An Actively Caring Model for Occupational Safety: A Field Test
Actively caring refers to individuals caring enough about the health and safety of others
to act accordingly.
Actively caring behavior in an industrial context can take the form of
continually looking for environmental hazards and unsafe work practices and
implementing appropriate corrective actions when unsafe conditions or behaviors are
Individuals presumed most likely to actively care are those high in self-esteem
(i.e., feel valuable), optimism (i.e., feel they can make a difference), and group
belongingness or cohesiveness (e.g., feel close to members of their work group).
to test the actively caring model, this study assessed the relationship between self-esteem,
group cohesion, and optimism with employees' self reports of willingness to actively
In addition to self report data, we assessed the occurrence of certain actively caring
behaviors in the work setting.
Specifically, actively caring was measured by counting the
number of "actively caring thank you cards" given or received for actively caring
Self-esteem, group cohesion, and optimism scores predicted significant and
independent variance in self reports to actively care.
Furthermore, those workers who
either gave or received thank you cards scored significantly higher on measures of self-
esteem and group cohesiveness than those workers who did not give or receive thank you
Implications for future research and application of the actively caring concept are
Safety equipment is often uncomfortable to use and safe operating procedures are often
inconvenient and time consuming to follow.
Furthermore, management often gives
mixed signals to employees concerning safety issues.
On the one hand, employees are
told not to work unsafely, but to perform more, faster, or better, and this often entails
In addition, the chances of an employee being involved in an accident is
On average, only about four employees in 100 are involved in lost work
time accidents per year (National Safety Council, 1991).
Therefore, when workers fail to
use safety equipment or don't follow safety procedures they are often rewarded by
increased comfort, convenience, or speed of work without experiencing any aversive
In other words, rewards for working unsafely are often soon and
probable, whereas the penalties for working unsafely are usually delayed and improbable.
One way to increase the supportive consequences for safe behaviors and the aversive
consequences for unsafe behaviors would be for management to make rewards contingent
on following safe work practices and penalties contingent on unsafe work behaviors.
However, managers are often absent when dangerous work is accomplished.