The Moderating Effect of Organizational Safety Climate on Text Message Use and Work-Related Accidents: An Organizational-Level Investigation

The Moderating Effect of Organizational Safety Climate on Text Message Use and Work-Related Accidents: An Organizational-Level Investigation

Brian E. Kufner (Northcentral University, Prescott Valley, AZ, USA) and Laura E. Plybon (The Graduate School, Northcentral University, Prescott Valley, AZ, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/ijsodit.2012100104
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Employers’ increased acceptance and use of mobile technology has provided employees with the ability to be in constant contact with their employer and clients through multiple communication platforms. While mobile technology has increased employee productivity, research is beginning to show an association between an upward trend of mobile technology use to an increase of fatal and nonfatal accidents. The purpose of this study was to determine if organizational safety climate influences the relationship between text message use and work-related accidents. A significant relationship was found between text message use and work-related accidents. However, there was no statistically significant main effect of organizational safety climate on work-related accidents, or interaction effect of text message use and organizational safety climate on work-related accidents. Additional research is recommended to investigate the relationships between the variables – both quantitative with larger and more diverse samples and qualitative for more in depth information about the phenomenon.
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Employers are generally responsible for the safety of employees (Henshaw, Gaffney, Madl, & Paustenbach, 2007) and are encouraged to establish and maintain a climate aimed at the health and safety of employees while engaged in work-related activities (Dollard & Bakker, 2010). Employer perceptions of the organization’s safety climate have an influence on employee attitudes, work performance, and peer interaction regarding health and safety issues (Newnam, Griffin, & Mason, 2008). A change in employee perceptions can affect safety outcomes, such as the number of work-related accidents and injuries, and potentially affect employee safety behavior (Neal & Griffin, 2006; Newnam et al., 2008). A positive organizational climate toward safety that includes training, communication, and supervisory commitment reduces the frequency of accidents (Leiter, Zanaletti, & Argentero, 2009; Newnam et al., 2008; Probst, Brubaker, & Barsotti, 2008; Zohar, 2010a). Furthermore, organizational representatives should be aware of the risks to the health and safety of employees when promoting new technology in the workplace (Brown, Dennis, & Venkatesh, 2010; Coles & Hodgkins, 2008).

The growth of technological advancements has resulted in an increased need of employers to better understand workplace accidents as a result of technology use (DeBell, 2006). One area of particular concern involves the use of mobile technology for work-related activities. Mobile technology refers collectively to forms of cellular communications technology such as cell phones, text messaging, wireless computers, and personal digital assistants (PDA; Goggin, 2006). Organizations are willing to adopt mobile technologies based on demonstrations by individual managers or employees about how the technology can further improve the effectiveness or efficiency of the organization (Bott, Montagno, & Lane, 2010; Brown et al., 2010). Mobile technology users have identified benefits such as improved ability to do their jobs, improved sharing of ideas with co-workers, and increased flexibility in working hours (Kaupins, Coco, & McIntosh, 2007; Madden & Jones, 2008). Yet despite the benefits of mobility decreasing overhead costs and increasing employee contact with clients and customers (Kaupins et al., 2007; Luttenegger, 2010), mobile technology has increased liability for accidents associated with its use (Al-Hemoud & Al-Asfoor, 2006).

Since 2000, the potential effects of mobile technology on the health and safety of employees has been of increasing concern (Gilbert, Amalberti, Laroche, & Paries, 2007). Media reports have identified accidents, injuries, and even deaths associated with employee use of mobile technology. These reports have led to an examination of mobile technology use in automobile accidents, which has identified distractibility of the driver as being the main cause of the accident (Gurchiek, 2007; National Highway Traffic Safety Association [NHTSA], 2009a, 2009b; National Safety Council [NSC], 2010).

While increased attention has been directed toward mobile technology and its effect on employee health and safety (Eastin, Glynn, & Griffiths, 2007; Madden & Jones, 2008), much of the literature discussing the relationship between mobile technology and health and safety has focused on traffic accidents. Few, if any, studies have directly examined the prevalence of text message use and work-related accidents in organizations. Additionally, fragmentation across technological, psychological, and business literature has resulted in the absence of conceptual and theoretical foundations with which to understand individual behavior and the use of technology resulting in accidents (Weatherbee, 2010).

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