Risks and rules: attitudes survey

6 March, 2015  |  News

Australian employers in the transport, postal and warehousing sector were found to be much more accepting of risk taking at work than employers in other high-risk sectors, a large-scale survey has found.

The survey also found labourers – particularly those in the construction sector – were more accepting of both risk taking and rule breaking than survey respondents in other occupational groups.

The survey report, Attitudes towards risk taking and rule breaking in Australian workplaces, was commissioned by Safe Work Australia and published at the end of 2014. Respondents included 1052 employers, 520 sole traders, 1311 workers, and 669 people who were either health & safety representatives or practitioners (HSRP). They were asked for their views on risk taking, and on rule breaking.

On the risk taking side, 15% of employees agreed that they accept risk taking at work. Labourers stood out, with one-third of “other” labourers (handypersons, rubbish collectors), farm, forestry and garden workers, construction and mining labourers, and food preparation assistants accepting risk taking at work.

Some 36% of employees regarded workplace risks as unavoidable, 24% considered minor accidents a normal part of daily work, and 22% reckoned their workplace didn’t suit people who were overly worried about being injured.

Sole traders also stood out, with 11% accepting risk taking – much higher than the employer group (4%) and the HSRPs (4%). Some 22% of them regarded workplace risks as unavoidable, while 16% viewed minor accidents as normal.

On rule breaking, almost 40% of employers in the transport, postal and warehousing sectors agreed that their workplace “does not suit those worried about being injured”, and this group was also much more likely than other employers to agree that they break safety rules to complete work on time – and they were more accepting of risk taking at work.

Large employers were more likely to agree that workers ignore safety rules than employers in medium and small businesses.

On the employee side, technicians and trade workers were much more likely to agree to questions about breaking safety rules in order to get a job done. This was particularly so among construction trades workers.

The report notes that the surveyed groups which reported high levels of acceptance of risk taking and rule breaking coincided with the higher rate of workers’ compensation claims and fatal injuries in the same groups.

“These findings,” note the report authors, “suggest that aspects of the economic/social environment as well as culture within the workplaces of these groups of workers are likely to play a role in the acceptance of risk taking and rule breaking. These workplaces need to pay particular attention to factors within the working environment that may contribute to the acceptance of risk taking and rule breaking.”

Source: Alert24 subscription 9/3/15, www.safeguard.co.nz