Safety Climate perceptions in High Reliability Organizations - the role of Psychological Capital
Not peer reviewed
MetadataShow full item record
Over recent decades, research on antecedents of safety in High Reliability Organizations (HROs) has shifted from focusing mostly on technical issues to placing greater emphasis on human factors. Although an abundance of research suggests that human factors seem to play an important part in most accidents and near misses, there is still a shortage of research on the underlying mechanisms and processes involved in unsafe acts and safety critical behavior. Thus, many research questions regarding the impact of human factors still remain relatively unexplored. The fairly new direction of Positive Organizational Behavior (POB) has presented a fertile theoretical and methodological foundation for examining safety issues in HROs. One promising new POB perspective is Psychological Capital (PsyCap), a higher order construct that consists of the sub-dimensions: efficacy, hope, optimism, and resiliency. The overall aim of this thesis is to investigate the relationship between PsyCap and safety in HROs.
The current study examines diverse empirical evidence to assess whether PsyCap could represent a potential antecedent to psychological safety climate and loss prevention across three different HROs (i.e., the aviation, shipping and offshore oil and gas industries). More specifically, possible mediators (i.e., positive/negative emotions and job satisfaction) and possible moderators (i.e., work role) of this relationship were examined in Papers 1 and 2. The influence of impression management and self-deception is controlled for in Paper 2, while the potential buffering effect of PsyCap on the relationship between worries about workplace risks and sleepiness is examined in Paper 3.
The first study examined whether PsyCap is related to individual perceptions of safety climate in Air Traffic Control (ATC). The results from an all-Norwegian sample of about 25% of the population of Norwegian air traffic controllers showed that PsyCap was positively correlated with and explained almost 1/3 of the variance in perceived safety climate. In the second part of the study, the mediating effects of positive and negative emotions were controlled for, to see whether the respondents were “wearing rose tinted glasses” and answered the questions in an overly positive way. The results showed that neither positive nor negative emotions mediated the relationship between PsyCap and safety climate.
The aim of the second study was to replicate and extend the findings from the ATC study in a new sample from a different type of HRO. Thus, the second study was conducted among maritime workers of different nationalities working for three Norwegian shipping companies. Again, the results showed that PsyCap was positively related to perceptions of safety climate. PsyCap contributed to the variance in perceived safety climate, even after adjusting for socially desirable responding. Officers with high scores on PsyCap were found to have a more positive perception of the safety climate than the non-officers with high PsyCap scores. In the second part of the study, a positive relation between perceived safety climate and job satisfaction was established, as well as between PsyCap and job satisfaction. A crossnational difference was discovered in the sample. An indirect effect of PsyCap with perceived safety climate through job satisfaction was valid only for European workers and not for Filipinos. Altogether, PsyCap and job satisfaction explained more than 20% of the variance in perceived safety climate.
The third study shed light on PsyCap as a protective factor in a safety critical work environment. The relationship between worries about accidents and sleepiness was examined in a sample of offshore workers from different nationalities, in order to investigate whether PsyCap could represent a protective factor. The findings indicated a reverse buffering effect in that PsyCap only had a protective impact on sleepiness when worries about accidents were low. The established associations remained consistent after controlling for workers’ years of experience as seafarers and their ratings of perceived safety climate.
In conclusion, this thesis extends the previous research by investigating the role of POB in safety. More precisely, it establishes empirical evidence suggesting that the behavioral dispositions of PsyCap are related to perceived safety climate across HROs from the aviation, offshore, and shipping industries. Thus, an increased emphasis on POB may present a new approach to increasing safety focus and loss prevention in these organizations. Future research should also investigate other HROs. Including PsyCap in the safety research could help create a better understanding of how people make work decisions based on their outlook on work and life in general. Although these results seem promising, more research is still needed, and this dissertation also addresses future research needs and the potential practical implications of these findings. Hopefully, there will be more research on PsyCap and safety aimed at preventing accidents in HROs.