The importance of perception of occupational risk to reduce the accident phenomenon: an analysis of the variables


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Submission Date: 2020-11-23
Review Date: 2020-12-06
Pubblication Date: 2020-12-23

Abstract

Abstract:

The perception of risk is to be understood as the ability to identify a source of danger as soon as possible. It is a personal process, so it is we who decide to face or avoid the risk situation in a subjective way.
This process conditions actions, behaviors, assessments, choices about an entity or a potentially dangerous situation.
The subjective perception of risk is not linear and is not directly proportional to the increase in the dangers; it is subject to influences and distortions and is linked to psychological, cultural and social aspects.
Not always all aspects of a risky situation are perceived and this can lead to an overestimation or underestimation of the risk.
I reported the main studies that analyzed the correlation between risk perception and some variables: Being employed or not, gender, socio-political factors, age, level of education, income level, training and perception of risk, health status, knowledge of risk, previous injuries, possibility of job control and perception of risk, work experience / seniority, attitude in the workplace, exposure to risk factors, tasks in the same workplace, adoption of adequate protective behaviors, job satisfaction-
Thinking about safety from a technical and technological point of view is certainly very important but it is not a sufficient condition, behind every accident we have an individual who makes decisions for which it is fundamental, in order to address the issue of health and safety in a integrated, also consider the man variable in its entirety.

Introduction

The emergence of the concept of risk dates back to the pre-modern era when the first maritime companies were established, this term was used in the insurance field to indicate the dangers that could be encountered during sea crossings, the concept of risk was exclusively due to forces unearthly supernatural and fatality. Towards the end of the eighteenth century the concept of probability is elaborated in mathematics and it is begun to realize that some events, until then ascribed to fate, actually occurred with a describable regularity, and were therefore predictable in this sense. Risk and danger are terms often used interchangeably, but these are two concepts that diverge in meaning. While the term hazard (hazard) refers to a characteristic of the object or situation that can cause damage, the term risk adds to the concept of danger the probability of coming into contact with it and being affected by it.

The danger recalls the concepts of certainty and definiteness, has an objective and is closely tied to the object to which it relates (if a substance is dangerous valence remains that regardless of who uses it), the risk on the other hand also has a subjective value, is the evaluation of the possibility of coming into contact with a hazard and with the consequent damage.

Occupational risk is the assessment of the probability that the worker will come into contact with the hazard in proportion to the severity factor of the damage that the same worker could suffer.

The risk formula is:

R = p x G where p means the probability and G the severity of the outcome.

The perception of risk is to be understood as the ability to identify a source of danger as soon as possible.

It is a personal process, so it is we who decide to face or avoid the risk situation in a subjective way.

This process conditions actions, behaviors, assessments, choices about an entity or a potentially dangerous situation.

The subjective perception of risk is not linear and is not directly proportional to the increase in the dangers; it is subject to influences and distortions and is linked to psychological, cultural and social aspects.

Not always all aspects of a risky situation are perceived and this can lead to an overestimation or underestimation of the risk.The perception of risk is intended as soon as possible ability to identify a source of danger.

There are some specific factors that govern our perception and make certain things scare us more than others even if they are not really dangerous:There are some specific factors that govern our perception and make certain things scare us more than others even if they are not really dangerous:

  1. Control: We are less afraid of situations we think we are able to control.1) Control: We are less afraid of situations we think we are able to control.
  2. Familiarity: we perceive the things that are more common to us as less risky (for example we are not afraid of stairs or hairdryers) even if they are the ones that cause the greatest number of accidents.
  3. Proximity: we perceive as more serious risks that concern us personally or that concern people or environments immediately close to us.
  4. Personalization: the description of a particular case is more frightening than the description of the danger in general (the photographs of the consequences of Chernobyl on children impress us much more than reading a newspaper article).
  5. The imagination: we underestimate the risks that appear less frightening to us (we are much more afraid of dying in a fire than dying of a heart attack).
  6. The catastrophic nature: we fear catastrophes, that is, events that strike on a large scale, which take place in a short time and are located in one point (for example, a massacre is more effective than murder).
  7. The calculation of risks and benefits: the greater the benefits we derive from a situation, the less importance we give to the related risks.
  8. Uncertainty: risks that are not visible, situations that we do not understand or of which we have no experience scare us more.
  9. Community involvement: those with a higher degree of community involvement (more social contacts) have a more realistic perception of risk than those who are less involved in social networks.

