the consequences in their aftermath also have to be considered. It is to see how they cope with them when it’s occurred. Any perspective should not to be overlooked when it deals with human factors because as stated earlier human play an important role in causing an accident at the workplace.

Research Questions

Whether dimensions of reinforcing factors (communications, societal influences and modeling) are related with safety behavior?

Whether dimensions of enabling factors (resources, policies and skills) are related with safety behavior?

Whether dimensions of predisposing factors (knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, values, perceptions and personality) mediated the relationship between the reinforcing factors (communications, societal influences and modeling) and safety behavior?

Whether dimensions of predisposing factors (knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, values, perceptions and personality) mediated the relationship between the enabling factors (resources, policies and skills) and safety behavior?

Research Objectives

Generally, the purpose of the study is to find out whether the human factors will influence the safety behavior at SMEs.

To identify whether dimensions of reinforcing factors (communications, societal influences and modeling) are related with safety behavior.

To study whether dimensions of enabling factors (resources, policies and skills) are related with safety behavior.

To examine whether dimensions of predisposing factors (knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, values, perceptions and personality) are related with safety behavior.

To examine whether dimensions of predisposing factors (knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, values, perceptions and personality) mediated the relationship between the reinforcing factors (communications, societal influences and modeling) and safety behavior.

To evaluate whether dimensions of predisposing factors (knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, values, perceptions and personality) mediated the relationship between the enabling factors (resources, policies and skills) and safety behavior.

Scope of the Study

The scope of the study is focusing on the human factors that will influence safety measures at SMEs in Northern area. It will focus on two main factors that influenced workers safety behavior mediated by predisposing factors. The factors are predisposing, reinforcing, enabling. Besides, the researcher also found other variables that are communication or co-ordination problems and poor social climates. These variables are not being used in this study because it is unsuitable with the working environment at SMEs in Northern area. The population for this study includes the SMEs in Northern area employees’ who are working in manufacturing sector.

Significance of the study

Generally, this study will help to improve the safety behavior at the workplace but it will also increase SMEs knowledge and perception towards safety behavior. Furthermore, it will also help to improve the safety implementation at their company. This research also can help SMEs to understand factors that contribute to the accidents and develop control strategies to prevent accidents happened at the workplace.

To ensure the safety environment and culture at the workplace, employees need to be educate about the human factors that related to their behaviors in order to prevent accident and work related injuries. It is important for the employees to aware that accident can be prevented if they are really working forward to it.

Finally, it can also contribute to an academic knowledge for future researcher where it is expected to highlight the relationship between human factors and safety behavior.

Definition of Key Terms

Safety behavior can be defined as personal actions that prevent physical injury to self (Nursing Outcome Classifications, 2009).

Human factors is defined as environmental, organizational and job factors, and human and individual characteristics which influence behavior at work in a way which can affect health and safety (Health and Safety Executive, 1999)

Predisposing factors are the characteristics of the individual such as belief, attitudes and values that facilitate or hinder self-protective behavior. Predisposing factors are conceptualized as providing the motivation for a specific behavior (Subramaniam, 2004).

Reinforcing factors involve any reward or punishment that follows or is anticipated as a consequence of the behavior (Subramaniam, 2004).

Enabling factors are defined as factors antecedent to behavior that allow motivation or aspiration that is to be realized (Subramaniam, 2004).

Small and Medium Enterprise (SMEs) are separately defined by SMIDEC. Small sized business is a business establishment with an annual sales turnover of not more than RM10 million and which employs not more than 50 full time workers while medium sized business is a business establishment with an annual sales turnover of between RM10 million and RM25 million and which employs more than 150 full-time workers.

Conclusion

This chapter has placed of introduction, problem statement, company’s background, research questions, research objectives, significance of the study, and limitations of the study and organizations of the study. The next chapter will tackle the previous literature related to this study such as safety behavior, predisposing, enabling and reinforcing factors.

CHAPTER 2

LITERATURE REVIEW

Introduction

The literature review discussed about all the variables in this research study, which is predisposing factors, reinforcing factors and enabling factors. It is important in order to study the human factors that will influence the safety measures at the workplace. This is also to provide overview from the past research that related to this study. The researcher is using the secondary data as their resources. The literature reviews are used to develop theoretical framework and hypothesis of the study. It also exists in synthesizing the methodology as well as findings.

