Studies in Personnel and Industrial Psychology

By Edwin A. Fleishman | Go to book overview
8. The effects of an "obvious danger factor" on departmental accident rates are somewhat uncertain, although observational evidence indicates that where an obvious danger factor exists, the accidents which occur tend not to be identified with the obvious danger. Existence of an impressive obvious hazard seems to contribute to "unrelated" accidents by delimiting attention and encouraging proneness to involvement in the non-obvious hazards.

60. Complementary Theories of Safety Psychology*

Willard Kerr

PROBABLY THE most universally ignored area of safety psychology is that pertaining to the psychological climate of the workplace. A devotion to safety gadgets on the one hand and concern for the alleged proneness factors within the accident repeater on the other hand has led to the almost total neglect of the situational factors which help shape work personality and help manufacture accident-free or accident-liable employees.

Many investigators1 have shown that becoming a safe worker is a typical learning function. The decline in accidents from date of employment in the typical job is a representative learning curve. But like other learning curves, the decline in error performance can be obstructed by a multitude of other factors. It now appears that a chief obstruction to the rapid decline in error performance is defective psychological climate. This conclusion, to be supported in this paper, stands in sharp contrast to past emphasis upon the accident proneness theory.


THE ACCIDENT PRONENESS THEORY

Before presenting the crucial evidence on this theory, the term "accident proneness" should be defined. Accident proneness is a constitutional (i.e., permanent) tendency within the organism to engage in unsafe behavior within some stated field of vocational activity. A temporary tendency to have accidents is not proneness; it is liability. And proneness is not general; that is, its referrent to an activity field must be

____________________
*
From Journal of Social Psychology, Vol. 45, 1957, pp. 3-9.
1
R. H. Van Zelst, "The Effect of Age and Experience upon the Accident Rate," Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 38, 1954, pp. 313-17. (See Article 58.)

-571-

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