Speaking of safety: the role of communication in managing occupational safety

Pieter August Cornelissen

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UT

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With over 374 million occupational accidents annually worldwide, occupational safety is a problematic and persistent issue. The aim in this dissertation is to contribute to safer work environments by increasing existing understandings of personal, social and organisational aspects that influence occupational safety.
This dissertation starts with a systematic literature review, examining the factors and their relationships that have been previously studied. The resulting overview served as a starting point, and identified several promising topics that were further explored in the subsequent empirical studies. Through qualitative interviews, supervisors’ safety beliefs and attitudes towards occupational safety were examined, and conflicting demands between safety and other organisational and managerial objectives were uncovered. While these insights contributed to current understanding of the (perceived) importance and value of occupational safety for hierarchical leaders, employees are the ones that are at risk the most in a typical organisation. Therefore, the influence of different levels of safety motivation and ability on safety climate and safety performance were examined, leading to new insights in ways employees could be motivated and enabled to work safely.
In the different studies, communication emerged as an important factor. However, existing conceptualisations of safety communication, especially those in contemporary measurement scales, appeared to be rather narrow and unilateral. In order to expand existing conceptualisations and help future researchers to study the impact of communication, a new safety communication measurement scale was developed.
Overall, the results illustrate that occupational safety is a very complex and difficult issue, with extensive levels of ambiguity concerning the effectivity of the various factors that have been studied. Furthermore, occupational safety is shown to be subject to the dynamics of the organisation and the organisational field, where it competes with other managerial and organisational objectives and is subjected to multiple and divergent prescriptions for ‘what is logical’. Lastly, the results illustrate that although safety communication is an important factor for improving occupational safety, current views do not do justice to the wide variety of different aspects that underlie safety communication, and should be expanded and broadened.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Twente
  • de Jong, Menno D.T., Supervisor
  • van Hoof, Joris J., Supervisor
Award date1 Feb 2019
Place of PublicationEnschede
Print ISBNs978-90-365-4706-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019


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