Our decisions are often guided by assessments based on mental processes that we unconsciously adopt and which in psychology are described as heuristics, these “shortcuts of reasoning” allow us to reach a conclusion quickly.

One of these shortcuts is the heuristic of consensus or conformity to the majority (so fan all) which indicates that sort of attitude that pushes us to be influenced by others, these modalities occur more frequently if the topic is unfamiliar or if the possibility of processing information is low.

In the context of conduct at risk, information on the behavior of others makes us take precautionary measures in a proportional way, if for example we learn that 12% of people use protective measures we will be less likely to use them, we will tend to use them against if they said 88% use them. Optimistic bias or unrealistic optimism (“it doesn’t happen to me”) is the belief that you are able to control a situation and consider yourself immune from harm. Our perception of risk is lower when we perform those activities we do on a daily basis such as driving or smoking. This phenomenon is known as the “illusion of control”. The discrepancy between knowledge and behavior occurs when even knowing that a certain behavior is risky, it is performed anyway, demonstrating that although knowledge is a fundamental prerequisite for implementing preventive behavior alone, it is not sufficient.

The results of a study of 32 coal miners in the Appalachian Mountains at high risk for noise induced hearing loss (NIHL), show that two categories of barriers (environmental and individual) prevent miners from using their hearing protectors.

Despite having high levels of knowledge and perception of negative consequences.

Trust and communication play a decisive role in the perception of risk, for example the media can trigger fears about non-existent or minor risks and hide or diminish real and serious risks.

The public debate that gave rise to the line of investigation known in psychology as “perception of risk” was that related to nuclear energy.

It was immediately evident that there is no regularity between the degree of objective risk posed by a nuclear power plant and the subjective perception of the risk that people had.

It was icastic that it is a function of many factors other than the objective risk itself such as: degree of control, voluntary recruitment, the severity of the consequences, the perceived benefits, the catastrophic nature of a potential accident, the risk for future generations, immediacy effects, knowledge and others.

The perception of the degree of danger deriving from a substance, activity or behavior does not therefore depend only on the real, objective risk, but it undergoes a “transformation” as a function of numerous factors or reasoning strategies.

Wrong choices in crisis situations, underestimating the seriousness of a danger, overestimating one’s ability to stem the consequences of a possible error, are just some of the reasoning procedures that can lead to an injury.

Variables in risk perception: the results of the main studies analyzed

Be employed or not: the perception of risk is higher in workers than in non-workers; Gender and perception of risk: the results of some studies show a lower perception of risks in women; Socio-political factors and perception of risk: White males perceive health and danger risks as low compared to white females and black people, this phenomenon is called the “white male” effect; Age: young age is correlated with a higher perception of risk; Level of education: some research shows a positive correlation between level of education and perception of occupational risk; Income level: the low perception of risk is linked to low incomes and poor social conditions; Training and perception of risk: the perception of danger is significantly correlated with the level of training received; State of health: Poor health causes a low perception of risks; Knowledge of risk and perception: some studies show an inverse relationship between the knowledge of an occupational risk and the perceived risk level (for example in the nuclear field);

Injuries and perception of risk: the perception of occupational risk factors is lower in workers who have suffered accidents than in those who have not; Possibility of control of work and perception of risk: Inverse relationship between possibility of control of work, methods of execution, breaks, pace of work, action and perception of risk; Experience / seniority and perception of risk: greater work experience involves greater knowledge of the dangers and therefore greater safety in the face of possible risks, with a consequent low perception of risk; Attitude and perception of risk: causal association hypothesis between risk perception and attitude / behavior in the workplace, with consequent exposure to hazards; Exposure to risk factors and perception of risk: it is believed that workers exposed to many risks have a higher perception; Tasks in the same workplace and perception of risk: some studies show a difference in perception between the different jobs in the same workplace; Correlation between risk perception and adoption of adequate protective behaviors: In some studies there is a positive correlation between the adoption of adequate protective behaviors and risk perception: in coal miners and farmers in California. Other studies show a non-correlation: in the studies carried out by Rudmo on oil platforms; Relationship between job satisfaction and risk perception: the perception of risk in some researches is inversely proportional to job satisfaction.

