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Supervisor support and risk perception: their relationship with unreported injuries and near misses.

Each year employers lose billions of dollars to employees missing work due to injuries ($142.2 billion in 2004; NSC NSC
National Security Council

Noun 1. NSC - a committee in the executive branch of government that advises the president on foreign and military and national security; supervises the Central Intelligence Agency
, 2006), as well as losing countless hours of labor from missed work (80,000,000 in 2004; NSC, 2006). In an effort to minimize these exorbitant costs and to maintain production and service, reduction of injuries in the workplace has been a continuing concern for organizations. One way to reduce injuries is by keeping accurate track of where and when injuries and/or near misses (a situation where the employee was in an unsafe situation which could have resulted in an injury) are occurring so that current safety problems as well as potential or emerging issues can be addressed. Thus, reporting of injuries and near misses is a critical concern for organizations.

The concept of unreported incidents and minor injuries escalating into major injuries is not new. Heinrich (1931) first developed a safety triangle indicating that for every 300 unsafe acts 29 minor injuries would occur and one major injury would occur. When minor injuries are unreported, and remain untreated, this may result in more serious injuries over time (Gallagher and Myers, 1996). Therefore, making sure that minor injuries and near misses are reported to organizations when they occur provides vital information that enables the organization to improve its safety outcomes. Despite the aforementioned a·fore·men·tioned  
Mentioned previously.

The one or ones mentioned previously.


mentioned before

Adj. 1.
 importance of making sure injuries and near misses are reported, little attention has been given to what impacts the likelihood of employees not reporting injuries needing a doctor's attention, first-aid cases, and/or near misses.

Supervisor impact on organizational safety has been well studied, and researchers have found that supervisor support of safety practices has a positive impact on safety outcomes (Zohar, 2002; Zohar and Luria Lu·ri·a , Salvador Edward 1912-1991.

Italian-born American biologist. He shared a 1969 Nobel Prize for investigating the mechanism of viral infection in living cells.
, 2004; Hofmann and Morgeson, 1999). Yet previous research has rarely looked at the issue of whether or not injuries of various degrees of seriousness and/or near misses are actually getting reported to the organization as a result of supervisor support. Past research has primarily focused on outcomes as either a reduction in injuries (Harshberger and Rose, 1991) or an increase in the overall number of safe behaviors (Zohar, 2002; DeJoy et al., 2000). Additionally, previous research has lacked an examination of the potential mechanisms through which supervisors may affect employee safety.

Studies in safety are much more limited when looking at risk perception (belief in the likelihood of being injured in·jure  
tr.v. in·jured, in·jur·ing, in·jures
1. To cause physical harm to; hurt.

2. To cause damage to; impair.

 due to inherent dangers on the job). As with supervisory support, the majority of studies looking at risk perception and safety have focused on safety behaviors as the primary outcome (Arezes, 2006; Rundmo, 2001; Cree and Kelloway, 1997), with few studies examining the likelihood of employees reporting incidents (Lorentz and Hill, 2000). None of these studies distinguished between various levels of injury seriousness nor looked at near misses, and the relationship between employee risk perception and supervisor support has received very little attention (Mearns et al., 2001; Nelkin and Brown, 1984).

Thus, the purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between both supervisor support and risk perception and the number of unreported injuries at multiple levels of seriousness and near misses. Specifically, we will be looking at two levels of injuries as well as near misses. The first level of injuries are those needing a doctor's attention. These injuries include OSHA reportable cases where the injury necessitates that the employee stop working and seek the care of a medical professional (this may or may not result in days away from work and/or restricted work duty). The second level of injury is a first-aid injury. These include injuries that do not need a doctor's visit, and need only minor treatment for which supplies could typically be found in a standard first-aid kit Noun 1. first-aid kit - kit consisting of a set of bandages and medicines for giving first aid
kit, outfit - gear consisting of a set of articles or tools for a specified purpose

