Academic research


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Promoting active safety leadership

Peer reviewed and published

University of Liverpool
Dr Stacey Conchie, Susannah Moon

Supervisors’ commitment to safety is critical for reducing workplace accidents and injuries. Active safety leadership, defined by behaviours emphasising the importance of safety, encouraging employee involvement, and challenging poor practices, has been shown to increase employees’ safety compliance and voluntary participation in safety. However, little is known about the ways in which these leadership behaviours may be promoted (ie their antecedents). The current research addressed this issue by identifying the individual (human) and organisational factors that help or hinder supervisors’ engagement in active safety leadership. The construction industry was chosen as the research context as it consistently ranks among the most dangerous in terms of number of accidents and injuries. To understand the antecedents of active safety leadership, data were collected through focus groups(ngroups = 10; nsupervisors = 69) and a questionnaire survey (nsupervisors = 82; noperatives = 285).

The results show that supervisors’ active safety leadership behaviours are directly related to role autonomy (freedom to personally decide how to supervise operatives’ safety) and the number of hours that supervisors spend on site with their operatives. Further, their leadership behaviours are indirectly related to the level of support that supervisors receive from their colleagues and the frequency of organisational constraints (eg subcontractor and foreign labour skills and attitudes). Preliminary analyses suggest that supervisors’ engagement in active safety leadership is not influenced by the extent to which they share a trade, company or national identity with their operatives. These latter findings are tentative – especially with regard to nationality – as group sizes were relatively small.

In summary, the results suggest that supervisors’ active safety leadership is shaped by the context in which they find themselves, rather than the individual qualities they possess. A supportive environment, particularly among colleagues, is especially important for increasing supervisors’ feelings of role autonomy and consequently their engagement in active safety leadership behaviours.

What is a good job?

Peer reviewed and published

What is a good job.pdf
Cardiff University
Professor Andrew Smith BSc PhD, Emma Wadsworth BSc PhD, Katherine Chaplin BSc PhD,
Paul Allen BSc and George Mark BSc MSc PhD

The research described in this report addressed the question of the relationship between work, wellbeing and health. Extensive research has examined the effects of negative job characteristics but recent approaches suggest that the question of what job characteristics are good for health should be addressed. Following this, it is then necessary to compare the importance of different factors and integrate this knowledge so that one can determine the relative balance of adverse versus beneficial effects of different types of work. The project used a variety of methods to address these issues. Throughout the different stages of the research a ‘process’ model was used that distinguished job characteristics (both positive and negative), appraisals of the impact of these characteristics (eg perceived stress at work or job satisfaction) and reports of negative and positive mental and physical health. A review of the literature showed that far less is known about positive aspects of work than about the effects of no work or unfavourable working conditions. Secondary analyses of large databases suggested that in many cases the absence of negative factors and the presence of positive factors were equivalent. However, there were exceptions to this, which suggested that further data collection was desirable. Studies of individual differences in coping styles suggested that positive coping (eg problem-focused coping) was more beneficial than negative coping (eg emotion-focused coping). The major new data collection involved a cross-sectional study of established workers and a small scale study of those starting work. The results from the established workers study showed that the best predictor of positive health outcomes was the total score of positive job characteristics and positive job appraisals. Further analyses identified a number of subcomponents (eg the direct effect of job characteristics that do not require positive appraisals) but none of the individual components had the same impact as the combined score. The data on new starters revealed consistent findings despite the small number of participants. Overall, the present results show that this is a tool that can identify whether the nature of a person’s job is going to have a positive or negative impact on their health and wellbeing. The components of this measure can then be used to identify which factors need to be addressed in order to maximise the benefits and remove possible negative aspects of work.

Unacceptable behaviour, health and...

Peer reviewed and published

University of Sheffield
Christine A Sprigg, Alexandra Martin, Karen Niven and Christopher J Armitage

This research examined the relationship between three types of unacceptable behaviour at work (namely violence, bullying and incivility) from both internal (eg colleagues) and external (eg customers) sources, and employee health and wellbeing (ie levels of anxiety, depression, emotional exhaustion, post-traumatic symptoms, general mental strain and physical health symptoms). This research was conducted in nine organisations. This is one of the few studies to collect longitudinal data on unacceptable behaviour and wellbeing from UK employees.

