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191 Occupational safety behaviour of ontario electricians: a mental models approach to injury prevention
  1. Laurel C Austin1,
  2. Dan Kovacs2,
  3. Sarah Thorne2,
  4. Nancy Evans3,
  5. Joel Moody3
  1. 1Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
  2. 2Decision Partners, LLC., Ontario, Canada
  3. 3Electrical Safety Authority, Ontario, Canada


Background Electric current is a leading cause of occupational fatality in North America. For each fatal electrical occupational injury in Ontario there are about five critical and 18 non-critical injuries. Analyses show that unsafe work practices and human error play a role in about 70% of fatal electrical occupational injuries. Electric workers are at especially high risk. To understand the cause of unsafe work practices, one must first understand the influences on electric workers’ real-time decisions and behaviours.

Methods We used a mental models research approach to identify and gain insight into those influences. First, we developed an “expert model” of influences on electricians’ judgments and decision making regarding safe work practices based upon a literature review and a workshop with electricians and representatives from electrical associations, unions, NGOs and government. The expert model informed development of a semi-structured interview protocol to elicit electricians’ “mental models” – their complex webs of beliefs about safe work behaviours. In-depth interviews were then conducted with 60 Ontario electricians in Fall 2015 to discuss work experiences and influences on safe work practices. Responses were coded against the expert model.

Results We will present the results of the mental models research with electricians using the expert model as a framework. The expert model itself is an important research product, providing a structured representation of experts’ perceptions of influences on electric workers’ behaviour. It can be used as a framework for further research and for development of risk communications and other safety initiatives.

Conclusions This study is the first to use a decision analytic mental models approach to understand influences on electricians’ decision making and safety behaviours. Resulting insights will inform development of behaviour-focused interventions to reduce injury and death.

  • Occupational Safety
  • Mental Models
  • Risk Perception
  • Electric Injury

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