Safety Behavior

Hassan, Basha and Hanafi (2007) stated that safety behavior is reflected by good attitude. They also stressed out that many incidents/accidents that occurred in the workplace especially in the building construction sites were due to inadequate adherence of workers to work procedures. Therefore, the interactive relationship between people’s behavior, their attitudes and perceptions they hold, and the situation or environment in workplace should be taken into account (Dedobbeleer et al, 1991). Much of this literature has focused on the concept of safety culture (safety climate), defined as “the product of individual and group values, attitudes, perceptions, competencies, and patterns of behavior” that determine the organization’s safety performance (Health and Safety Commission, 1993, p.23). Rasmussen (1990) expresses concern that despite the growing complexity, size and change in today’s technical system, they continue to depend on human involvement for their safe operation. Granot (1998), stated that industrial disaster is truly about people and their behavior. Hale and Glendon (1987) cited the Confederation of British Industry phrase “the root of the problem is human behavior.”

Human Factors

Health and Safety Executive (1999) in its publication Reducing Error and influencing behavior has defined human factors as environmental, organizational and job factors, and human and individual characteristics that influence behavior at work in a way, which can affect health and safety. Attention towards human factors role in accident causation has increased recent years and it can be seen by the evolution of models accident causation (DeJoy, 1990). It is important in order to understand the impact of human factors in causing an accident at the workplace. DeJoy (1996) in his study has developed a human factors model that consists three categories of causal factors that consists predisposing, reinforcing and enabling factors and he also provide a control strategies that include in his model: engineering, self protection, and organizational management. Subramaniam (2004) then, adopt this model to study the relationship between human factors and fire safety behavior and lifestyle at residential colleges in a local Malaysian university. Eventhough he is adopted DeJoy’s human factors model, he does not include the control strategies and only study a direct relationship between human factors and fire safety behavior and lifestyle. Hence this study will modified the model in order to provide a more comprehensive model in understanding the human behavior at the workplace.

Predisposing Factors

According to Subramaniam (2004), person characteristics such as belief, attitudes and values are predisposing factors that facilitate or hinder self-protective behavior. He also stated that predisposing factors can be conceptualized by providing a motivation for a specific behavior. Predisposing factors consists items such as knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, perceptions (Subramaniam, 2004).

Knowledge

Knowledge agreed well defined as an organized combination of ideas, rules, procedures and information (Subramaniam, 2004). Safety and health knowledge takes on particular importance to workers, especially for the manual workers. Inadequate safety knowledge, pointing to deficiencies with education and training engaging in unsafe acts and the actions, behavior, capabilities and communication of the work team are affected by or shaped by their attitudes, motivations, knowledge, skills, supervision, health and fatigue (Haslam, Hide, Gibb, Gyi, Pavitt, Atkinson and Duff, 2004).

Attitudes

Most of the researchers agreed that attitudes are also one of the main roots that cause the way how the individual behave. Glendon and Mc Kenna (1995) suggests that attitudes are related to safe and unsafe behaviors. It is agreed that the attitudes will facilitate on how the individual will react or behave. Ajzen and Fishbein (1980) also agreed that attitudes are learned, involved a tendency to act and are consistent and specific to particular stimuli. The current study found that worker’ safety attitudes (workers’ concern for safety conflict between productions and safety) was significantly predictive for unsafe behaviors, but only the latter was predictive of workplace accident (Clarke, 2004). Gellor (2001) has investigated the safety triad theory in which he thought that maintaining a continuous process to three domains, which are “environment”, “person,” and “behavior.” “Person” will reflect the competency of a worker where as the “behavior” illustrates the attitudes of workers in carrying out job safely (Gellor, 2001).

Beliefs

Beliefs can be concluded as individual strong feeling that something true and real. Mullen (2004) emphasize that individual tend to believe that it is acceptable to continue to engage in unsafe behavior due to the overly optimistic belief that they are immune to or greatly underestimate (Chapin, 2001) the risks associated with the behavior. It can be indicate that an individual feels secure on the routine they had gone through. The individual beliefs that “it won’t happen to me” has been found to be a reason of the unsafe behavior (Mullen, 2004).

Perceptions

Granot (1998) emphasize that resignation to fate in certain traditional cultures makes it harder to mitigate dangers in some societies than in others. Individual perceived accidents as fate or it is written in their journey of life in some religion supported by Granot (1998) that event occurred is the role of destiny in some Mediterranean cultures, “the will of Allah” among Muslims or Karma in Hindu Tradition.

