Overview

An injury-free workplace requires attention to three basic domains: the environment (including tools, equipment, and climate of the work setting), the person (including the knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and personalities of the employees), and behavior (including safe and at-risk work practices, as well as interpersonal conversation). These factors are interactive, dynamic, and reciprocal. Influencing one factor eventually has impact on the other two. For example, changes in the environment have indirect effects on peoples' behaviors and attitudes, and behavior change usually results in attitude change and some change in the environment. Thus, to achieve and maintain an injury-free workplace, employees need to address each of these domains daily during the development, implementation, and evaluation of intervention strategies to remove environmental hazards, decrease at-risk behaviors, increase safe behaviors, and provide more user-friendly or ergonomically-sound work stations.

Such continual attention to the safety-related aspects of workplace environments, behaviors, perceptions, and attitudes requires that people go beyond the call of duty for occupational safety and health. I call this "actively caring." Research in social psychology (Cialdini, 2001; Schroeder, Penner, Dovidio, & Piliavin, 1995), applied behavior analysis (Geller, 1998b, 2001c, 2002a; Geller & Williams, 2001; McSween, 1995), and person-based psychology (Geller, 1998a, 2001a) provide principles and practical strategies for increasing a sense of interdependency and actively caring behaviors throughout a work culture. These are reviewed in this presentation.

What is Actively Caring?

Figure 1 presents a simple flow chart summarizing a basic approach to culture change. We start a culture-change mission with a vision or ultimate purpose--for example, to achieve an actively caring culture. With group consensus supporting the vision, we develop procedures or action plans to accomplish our mission. These are reflected in processoriented goals which hopefully activate goal-related behaviors.

Figure 1. An actively caring culture requires vision and behavior management (available in full paper).

It's revealing that many consultants and "pop" psychologists stop here. The popular writings of Covey (1989,1990), Peale (1952), Kohn (1993), and Deming (1986,1993) suggest that behavior is activated and maintained by self-affirmations, internal motivation and personal principles or values. For example, I heard Joel Barker (1993), the futurist who convinced us to change the dictionary meaning of "paradigm," proclaim that "vision alone is only dreaming and behavior alone is only marking time". Mr. Barker explained, however, that turning vision into goals that specify behaviors will lead to positive organization change.

Appropriate goal setting, self-affirmations, and a positive attitude can activate behaviors to achieve goals and visions. But we must not forget one of B. F. Skinner's most important legacies--"selection by consequences" (Skinner, 1981). As depicted in Figure 1, consequences are needed to support the right behaviors and correct wrong ones. Without support for the "right stuff," good intentions and initial efforts fade away. Sometimes natural consequences are available to motivate desired behaviors, but often--especially in safety--consequencecontingencies need to be managed to motivate the behavior needed to achieve our goals.

This content is only available via PDF.
You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.