Safety Talk and Safety Culture: Discursive Repertoires as Indicators of Workplace Safety and Health Practice and Readiness to Change
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Safety Talk and Safety Culture: Discursive Repertoires as Indicators of Workplace Safety and Health Practice and Readiness to Change

Filetype[PDF-84.07 KB]

  • English

  • Details:

    • Alternative Title:
      Ann Work Expo Health
    • Description:

      Small construction businesses (SCBs) account for a disproportionate share of occupational injuries, days lost, and fatalities in the US and other modern economies. Owner/managers of SCBs confront risks associated with their own and workers’ safety and business survival, and their occupational safety and health (OSH) related values and practices are key drivers of safety and business outcomes. Given owner/mangers are the key to understanding and affecting change in smaller firms, as well as the pressing need for improved OSH in small firms particularly in construction, there is a critical need to better understand SCB owners’ readiness to improve or adopt enhanced OSH activities in their business. Unfortunately, the social expectation to support safety can complicate efforts to evaluate owners’ readiness.


      To get a more accurate understanding of the OSH values and practices of SCBs and the factors shaping SCB owners’ readiness and intent to implement or improve safety and health programming by comparing their discourse on safety with their self-rated level of stage of change.


      In-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 30 SCB owner managers. Respondents were asked to self-rate their safety program activity on a 5-point scale from unaware or ignorant (‘haven’t thought about it at all’) to actively vigilant (‘well-functioning safety and health program for at least 6 months’). They were also asked to discuss the role and meaning of OSH within their trade and company, as well as attitudes and inclinations toward improving or enhancing business safety practices.

      Analysis and results:

      Respondents’ self-rating of safety program activity was compared and contrasted with results from discourse analysis of their safety talk, or verbal descriptions of their safety values and activities. Borrowing from normative and stage theories of safety culture and behavioral change, these sometimes contradictory descriptions were taxonomized along a safety culture continuum and a range of safety cultures and stages of readiness for change were found. These included descriptions of strong safety cultures with intentions for improvement as well as descriptions of Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The British Occupational Hygiene Society 2018. safety cultures with more reactive and pathological approaches to OSH, with indications of no intentions for improvement. Some owner/managers rated themselves as having an effective OSH program in place, yet described a dearth of OSH activity and/or value for OSH in their business.


      Assessing readiness to change is key to improving OSH performance, and more work is needed to effectively assess SCB OSH readiness and thus enable greater adoption of best practices.

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