Reinforcing Factors

Reinforcing factors involve any reward or punishment that follows or is anticipated as consequences of the behavior (Subramaniam, 2004). According to Subramaniam (2004), reinforcing factors involved items such as feedback, societal influences, societal opportunities, modeling, and repercussion. In this study, researcher has considered to analyze only three items that is feedback, societal influences, and modeling. It is because previous study by Mullen (2004) has revealed these factors (feedback, societal influences, and modeling) has become the most influenced factors towards safety behavior (Mullen, 2004)

Feedback/Communications

Zohar (2002) argues that supervisors who demonstrate greater individualized consideration in their supervisory practices encourage open, informal safety communication, which in turns affects injury rate. Researchers agreed that an open conversation between co-workers, supervisor and management about safety issue will lead to the safety behavior. Ineffective communication regarding safety issues occurs between workers within an organization as well as between workers and subcontractors often found to be a factor in the cause of workplace accidents (Ayers and Kleiner, 2000). Hassan et.al (2007) in his analysis of study stated that line management involvement such as relationship with worker, talk on safety and advice on safety matter is related to the worker’s safety behavior and motivation. According to Cudworth (2010) in her articles on positive impact of communication on safety at Shell stated that communications within the organization plays the vital role to ensure the safety performance is at the zero level.

Societal influences

Many of the relevant definitions of safety culture emphasis share attitudes, values and beliefs and stress the interactions with the organization’s safety structures and control systems and appropriate behavioral norms (Reason, 1998; Uttal, 1983). Furnham (1997) explains that in terms of the societal, environmental, and historical influence on the organization or group; for example, the evolution of an organization might have some effect on its culture. It means that the environment of work also give effects towards safety behavior. For example, co-workers, supervisor views on the safety itself whether they are concern or not.

Modeling

It was perceived by the individual that they had to experience some type of shock or close call that would raise their awareness of safety and make them realize the potential consequences of unsafe behavior (Mullen, 2004). It means that from the events that already occurred, it will develop self-protective behavior to inhibits accidents from happen to themselves. Mullen (2004) again stated that management and co-workers play major roles to the workers whether an individual will engaged in unsafe behavior. It shows that individual action also depends on what they saw on other behave and finally it became their norms of working procedures whether it is safe or unsafe.

Enabling Factors

Subramaniam (2004)has defined enabling factors as factors antecedent to behavior that allow motivation or aspiration that is to be realized. He has classified enabling factors into four items, which are resources, access, policies, and skills. Therefore, the researcher has adopt three items (resources, policies and skills) from the models for further investigation.

Resources

The desired goal of a safety program cannot be achieved when resources are lacking. An effective safety program is the result of a commitment by top management to give an appropriate level of resources. Management must consider and allocate sufficient resources to carry out day-to-day activities in order to accomplish short and long-term goals (Aksorn et al., 2007). Resources can be considered as the tools and equipment such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and machinery provided by the management to help them carry their works properly. All equipment tends to wear out with use and requires careful monitoring. Many industrial disaster result from equipment failure (Granot, 1998).

Policies

Safety does not have to come at a price. When there are cost implications, regulatory bodies and trade associations need to work to make sure there is a level playing field with respect to tendering (Haslam et al., 2005). Developing a safety policy is one of the crucial tasks faced by the company because all the rules and procedures are dealt with their employees. It is important to make sure that the policy are really works and became one of the agents to prevent accident at the workplace. Clarke (2006) suggests that safety interventions need to focus on how individuals perceive their immediate work environment as well as improving safety policy and procedures.

Skills

Skills are the most crucial items to be deeply looking to ensure that the risk of workers to get involved in the occupational accident can be reduce and behave towards safety. Goldenhar, Williams, and Swanson (2003) found a significant direct effect between job certainty and self-reported occupational injuries and/or near misses for a sample of construction workers. A lack of job clarity may have a direct effect on injuries as this leads to the individual operating in unfamiliar situations, increasing the likelihood of accidents (Hemingway and Smith, 1999).

Relationship between Predisposing Factors and Safety Behavior

Predisposing factors as mentioned earlier includes knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, perceptions and personality. According to Subramaniam (2004) in his research findings, predisposing factors significantly are positively correlated with the fire safety behavior. Eventhough the study are focusing on the fire safety behavior, the relationship are still relevant to be measured in the safety behavior. Inadequate education and training contributed to approximately 70 percent of a sample of construction accidents studied as a research report published by the HSE (2003b). Attitudes also play a major role in predispose the safety behavio


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