first-aid kit first n
 (i.e., non-prescription medications, bandages/gauze pads/wraps, flushing Flushing, part of Queens, New York City, United States
Flushing, former village, now in N Queens borough of New York City, SE N.Y.; chartered 1645, inc. into Greater New York City with Queens in 1898.
 agents to clean wounds). Near misses include anytime an employee felt that they were in an unsafe situation due to circumstances CIRCUMSTANCES, evidence. The particulars which accompany a fact.
     2. The facts proved are either possible or impossible, ordinary and probable, or extraordinary and improbable, recent or ancient; they may have happened near us, or afar off; they are public or
, equipment, or their own actions which had a high probability of resulting in an injury, and only by good fortune did the employee remain uninjured. In addition to examining the relationships between these types of injuries and near misses and supervisor support and risk perception, we will also examine the potential mediating effect of risk perception on the relationship between supervisor support and unreported injuries and near misses.


Unreported Injuries

Whether or not injuries and near misses get reported is important to organizations because of the longer-term impact reporting can have on the company's safety outcomes. Reports of more minor injuries and near misses are often indicators of the organization's overall safety, and can allow management to make adjustments in safety policies and procedures Policies and Procedures are a set of documents that describe an organization's policies for operation and the procedures necessary to fulfill the policies. They are often initiated because of some external requirement, such as environmental compliance or other governmental  to prevent more serious injuries. However, if minor incidents and injuries go unreported more serious injuries will likely occur (Heinrich, 1931; Gallagher and Myers, 1996). Thus, the investigation of what causes employees not to report injuries and near misses is of great interest to organizations.

Although injury reporting is critical, the majority of research studies examining whether injuries of various degree of seriousness go unreported to the organization has remained focused on the impact of rewards systems (Collinson, 1999). Some researchers indicate that rewarding for safety is actually counterproductive coun·ter·pro·duc·tive  
Tending to hinder rather than serve one's purpose: "Violation of the court order would be counterproductive" Philip H. Lee.
 (Collinson, 1999; Kohn, 1993) because it encourages employees not to report injuries, while others find support for a positive relationship between incentives and improved safety (McAfee and Winn, 1989). Lauver and Lester (2007) also noted that both safety training and selection based on safety influence the likelihood of injuries being reported.

Supervisor Support

There are few studies that have examined the relationship between supervisor support and the likelihood of employees reporting injuries and near misses. Yet various studies allude to allude to
verb refer to, suggest, mention, speak of, imply, intimate, hint at, remark on, insinuate, touch upon see see, elude
 the potential relationships that may exist. Collinson's (1999) study of accident reporting on oil rigs focused primarily on the finding that employees did not report injuries due to the reward system present. However, additional findings in this study indicated that reports were also lower because of (1) "supervisors blaming and penalizing individuals" (1999: 586) when an injury occurred and (2) performance assessments being viewed as "surveillance." Lauver and Lester's (2007) findings that safety training and selection for safety impact reporting of injuries also indicate the potential link between reported and unreported injuries and supervisor support--as supervisors often determine (or at least enforce) training and selection practices, as well as reward systems.

Lauver (2007) finds that multiple practices, such as selection and compensation practices which are reinforced by supervisors, lead to fewer injuries, indicating a supervisor's influence on employees' safety focus. Kuo and Tsaur state that "when workers perceived their supervisor's support, an implied obligation for job safety develops" (2004: 293). This obligation to safety may also develop a feeling of responsibility within employees to report injuries and hazards experienced in near misses in order to communicate safety issues to their supervisor.

Although not looking specifically at safety, Akers and Eaton (2003) investigate under-reporting issues, looking at the aspect of chargeable time. This study found that one of the influences of under-reporting time was the belief that it led to promotions. This supported Lightner, Leisenring and Winters' (1983) finding that one of the primary reasons that under-reporting typically occurred was due to supervisors' influence. Tynan (2005) looked at the likelihood of employees taking part in upward communication which provided supervisors with potentially negatively valenced information, finding that how supervisors were likely to react to the information determined the likelihood of a subordinate giving candid can·did  
1. Free from prejudice; impartial.

