Studies in Personnel and Industrial Psychology

By Edwin A. Fleishman | Go to book overview

Section Eight ACCIDENTS AND SAFETY

Introduction

A RECENT REPORT of the National Safety Council indicated that industrial work accidents cost $3.2 billion a year with an average cost to industry of $50 a worker. Regardless of how this figure is computed, it points up the tremendous need to learn more about the causes of accidents in order to reduce their frequency and severity. The problem of accident causation is a complex one. Some accidents are attributable to mechanical failures, some to human elements, and some to chance factors. Even the mechanical or engineering aspects are not independent of human elements. Thus, some workers will circumvent the best designed mechanical safety devices. And, in the next section, we will see how psychologists are developing principles by which machines can be designed to minimize the human errors made in operating them. In the present section, we will examine some of the issues and research on human factors in accidents and safety. In turn, we will focus on the contribution to accidents of personal factors in the individual, training and experience, and factors in the work situation.

First of all, it is frequently reported that a small proportion of workers are responsible for a large proportion of the accidents in particular jobs. This has led to the notion of "accident proneness" as a trait which is more pronounced in some individuals than in others. In "A Re-examination of the Accident Proneness Concept," Mintz and Blum describe the evidence on the probable contributions of these "personal factors" to industrial accidents. They clarify the important distinction between "accident proneness" and "accident liability" and provide a method for evaluating the accident liability of different jobs.

Next, the study by Van Zelst focuses on "The Effect of Age and Experience upon Accident Rate." The study also presents evidence on the importance of safety training on subsequent accident records.

In "Psychological Climate and Accidents," Keenan, Kerr, and Sherman focus on certain factors in the work situation which might be related to accidents. These include production pressures, promotion probabilities, shop environment, amount of individual responsibility, job prestige, pay systems, type of job, and degree of obvious danger.

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