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The Decade of Behavior Honors Scholars at Capitol Hill Briefing

On October 5th, APA coordinated a congressional briefing highlighting award-winning research on making workplaces and public places safer.

By Anne Bettesworth

On October 5th, APA coordinated a congressional briefing highlighting award-winning research on making workplaces and public places safer. The Capitol Hill briefing for congressional and federal agency staff, titled "Workplace and Public Safety: The Role of Behavioral Research," was sponsored by the Decade of Behavior, the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, and the National Communication Association. On behalf of the Decade of Behavior, Steven Breckler, Executive Director for Science at APA, honored David Hofmann (University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill), Michael Burke (Tulane University), and Charles Atkin (Michigan State University) for their significant contributions to this timely issue. Deborah Boehm-Davis, Chair of the Department of Psychology at George Mason University, moderated the panel of speakers.

Hofmann focused his remarks on the role of leadership and safety climate in improving workplace safety, and thereby in reducing organizational costs. He defined safety climate as "informal, shared perceptions regarding what is expected, rewarded, supported, and valued," and noted that research suggests safety climate is a successful predictor of accidents and injuries. Hofmann emphasized that leaders influence safety climate by establishing it as a priority within their organizations, which in turn motivates, via social exchange, the commitment of others to the ultimate goal of enhancing workplace safety.

Burke discussed how successful training interventions can improve safety performance, which he defines as actions that workers engage in to promote health and safety in their environment. Burke's research suggests that worker training is most successful when multiple techniques, such as lectures, behavioral role modeling, simulation, and follow-up training, are used together with dialogue. This approach, he has found, results in greater knowledge acquisition, improved performance, and reduced accidents, illnesses, and injuries.

In the final presentation, Atkin described effective communication campaign strategies for improving health and safety. Some such successful media campaign strategies are accentuating the positive, addressing the competition, using media combinations, and fine-tuning fear appeals. Atkin suggested that a sophisticated approach improves the odds for success and adds to the value of campaign investment.

If you would like to read more about how behavioral research can inform workplace and public safety, please click on the Powerpoint presentation below.

View Atkin's presentation (PPT, 144KB)