Workplace safety is an important component of an organisation’s work system, as a safe environment is associated with fewer accidents (Real 2008), happier employees (Jiang and Probst 2016), and more favourable business outcomes (OSHA n.d.; Probst and Estrada 2010). Unsafe workplaces can have a high financial toll on organisations through factors such as high workers compensation costs (Congressional Research Service 2019), productivity loss (Beus et al. 2016) and employee turnover (Clarke 2006). In addition, employees are more likely to experience accidents and injuries in unsafe environments (Leitao and Greiner 2016). The International Labour Organization (n.d.) reports that 340 million people around the world experience work-related accidents and 160 million experience work-related illnesses per year, with 2.3 million of these accidents and illnesses resulting in death (Hämäläinen et al. 2017). Furthermore, in the United States alone, safety incidents are estimated to cost US employers almost US $1 billion per week (OSHA n.d.). Needless to say, workplace safety is costly to both employee and organisational health, and it is in the organisation’s best interests to devote resources towards fostering a safe workplace.
When aiming to improve workplace safety, it is important to consider the behavioural, environmental, and personal factors that can contribute to a safe work environment, since more effective safety measures can be taken when these factors are understood and addressed. For example, employees’ safety performance and the underreporting of accidents and injuries (i.e. behavioural factors) can directly contribute to the level of safety in an organisation (Christian et al. 2009; Probst et al. 2008). Components of the work environment, such as an organisation’s safety climate and safety leadership, can also impact employees’ safety behaviour and safety outcomes (Clarke 2006; Griffin and Neal 2000; Zohar and Luria 2005). Finally, personal factors, such as employees’ motivation to act safely and their attitudes towards safety can influence their willingness to engage in safe practices (Brown et al. 2000; Christian et al. 2009). Organisations should strive to understand and address the behavioural, environmental, and personal factors that impact workplace safety in an effort to improve the overall health of the organisation and its people.