Beus, Jeremy (2012-05). The Psychological Need for Safety at Work: A Cybernetic Perspective. Doctoral Dissertation.
Despite an increased understanding of the individual and contextual factors that influence both employee safety behavior and workplace safety incidents (e.g., injuries, accidents), there has been surprisingly little theoretical or empirical consideration of the individual employee's psychological experience of safety at work. Given that feeling safe is widely theorized to be a basic psychological need with implications for individual well-being and safety-related work behavior, the purpose of this dissertation was to use cybernetic theory-a conceptual framework that explains self-regulation through negative feedback processes-to explore both the antecedents and outcomes of individuals' perceived safety at work. Theory-based hypotheses were tested in a field sample of 595 production employees and their foremen at three weapons production sites in the southern United States. Results revealed that psychological safety climate and perceived job risk were both meaningful correlates of workers' perceived safety whereas personality variables (i.e., trait anxiety, safety locus of control) and personal safety knowledge were not meaningful correlates. Consistent with cybernetic theory, lower perceived safety was associated with increased safety-related anxiety. However, contrary to theoretical expectations, safety-related anxiety did not share consistent, positive associations with self- or foreman-rated safety behaviors. There was limited support, however, which suggested that safety-related anxiety is positively associated with self-reported safety participation behaviors. The implications of these findings in conjunction with a number of explorative analyses are discussed and recommendations for future research are provided.