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University of Georgia Study: Perception and Work-Life Balance are Key Factors in Workplace Safety

A worker’s perception of safety in the workplace and the work-life balance that businesses establish with their employees have a significant effect on the numbers of on-the-job injuries according to a recent University of Georgia study.

“We’ve known for some time that certain occupations are more dangerous than others due to a variety of physical and other hazards. But in the last 20 years, there has been growing evidence that management and organizational factors also play a critical role. That is, actions taken or not taken at the organizational level can either set the stage for injuries or help prevent them.” 

-Dave DeJoy, University of Georgia professor of health promotion and behavior.

 

DeJoy was involved with a team of researchers that worked with NIOSH to construct a “quality of work life” survey module that featured a number of scales and measures assessing different job and organizational factors. It was also included as part of the General Social Survey and given to a sample of nationally represented American adults. Both DeJoy and Todd Smith who are recent graduates of the Health Promotion and Behavior doctoral program in the UGA College of Public Health, created a study with the intent of examining safety climate perceptions here in the United States by obtaining information from a diverse group of occupations and worker groups. These range from offices to factories and will highlight the factors linked to injury.

 

The complete version of this study will be available in the March issue of the Journal of Safety Research.

According to the survey results:

Companies that run in a smooth and effective manner and have minimal constraints on worker performance can decrease injuries by 38% as worker opinions improve

A worker’s perception of a positive safety climate can decrease injuries by 32%

In situations where work interferes with family life or family demands affect job performance, they found that the risk for injury increased 37%

 

The nine factors they examined were participation, work-family interference, management-employee relations, organizational effectiveness, safety climate, job content, advancement potential, resource adequacy, and supervisor support. The study looked at occupational injury risk in terms of socio-demographic factors, employment characteristics, and organizational factors for 1,525 respondents using data from the quality of work life module. The study identified race, occupational category, and work-family interferences as risk factors for occupational injury and safety climate and organizational effectiveness as protective factors.

Consistent with previous studies performed by the Department of Labor Statistics, they found whites had higher injury rates than blacks, but both had lower rates than the “other” category, which is predominately made up of Hispanics.

“We used to think work was one thing and family was another, but now there is a realization that work-life balance affects performance and productivity.  Most prior research on organizational factors has focused on single occupations or single organizations. There has been a clear need to examine these factors across a diverse array of occupations and employment circumstances to see how generalizable (sic) or pervasive these factors are.”

-Dave DeJoy

“We can design the best safety controls, but they must be maintained, and that falls on management. Enacted policies and procedures—not formalized ones but those acted upon—define a climate of safety."

"These results provide guidance for targeting interventions and protective measures to curtail occupational injury in the U.S. The data suggests effects are pronounced and generalized across all occupations.”

-Todd Smith

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