Attitudes towards risk taking and rule breaking in Australian workplaces –
A New Safe Work Australia Report
Safe Work Australia has published a report on the attitudes of Australian workers towards acceptance of risk taking and rule breaking in the workplace as measured by the Perceptions of Work Health and Safety Survey 2012-13.
The Perceptions of Work Health and Safety Survey aimed to provide a baseline measure of work health and safety attitudes, beliefs and actions shortly after the model Work Health and Safety laws were introduced in 2012. The survey targeted four types of respondents: employers, sole traders, health and safety representatives and workers.
Workers were more likely to accept risk taking than their bosses. Labourers were generally more accepting of risk taking and much more accepting of rule breaking in comparison with workers in other occupations. Compared to the other priority industries, transport, postal & warehousing employers were much more likely to agree that they break safety rules in order to complete work on time and were more accepting of risk taking at work.
These findings may help explain the high rates of injury and fatality within the labourers’ occupation group and within the transport, postal & warehousing industry. These findings suggest that aspects of the economic/social environment as well as the workplace cultures of workers are likely to play a role in the acceptance of risk taking and rule breaking.
- Just over 90% of sole traders, employers, workers and Health and Safety Representatives/Work Health and Safety Professionals (HSRs/WHSPs) indicated that they do not accept dangerous behaviour as long as there are no accidents. In addition, very few employers accepted risk taking in the workplace, while workers tended to be more accepting of risk taking.
- Just under half of sole traders and just over half of workers disagreed that they would never accept risk taking even if the work schedule was tight. This was higher than that reported by HSRs/ WHSPs and employers.
- Labourers were generally more accepting of risk taking and much more accepting of rule breaking within the workplace in comparison to workers in other occupations. Within the labourers group, construction & mining labourers and factory process workers appeared to be the most accepting of risk taking.
- Employers operating in the transport, postal & warehousing industry were much more likely than employers in the other priority industries to agree that their workplace does not suit those worried about being injured, that they accept risk taking at work and break safety rules in order to complete work on time than employers operating in the other priority industries. Employers in this industry were also much more likely to agree that conditions in the workplace stop workers from working safely, that workers bend rules to achieve a target and that workers are under pressure from work mates and management to break safety rules.
What does this mean?
These findings may help explain the high rates of injury and fatality within the Labourers occupation group and within the Transport, postal & warehousing industry. This suggests that urgent action in the area of leadership to improve attitudes to work health and safety may make an important contribution to reducing the incidence of injury and fatality amongst these groups of workers.
These findings strongly suggest that health and safety is not being given priority in all work processes and decisions. Workplace cultures appear to play a role in the acceptance of risk taking and rule breaking. There is a need for workplaces to think about attitudes towards risk taking and rule breaking. Urgent leadership is needed to change what appears to be a culture in many Australian workplaces that it is acceptable to take risks. This indicates a need to rethink the way work is designed to help to remove pressures that lead to risk taking and rule breaking in Australian workplaces.
This report is licensed by Safe Work Australia under a Creative Commons 3.0 Australia Licence.