Using a questionnaire devised for the study, data were collected from 5,681 employees (3,652 at Time One (T1) and 2,029 at Time Two (T2)). (Note: This report examines the data from T1 and the matched data only. The additional unmatched data collected at T2 will be used in other dissemination activities arising from this research.) It was possible to conduct longitudinal cross-lagged analysis on data from 169 employees. The most frequently reported unacceptable behaviour was bullying from inside organisations, with 39 per cent of participants experiencing at least one negative act either weekly or daily over the previous six months. The frequency of bullying was examined using a measure which includes 22 negative acts. These negative acts vary in intensity from ‘being exposed to an unmanageable workload’ and ‘having your opinions and views ignored’ to ‘threats of violence or physical abuse or actual abuse’. The most frequently reported negative acts were ‘being exposed to an unmanageable workload’ from internal sources and ‘being shouted at or being the target of spontaneous anger or rage’ from external sources.

The longitudinal cross-lagged analyses showed that employees who reported frequent bullying from inside their organisation also reported higher levels of emotional exhaustion, general mental strain and physical illness symptoms six months later. The relationship between bullying and emotional exhaustion was moderated by both workload and optimism: those with higher workloads and lower optimism reported the highest degree of emotional exhaustion six months later. The relationship between bullying and general mental strain was moderated by self esteem, such that those with low self-esteem experienced the highest degree of general mental strain six months later.

Arguably, the best way to tackle unacceptable behaviour at work is to deal with those people who behave unacceptably. However, this is not always feasible and this research suggests that workplace interventions designed to enhance employee optimism and self-esteem might limit the negative health impacts of bullying. Moreover, there is evidence to show that ignoring unacceptable behaviour is not only bad for employee health but also for organisational functioning and performance

The limits of influence

Peer reviewed and published

Cardiff University
Professor David Walters, Dr Emma Wadsworth

This report presents an account of an empirical study of experiences of supply chain-mediated influences on health and safety practice and performance in the construction and shipping industries. It sets out to test a set of propositions concerning the conditions and contexts of these influences that was developed by two of its authors in a previous study. It is based on four case studies, two in each sector, each selected in order to examine situations in which supply chain relationships are likely to influence and support improved health and safety practices and performance. In each case, documentary evidence and qualitative data obtained from in-depth interviews have been analysed. These analyses are further supported by a review of the research literature on trends in the structure, organisation and regulation of work in the sectors and recent evidence concerning supply chain influences.

Findings confirm the previous propositions with respect to the conditions and contexts governing positive supply chain effects on health and safety practice. They draw attention to the influence of health and safety requirements at the procurement stage and in the choice of contractors, as well as to the role of support, monitoring and surveillance in ensuring compliance with these requirements. At the same time, they show that supply chain influences on health and safety vary both according to the business interests of the actors involved and the regulatory contexts in which they work, and that leverage in supply chain relationships is only one element in a constellation of influences acting in concert to raise occupational safety and health standards. In particular, there is no evidence in our study to suggest that such leverage acts effectively without regulation or regulatory inspection. However, the study does suggest that regulatory strategies need to become more attuned to exploiting the positive features of supply chain relationships.

The health, safety and health promotion...

Peer reviewed and published

Institute of Occupational Medicine
Dr Joanne O Crawford, Richard A Graveling, Hilary Cowie, Ken Dixon and Laura MacCalman

Changing demographics in the UK indicate that the working population is ageing and there is a need to maintain the over 50s in the workplace. The following review examines current research on the health, safety and health promotion needs of older workers by identifying age-related change, whether older workers need support and evidence of successful intervention in the workplace. Using a systematic review methodology, databases were searched identifying 179 publications. Each publication was screened and data were extracted for those included in the review. The review identified that there are a number of age-related physical and psychological changes with ageing. However, these changes can be moderated by increased physical activity, intellectual activity and other lifestyle factors. Sensory abilities are also subject to change but these can be accommodated via equipment or workplace adjustments. In reviewing accident data, although older workers are at a reduced risk of accidents, they are more at risk of fatal accidents. Ill health data show that although there is an increased risk of developing disease with age, many chronic diseases can be controlled and adjustments put in place in the work environment. A number of intervention studies were identified but few were of high quality. The research suggests that occupational health intervention can reduce the risk of early retirement from the workplace; health promotion interventions are seen as positive by older workers but it is important to ensure equal access to all workers in such promotions. In the UK there are still many research gaps, including a lack of longitudinal research; no further analysis on fatal accidents or understanding of the high prevalence of MSDs, stress and anxiety in older workers; and a lack of investigation into what interventions are going to be effective and occupationally relevant measurements of work capacity for both physical and mental work.

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