Archana Manapragada Tedone, Ph.D., University of Baltimore Matthew Danielson, B.S., University of Baltimore Julie J. Lanz, Ph.D., University of Nebraska at Kearney William Maurice, B.S., University of Baltimore
Over 2.8 million non-fatal workplace incidents and 4,572 preventable deaths were reported in the U.S. in 2019, with an estimated economic cost of $171 billion (BLS, 2020; NSC, 2020). Consequently, understanding how individual differences contribute to the prediction of safety outcomes is valuable (Toppazzini & Wiener, 2017). This study investigates safety locus of control (SLOC), a safety-specific individual difference capturing one?s tendency to view a contingent relationship between employee behavior and safety outcomes. Individuals with an internal SLOC believe that employee behavior can influence workplace accidents/injuries while those with an external SLOC feel that safety outcomes result from environmental factors or chance, and that accidents/injuries are unavoidable (Jones & Wuebker, 1993). This research aims to 1) develop and validate a measure of SLOC and 2) investigate SLOC?s relationships with organizational factors, safety behaviors, and safety outcomes to better understand its impact on workplace safety.
This work responds to a call for research on individual differences that predict safety outcomes beyond organizational climate (Toppazzini & Wiener, 2017) by examining whether SLOC explains incremental variance in safety behaviors (i.e., safety performance, safety voice) and safety outcomes (i.e., workplace injuries) above and beyond perceptions of safety climate. SLOC has been found to be related to workplace safety factors such as safety climate and error communication (Cigularov et al., 2009), suggesting that the organizational environment can impact one?s views on the relationship between employee behavior and safety outcomes. Therefore, we hypothesize that more positive perceptions of safety climate will be associated with an internal SLOC (H1). Further, individuals who believe they have control over outcomes experienced are likely to perform more safely (Christian et al., 2009), with research identifying individual-level characteristics, such as conscientiousness, as important predictors of safety behaviors (Christian et al, 2009; Nahrgang et al., 2011). Thus, we predict that internal SLOC will be associated with higher safety performance (H2). Further, studies show that employees who experience more accidents tend to have an external SLOC while those who experience fewer accidents have an internal SLOC (Jones & Wuebker, 1993; Wuebker, 1986). Thus, we hypothesize that an internal SLOC will be associated with fewer workplace injuries (H3). However, research has yet to examine how SLOC influences the likelihood of speaking-up about safety concerns. We predict that those with an internal SLOC will have more safety voice (H4), given that those who see a connection between employee actions and safety outcomes may voice their safety concerns to prevent future accidents/injuries from occurring. Lastly, we hypothesize that SLOC will incrementally predict safety performance (H5a), workplace injuries (H5b), and safety voice (H5c) above and beyond safety climate, given that individual-level safety factors are likely to be important predictors of individual safety outcomes beyond environmental factors, such as safety climate (Toppazzini & Wiener, 2017).
Study participants will include a maximum of 500 U.S. registered nurses, recruited through nurse organizations and social media. Participants will complete three surveys including measures for SLOC, safety climate (Hahn & Murphy, 2008), safety performance (Neal et al., 2000), workplace injuries (Turner et al., 2015), and safety voice (Tucker et al., 2008). The SLOC measure was developed for the present study across two previous studies, the results of which are outlined in the next section.
To develop the SLOC measure, thirty items were written and administered to an initial sample of 329 nurses. Conducting an EFA and retaining items loading onto one factor at .50 or higher and no other factor at .32 or higher resulted in a two factor solution with eight items each (table 1). Both factors had eigenvalues of 1.00 or above and explained 49.26% of the total variance. In a second sample of 311 nurses, a CFA was conducted to confirm the factor structure of the measure. One item from each subscale was removed due to low loadings, resulting in a 14-item two-factor measure. A model with one higher order factor (SLOC) and two lower order factors (internal and external) showed good fit (?2(74) = 164.97, CFI=.95, TLI=.94, RMSEA=.06, PCLOSE=.05, SRMR=.05). Items in the external subscale can be reverse-scored and averaged with the internal SLOC items to arrive at a total SLOC score (?=.86), with higher scores indicating an internal SLOC and lower scores indicating an external SLOC. Data collection for the validation study and hypothesis testing will take place in July-August 2021. Analyses will be conducted in August 2021.
This research seeks to better understand the role of SLOC in workplace safety by investigating SLOC?s relationships with organizational factors, safety behaviors, and safety outcomes. To meet this aim, we developed a measure of SLOC and will be collecting evidence for its validity using a multiwave survey design that allows for temporal inference. We further contribute to the literature on workplace safety by studying how individual differences can affect safety behaviors and outcomes, more so than organizational factors such as safety climate. However, self-report data are not without limitations, such as the possibility of common method variance. Future research can address this limitation by using organizational data (e.g., accident/incident rates) or other data sources (e.g., supervisor performance ratings).
By better understanding the role of safety-specific individual differences in workplace safety, practitioners can tailor selection systems and training programs accordingly. Future researchers should strive to better understand SLOC?s influence on employee safety behavior, and are encouraged to fit SLOC into the nomological network of workplace safety.