An investigation into how work-related road safety can be enhanced

Banks, Tamara Dee (2008) An investigation into how work-related road safety can be enhanced. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

Abstract

Despite the facts that vehicle incidents continue to be the most common mechanism for Australian compensated fatalities and that employers have statutory obligations to provide safe workplaces, very few organisations are proactively and comprehensively managing their work-related road risks. Unfortunately, limited guidance is provided in the existing literature to assist practitioners in managing work-related road risks. The current research addresses this gap in the literature. To explore how work-related road safety can be enhanced, three studies were conducted.

Study one explored the effectiveness of a range of risk management initiatives and whether comprehensive risk management practices were associated with safety outcomes. Study two explored barriers to, and facilitators for, accepting risk management initiatives. Study three explored the influence of organisational factors on road safety outcomes to identify optimal work environments for managing road risks.

To maximise the research sample and increase generalisability, the studies were designed to allow data collection to be conducted simultaneously drawing upon the same sample obtained from four Australian organisations. Data was collected via four methods. A structured document review of published articles was conducted to identify what outcomes have been observed in previously investigated work-related road safety initiatives. The documents reviewed collectively assessed the effectiveness of 19 work-related road safety initiatives. Audits of organisational practices and process operating within the four researched organisations were conducted to identify whether organisations with comprehensive work-related road risk management practices and processes have better safety outcomes than organisations with limited risk management practices and processes. Interviews were conducted with a sample of 24 participants, comprising 16 employees and eight managers. The interviews were conducted to identify what barriers and facilitators within organisations are involved in implementing work-related road safety initiatives and whether differences in fleet safety climate, stage of change and safety ownership relate to work-related road safety outcomes. Finally, questionnaires were administered to a sample of 679 participants. The questionnaires were conducted to identify which initiatives are perceived by employees to be effective in managing work-related road risks and whether differences in fleet safety climate, stage of change and safety ownership relate to work-related road safety outcomes.

Seven research questions were addressed in the current research project. The key findings with respect to each of the research questions are presented below.

Research question one: What outcomes have been observed in previously investigated work-related road safety initiatives? The structured document review indicated that initiatives found to be positively associated with occupational road safety both during and after the intervention period included: a pay rise; driver training; group discussions; enlisting employees as community road safety change agents; safety reminders; and group and individual rewards.

Research question two: Which initiatives are perceived by employees to be effective in managing work-related road risks? Questionnaire findings revealed that employees believed occupational road risks could best be managed through making vehicle safety features standard, providing practical driver skills training and through investigating serious vehicle incidents. In comparison, employees believed initiatives including signing a promise card commitment to drive safely, advertising the organisation’s phone number on vehicles and consideration of driving competency in staff selection process would have limited effectiveness in managing occupational road safety.

Research question three: Do organisations with comprehensive work-related road risk management practices and processes have better safety outcomes than organisations with limited risk management practices and processes? The audit identified a difference among the organisations in their management of work-related road risks. Comprehensive risk management practices were associated with employees engaging in overall safer driving behaviours, committing less driving errors, and experiencing less fatigue and distraction issues when driving. Given that only four organisations participated in this research, these findings should only be considered as preliminary. Further research should be conducted to explore the relationship between comprehensiveness of risk management practices and road safety outcomes with a larger sample of organisations.

Research question four: What barriers and facilitators within organisations are involved in implementing work-related road safety initiatives? The interviews identified that employees perceived six organisational characteristics as potential barriers to implementing work-related road safety initiatives. These included: prioritisation of production over safety; complacency towards work-related road risks; insufficient resources; diversity; limited employee input in safety decisions; and a perception that road safety initiatives were an unnecessary burden. In comparison, employees perceived three organisational characteristics as potential facilitators to implementing work-related road safety initiatives. These included: management commitment; the presence of existing systems that could support the implementation of initiatives; and supportive relationships.

Research question five: Do differences in fleet safety climate relate to work-related road safety outcomes? The interviews and questionnaires identified that organisational climates with high management commitment, support for managing work demands, appropriate safety rules and safety communication were associated with employees who engaged in safer driving behaviours. Regression analyses indicated that as participants’ perceptions of safety climate increased, the corresponding likelihood of them engaging in safer driving behaviours increased. Fleet safety climate was perceived to influence road safety outcomes through several avenues. Some of these included: the allocation of sufficient resources to manage occupational road risks; fostering a supportive environment of mutual responsibility; resolving safety issues openly and fairly; clearly communicating to employees that safety is the top priority; and developing appropriate work-related road safety policies and procedures.

Research question six: Do differences in stage of change relate to work-related road safety outcomes? The interviews and questionnaires identified that participants’ perceptions of initiative effectiveness were found to vary with respect to their individual stage of readiness, with stage-matched initiatives being perceived most effective. In regards to safety outcomes, regression analyses identified that as participants’ progress through the stages of change, the corresponding likelihood of them being involved in vehicle crashes decreases.

Research question seven: Do differences in safety ownership relate to work-related road safety outcomes? The interviews and questionnaires revealed that management of road risks is often given less attention than other areas of health and safety management in organisations. In regards to safety outcomes, regression analyses identified that perceived authority and perceived shared ownership both emerged as significant independent predictors of self-reported driving behaviours pertaining to fatigue and distractions. The regression models indicated that as participants’ perceptions of the authority of the person managing road risks increases, and perceptions of shared ownership of safety tasks increases, the corresponding likelihood of them engaging in driving while fatigued or multitasking while driving decreases.

Based on the findings from the current research, the author makes several recommendations to assist practitioners in developing proactive and comprehensive approaches to managing occupational road risks. The author also suggests several avenues for future research in the area of work-related road safety.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 29683
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Davey, Jeremy, Biggs, Herbert, & King, Mark
Keywords: work-related road safety, fleet safety, occupational road safety, workplace health and safety, initiatives, interventions, stages of change, transtheoretical model, fleet safety climate, safety ownership, change facilitators, change barriers
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety - Qld (CARRS-Q)
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 14 Jan 2010 02:11
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:54

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