From Liberty Mutual's Research Institute for Safety
Safety warnings are everywhere – on machinery, road signs, medication bottles, electronics, cleaning solutions, and food items...the list goes on. In the workplace, safety warnings are meant to help workers make decisions to avoid actions that could lead to injury, illness, or even death. They are an important, and often required, part of a company’s overall safety strategy. But are workplace safety warnings effective in mitigating risk? Not always. Studies suggest that warning compliance rates are low, ranging anywhere from 17 to 37 percent. “There are many possible reasons for this,” says Mary Lesch, Ph.D., cognitive researcher at the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety. “The warnings may be improperly designed or placed, or they can become overly familiar, such that they are no longer noticed or thought about. Or, despite the warnings, some people may simply choose to engage in risky behaviors.” Lesch also notes that workplace factors such as time pressures, distractions, and cultural differences may hamper a worker’s ability to process a warning, which may contribute to noncompliance (see chart right). Traditionally, safety warning research has examined how warning variables (such as font size, color, and use of symbols) and receiver characteristics (such as age, gender, and risk-taking behavior) impact warning effectiveness. “These studies provide good information for the design and implementation of more effective warnings,” Lesch explains. “However, at the Research Institute, we take the issue a step further by investigating the cognitive processes that underlie the effects of these variables.” This is a FREE and OUTSTANDING read for all safety professionals around the world and I highly recommend it, as well as all the other great studies that Liberty Mutual does for our profession. Click Here to read the entire article/study.