Motivated employees are the key to workplace safety
The Sector > Quality > In The Field > Motivated employees are the key to workplace safety

Motivated employees are the key to workplace safety

by Freya Lucas

April 16, 2019

Safety in the workplace is less about following rules, and more about ensuring employees take initiative and behaved in a proactive manner, research recently published in the European Journal of Work and Organisational Psychology, has found.


The findings will be of interest to the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, with the most recent statistics available from Safework Australia showing that serious claims (median compensation paid by industry) have risen 87 per cent since the year 2000.


Common workplace hazards in the ECEC sector, as identified by Worksafe Victoria include:


  • lifting, carrying and moving children and objects
  • working at low levels (on the floor or children’s furniture)
  • slips, trips and falls, for example on the floor or children’s furniture
  • standing on chairs and tables to put artwork up
  • communicable diseases
  • work-related stress
  • bullying and harassment.


The Curtain University research examined the role of safety in the workplace, what motivates an employee to initiate safety-related change in their jobs, and the positive impact this has on an organisation.


Co-author of the study, Professor Mark Griffin, said safety in the workplace was about more than simply following the rules, yet organisations often responded to risk by place more rules and stricter compliance measures on their teams.


“Employers need to not only ensure that their employees are compliant with the safety rules and procedures in place, but instead take initiative and act proactively when faced with challenging situations that may put other colleagues at risk,” Professor Griffin said.


He said that the research showed that employees who were compliant with safety rules, but who did not take initiative, were less likely to be effective when it came to dealing with risks and hazards in the workplace.


Professor Sharon Parker, co-author of the study, said employees played a critical role in helping stem the “disturbing” level of work-related accidents and injuries around the world.


She outlined that whilst most employees had the skills, expertise and local knowledge to prevent problems and accidents in the workplace, prior to the study, it was unclear why only some employees “go the extra mile” and initiate better overall safety.


“Our research also showed that employees who took ownership of situations had strong capabilities and a future-focused outlook were more likely to make changes that improved workplace safety when they faced a potential difficulty or stressful event,” Professor Parker said.


The research was conducted with researchers from Leeds Beckett University in the UK and co-authored by researchers from Curtin University.


The research paper, Proactivity towards workplace safety improvement: an investigation of its motivational drivers and organisational outcomes, can be found online here.

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