Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

Integrating Psychosocial Safety Climate in the JD-R Model: A Study Amongst Malaysian Workers

Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

Integrating Psychosocial Safety Climate in the JD-R Model: A Study Amongst Malaysian Workers

Article excerpt


The aim of this research was to examine empirically a theoretical model of psychosocial safety climate (PSC). This emerging construct is defined as the 'policies, practices and procedures for the protection of worker psychological health and safety' (Dollard & Karasek, 2010, p. 208) that are largely influenced by senior management in organisations. We propose an integrative model where PSC is a precursor to work conditions (i.e. job demands and job resources) and in turn burnout, engagement and performance via mediation pathways. In particular, our theory builds on the premises of Job Demands-Resources (JD-R) theory (Bakker & Demerouti, 2007) and we see PSC as precursor for the health and motivation pathways espoused in that model. The research addresses a gap in the literature about the origin of job demands and job resources and in turn the model pathways.

The second aim is to examine the integrative PSC model in an Eastern culture and in an emerging economy to determine whether the assumptions of the model are emic (specific) or etic (general). So far, the JD-R model (Bakker, Demerouti, & Verbeke, 2004) and the PSC integrative model (Dollard & Bakker, 2010) have mainly been tested in Western nations. Research on psychosocial factors and work stress in Eastern countries such as Malaysia is lacking (Sadhra, Beach, Aw, & Sheikh-Ahmed, 2001), as it is in most developing countries (Chopra, 2009). Moreover, work and organisational (psychology) research is less advanced in Eastern countries (Burke, 2010). In short, knowledge development in the area is lacking precisely where it may be needed most (Kortum, Leka & Cox, 2008).

Psychosocial safety climate

Psychosocial safety climate theory brings together insights from the work stress and safety science literatures. Although numerous work stress studies have identified a range of important psychosocial aspects, none has specifically identified a psychosocial safety climate. Further, two disparate lines of research separately explain workplace physical and psychological health (Dollard & Bakker, 2010). The first, safety climate research, examines safety behaviours and perceptions and their influences on employees' physical health (Flin, Mearns, O'Connor, & Bryden, 2000; Zohar & Luria, 2005). The second focuses mainly on work conditions, job demands and resources, worker psychological health and motivational related outcomes.

Psychosocial safety climate is largely an indicator of the true priorities of an organisation towards competing climate interests, for example, a climate for productivity vs. a climate for psychological health. According to leading theorists in the safety climate literature, the best way to make sense of an organisation's true priorities is via perceptions of enacted policies, practices and procedures (Zohar & Luria, 2005). Other perceptual or sense-making cues may be derived from the divergence or convergence between what management say and what they do in relation to these operational aspects. These perceptions in aggregate provide a measure of climate, because PSC is argued to be a property of the organisation, team, or unit. Knowing about the climate will provide a good indication of the working conditions (i.e. job demands and job resources), worker psychological health, engagement and productivity of employees.

Psychosocial safety climate is characterised by:

1. management commitment

2. management priority

3. management and employee participation and involvement in stress prevention

4. organisational communication.

Evidence from the work stress literature highlights these factors as important components of successful organisational stress intervention projects (European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, 2002; Jordan, Gurr, Tinline, Giga, Faragher& Cooper, 2003; Kompier & Kristensen, 2001). Evidence of these characteristics within organisations indicates varying levels of PSC, which will predict the kind of work environment experienced and the psychological reactions to these characteristics. …

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