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Summary

Accidents in the workplace can cost companies and the economy billions of dollars each year. When employees have positive safety attitudes, for example the understand safety procedures and want to work safely, they are less likely to be involved in workplace accidents. The safety attitudes of employees are shaped by the company’s safety culture. Safety culture includes the attitudes, values, beliefs and views regarding safety of people within the workforce. The term ‘safety culture’ has been used for around 30 years, and it is often confused with the term ‘safety climate’, because they are similar to each other. However, unlike safety culture, safety climate involves the company’s safety procedures and the safety behaviours of employees. As this research does not look at the company’s procedures, it is looking at safety culture, not climate.

The legislation in Australia gives guidelines for employers and employees on the correct conduct in a workplace setting. For example, it outlines the level of duty of care of employers over employees. Also, people working in the construction industry have specific safety training requirements, in which they must become certified. Even though employees within specific work areas of an organisation are working within the same government standards, there are often individual differences in how safe that company is perceived to be.

Safety culture can be difficult to measure, however the most common form of measurement is a questionnaire. The use of questionnaires can cause problems as the questions need to be personalised to the company or industry that they are intending to measure the safety culture of. Also, questionnaires only provide a snapshot of a company’s safety culture at that time, and therefore would need to be used again in the future.

The safety culture of different groups within industries such as the transport industry and the health industry has been measured in the past. This has shown that there are important differences in the work group scores for safety culture. It has been suggested that the safety culture within each work group can affect the safety behaviours of employees and also the outcomes of such behaviours, such as the occurrence of accidents and injuries.

It has been found that having a social responsibility to others, such as family and friends, can result in more positive attitudes towards safety. Work-family balance has therefore been an important aspect in workplaces, and a good balance has been found to reduce any worries experienced by the employee. This balance then allows them to complete their work in a correct and safe manner. Families have also been used in many safe working campaigns in Australia encouraging employees to work safely in order to return home to their families.

Organisational tenure, or length of time at a company, has been linked to performance behaviours at work. These performance behaviours can vary from positive behaviours to negative behaviours. However it has been argued that those with high organisational tenure have safer work practices than those with low tenure.

A manufacturing and construction company in Australia agreed to participate in the research, with 96 employees participating. Employees were given a questionnaire relating to their safety culture attitudes. After this, the results of 8 employees had to be excluded due to missing information and therefore the feedback from 88 participants was examined.

The findings showed that job areas had different safety attitudes. The office staff had higher personal safety conduct (a factor of safety culture) scores than the manufacturing/stores staff. This could be as a result of the manufacturing/stores staff having to deal with such dangerous situations on a daily basis, whereas the office staff may not have been as exposed to such situations. Also, responses to a written answer question showed that most employees experienced a positive safety attitude change when they started employment at the company.

It was found that those employees who were married/defacto with children had higher safety culture attitudes than those who were married/defacto without children. In addition, those employees with children scored higher in safety culture attitudes than those with no children. This supports the idea that having a responsibility for others, such as a family and children, can influence personal safety behaviour in a positive way.

The findings did not support the idea that those with high organisational tenure, or those who had been at the company a long time, would score higher in their safety culture attitudes than those with low organisational tenure. There was no difference between the two groups’ safety culture attitudes. This may have been as a result of only having two possible responses for the question regarding length of time at the company.

This research was important as it is useful for both the company involved and the manufacturing and construction industry as a whole as it provides interesting information regarding within company differences.

In conclusion, this study showed that safety culture differs within work groups in a manufacturing and construction company. Also, it showed that having a family can impact employee’s safety attitudes and behaviours. If safety culture can be understood it can reduce or even prevent employee accidents and therefore workers compensation claims, leading to a safer working environment for both employers and employees.