Background Safety observations, using a method DEKRA developed, create opportunities to assess risk, remind employees of potential risks, and create conversations about safety. The implementation has relied upon employee volunteers with significant costs, not only to the businesses, but to the employees who volunteer. The benefit is for the common good. This study evaluated differences among 88 workplace populations investigating volunteer enrolment strategies.
Objective The intention was first to assess the average impact of this methodology, and second, the various strategies for increasing effectiveness. The answers contribute to our understanding of how to engage employees to perform costly safety behavior in the benefit of peers/colleagues.
Methods Our analytic method is panel data econometric modelling. We controlled for endogeneity of key variables by using a fixed effects estimation. Random trend model and placebo test also supported the assumption of exogeneity of our key variables. Heterogeneity of impact on accidents was assessed across the available metrics, and revealed some surprising relationships.
Findings The DEKRA safety observation method indeed reduced workplace safety incidents and coincided with improved employee engagement measures. Variations in the results suggested several best practices: (1) have fewer observers doing more observations, (2) have shorter observer tenure, (3) focus observers locally, (4) emphasize complete data records, (5) keep checklists short but adapt them to changing risks or specific needs, (6) coach observers.
Conclusion Performance differences suggest that organizations focused on critical mass participation did not perform as well as those selecting and targeting enrolment. Focusing on a few champions to lead is supported over a strategy of encouraging everyone to volunteer. Policy implications Workplace programs like the one explored here have the potential for creating social change and could be a proxy for learning how to implement social change efforts elsewhere. These programs could cross-over into the public sphere.
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