Some results

Aresez P.M.  2005[1]  
Industrial sector
Survey  
Relationship between perceived risk and use of personal protective equipment (hearing protectors);
Sjoberg L.1991[2]  Nuclear sector  Semi-structured interview  Relationship between perceived risk and job satisfaction; Lack of relationship between perceived risk and general level of anxiety; Negative correlation between perceived risk and knowledge;  
Harrell WA., 1990[3]Construction sector  Survey  Positive correlation with: Young age, high risk exposure, work repetitiveness; Negative correlation with job performance control;
Pedro M. Arezes and Margarida Bizarro, 2011[4]Construction sector  Self-administered questionnaire  Negative correlation between risk perception and use of alcohol at work;  
Cordeiro, 2002[5]Metallurgical sector  Survey  Negative correlation between perception of occupational risk and accidents;  
Snyder K., 2004Agricultural sector  Interview  Positive correlation with: income, health condition;  
O’Toole M., 2002[6]Production sector  
Investigation
Positive correlation between worker risk perception and management commitment in the area of ​​work safety;  
Flin R., 1996[7]Oil and gas extraction  Semi-structured interview  Differences in perception between different tasks: administrative tasks have a lower perception, positive correlation between experience, knowledge, safety;  
Kivimaki M., 1995[8]Nuclear sector  Survey  Perceived nuclear risk and organizational commitment are closely linked to the assessments of the organization’s top management. As trust and satisfaction with top management increase, the perceived safety and acceptance of organizational objectives and values ​​increase.  
Tab. 1

Conclusions

 The perception of risk, understood as a cognitive process that guides people’s behavior, has an important function in preventive strategies by focusing on the “human factor” in occupational safety, an element that more than any other contributes to injury determinism. Human error cannot be radically eliminated but it is possible to identify and minimize it by promoting the spread of “Non – techical skills” which complementary to technical skills, can contribute to the activation of safe and effective performance. “Non-technical skills are all those skills on a cognitive, behavioral and interpersonal level that are not specific to the expertise of a profession but which are equally important in the success of operational practices while maintaining the highest degree of safety”. The parameters of safety and work performance are related to non-technical skills that can be placed both at the individual level (decision-making skills, task orientation, situation awareness, stress management), and at the group level (skills of the group to coordinate, communicate and exercise effective and authoritative leadership).

One of the basic non-technical skills is situation awareness, which Endsley defines as the “perception of the elements of the environment present within a period of time and a certain space, the understanding of their meaning and the projection of their status in the immediate future “. The prerequisite is continuous monitoring of the environment. Loss of situational awareness has been recognized as the main cause of aviation accidents, particularly those involving highly automated aircraft.

Thinking about safety from a technical and technological point of view is certainly very important but it is not a sufficient condition, behind every accident we have an individual who makes decisions for which it is fundamental, in order to address the issue of health and safety in a manner integrated, also consider the man variable in its entirety.

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Notes

  • [1] Arezes, Pedro M., and A. Sérgio Miguel. “Hearing protection use in industry: The role of risk perception.” Safety science 43.4 (2005): 253-267;
  • [2] Sjöberg, Lennart, and Britt‐Marie Drottz‐Sjöberg. “Knowledge and risk perception among nuclear power plant employees.” Risk analysis 11.4 (1991): 607-618;
  • [3] Harrell, W. Andrew. “Perceived risk of occupational injury: Control over pace of work and blue-collar versus white-collar work.” Perceptual and motor skills 70.3_suppl (1990): 1351-1359;
  • [4] Arezes, Pedro M., and Margarida Bizarro. “Alcohol consumption and risk perception in the Portuguese construction industry.” Open Occupational Health & Safety Journal 3 (2011): 10-17;
  • [5] Cordeiro, Ricardo. “Suggestion of an inverse relationship between perception of occupational risks and work-related injuries.” Cadernos de Saúde Pública 18.1 (2002): 45-54;
  • [6] O’Toole, Michael. “The relationship between employees’ perceptions of safety and organizational culture.” Journal of safety research 33.2 (2002): 231-243;
  • [7] Flin, Rhona, et al. “Risk perception by offshore workers on UK oil and gas platforms.” Safety Science 22.1 (1996): 131-145;
  • [8] Kivimäki, Mika, Raija Kalimo, and Simo Salminen. “Perceived nuclear risk, organizational commitment, and appraisals of management: A study of nuclear power plant personnel.” Risk Analysis 15.3 (1995): 391-396;