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Development of a comprehensive approach to physical and psychosocial safety: The physical and psychosocial workplace safety model

Yaris, Cat (2021) Development of a comprehensive approach to physical and psychosocial safety: The physical and psychosocial workplace safety model. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Since the 1860s, workplace accidents have consistently been identified and documented. There are numerous theories, approaches, and methodologies to improving workplace safety. Although there has been consistent growth and improvement in the field, there are still numerous accidents, injuries, fatalities, and near misses every year across numerous industries. Researchers have focused on developing approaches and models to explain, and potentially prevent, negative safety outcomes. Each of these approaches has limitations. One limitation is the distinct separation of physical and psychosocial safety in the literature. Several studies and researchers have tried to merge the research paths, although this has been met with varying evidence of efficacy. Each of the papers presented in this thesis move towards the development of a model that encompasses both physical and psychosocial safety climate to create a comprehensive approach to workplace safety. Each paper builds upon the previous chapter to explain the theoretical foundation, the measurement model, and the structural model of physical and psychosocial safety. In sum, the studies are designed to develop a clear, and more comprehensive, approach to workplace safety.

The first paper is a literature review detailing the current research on physical and psychosocial safety climate. The intent of this review was to outline the history and evolution of research on both aspects of safety climate separately and the movement made to address them jointly. The review focused on why the integration is needed both for academics and practitioners.

The second paper introduces the new Physical and Psychosocial Workplace Safety (PPWS) model. This provided the theoretical foundation to address the separation between physical and psychosocial safety climate. The PPWS model is an extension of leading theoretical models such as the model of safety performance (Neal & Griffin, 1997) and job-demands resources (JD-R) model of workplace safety (Nahrgang et al., 2011). This paper specifically provided clear definitions and distinctions between variable conceptualization, expanding the leading theoretical models, integrating physical and psychosocial safety, providing a generalizable approach across industries, and considering self-regulatory processes as mediators of safety behaviors. Self-regulatory processes were introduced as safety factors and help understand employee behavior. Safety behaviors were the dependent variable of interest for this model. Specifically, physical and psychosocial safety participation and safety compliance. Therefore, self-regulatory processes were introduced as mediators to explain the relationships between job demands and resources with safety behaviors. This paper laid the foundation to test the measurement model and provide preliminary validation evidence to support researchers in the safety space and help industries understand antecedents of safety behaviors.

The third paper describes the assessment of the factor structure of job demands, job resources, safety factors, and safety behaviors through a series of exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses. Participants (n = 941) were sampled from high-risk physical or psychological occupations, such as fire fighter, police, and healthcare, to participate in a survey. The exploratory factor analyses identified the factor structure of each construct and subsequent the confirmatory factor analyses refined each. This laid the foundation to test the structural model in the fourth paper.

The fourth paper focused on validating the PPWS model with a repeated measures design. The final structure identified from the third paper was tested with structural equation modeling. For Study 1 (n = 941), there were 19 models before finding adequate model fit, x2 (60, n = 941) = 526.53, p < .001, SRMR = .07, TLI = .80, CFI = .89, RMSEA = .09 [.08, .10]. The odel served as the baseline model for Study 2. Study 2 (n = 456) tested five models before confirming adequate model fit, x2 (85, n = 456) = 162.36, p < .001, SRMR = .08, TLI = .79, CFI = .85, RMSEA = .10 [.09, .11]. RMSEA = .09 [.08, .10]. Model adjustments were made through modification indices, as aligned to theory. Both studies failed to reach good model fit. The individual factor loading patterns found more support in Study 2 than Study 1. In conclusion, there was some support for the model, but major reconsiderations are required for future research and applied utility.

The fifth paper discussed the implications of the previous chapters and suggested paths for future research to further develop the area of psychosocial and physical safety factor modeling. The chapter detailed the research, finding, limitations, and future directions for the PPWS model for the research and applied space. For research, additional sample sizes and populations are recommended. This research attempted to focus on a generalizable model and the variability in industry and occupation reduced the ability to derive specific insights. Taking a more targeted approach would support specific industries while providing practitioners clearer guidance. There are alternative measures of safety control, safety motivation, and employee engagement available in the research literature. This might lead to a more robust measure and ensure the correct construct is being assessed (e.g., employee engagement versus organizational commitment). Additionally, the PPWS model focused on a parsimonious approach. The PPWS model was streamlined throughout the validation process but still fell short of good model fit. Therefore, the model needs to be refined to support parsimony and achieve good fit. Additional next steps and considerations were suggested to continue the integration of physical and psychosocial safety climate research paths.

This thesis was designed to create a model, generalizable across industries, that integrated physical and psychosocial safety elements to understand safety behaviors. While the PPWS model fell short of global good model fit, individual components for the model found support. Additional studies and research are needed to deepen the understanding of the relationships between self-regulatory processes and safety behaviors and address the limitations found in this research. The theoretical foundation and organizational need exists for a comprehensive approach to workplace safety. The PPWS model is a foundation to fill that need and future research will refine and establish clear paths and support to improving safety behavior.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Psychology, Counselling, Exercise Science and Chiropractic
Supervisor(s): Ditchburn, Graeme, Curtis, Guy, Heritage, Brody and Brook, Libby
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