2. Characterized by openness and sincerity of expression; unreservedly straightforward: In private, I gave them my candid opinion.
 information. Both of these studies provide scenarios leading to the deduction deduction, in logic, form of inference such that the conclusion must be true if the premises are true. For example, if we know that all men have two legs and that John is a man, it is then logical to deduce that John has two legs.  that accurate versus under-reporting of safety incidents may ultimately be influenced by employee perceptions of supervisors' expectations, level of encouragement for accurate communication, and the likelihood of negative consequences occurring.

More directly tied to the safety literature, Pransky, Snyder, Dembe and Himmelstein (1999) examined various reasons for under-reporting of work-related disorders. In this case study of 110 employees, as well as their managers and safety personnel, reasons for not reporting injuries included fear of reprisal reprisal, in international law, the forcible taking, in time of peace, by one country of the property or territory belonging to another country or to the citizens of the other country, to be held as a pledge or as redress in order to satisfy a claim.  as well as management not making changes or being responsive after reports. Guill (1989) indicates that under-reporting may be due to the lack of consequences for under-reporting as well as the lack of positive reinforcement positive reinforcement,
n a technique used to encourage a desirable behavior. Also called
positive feedback, in which the patient or subject receives encouraging and favorable communication from another person.
 for accurate reporting. Once again, both of these issues are reinforced (to varying degrees) by supervisors. When investigating train drivers, Clarke (1998) found that the strongest influence on employees' intent not to report incidents was their perception of how their managers would react to the report. If the employees believed an incident report would be received negatively by their manager, they were less likely to report the incident. Therefore, based on the aforementioned research, we propose the following:

H1: Positive employee perceptions of supervisor support for safety will be associated with a decrease in unreported injuries (injuries requiring doctor's attention, first-aid cases) and near misses.

Risk Perception

Research looking at employees' perceptions of their risk of injury on a job and how it relates to whether injuries go unreported is minimal. Employees in riskier job situations often view risk-taking and the potential of injury as part of the job, and believe that taking risks may be rewarded by their peers, or is the main way of getting the job done (Freudenberg, 1988; Slovic, 1987). There may even be a self-selection of individuals into jobs believed to have a higher risk of injury as certain individuals may have more of a sensation-seeking personality (Farley, 1986). These individuals may be less likely to actually report an injury or near miss if they self-selected into the potentially higher risk jobs due to the expectations they hold of the work. Other individuals may have a psychological way of dealing with higher risk perceptions so that employees take on a belief that injuries will not happen to them (Weinstein, 1989), thus resulting in more of a denial when an injury or a near miss does occur. Consequently, they may avoid reporting the incident. Additionally, if jobs are seen as hazardous, employees are less likely to see safety as a key organizational value (Earnest EARNEST, contracts. The payment of a part of the price of goods sold, or the delivery of part of such goods, for the purpose of binding the contract.
, 2000). This would cause employees not to report injuries because of the lack of interest or importance they may see the organization placing on these potential reports.

In Pransky et al.'s (1999) case study of three industrial facilities, one of the reasons indicated for under-reporting of workplace injuries was the belief that pain was simply an ordinary part of employee work activity. Clarke (1998) also found in her investigation of drivers on the British railway that the drivers' intent to report hazardous incidents was reduced when they believed that the incidents were simply part of the job. Thus, although employee injuries and their perceptions of job risk may be related employees may still have the tendency not to report all of their injuries and/or near misses as they do not see them as uncommon. This relationship may be even stronger in regard to the likelihood of employees reporting more minor injuries and near misses, as the perception of a riskier workplace may lead workers to believe that all employees incur To become subject to and liable for; to have liabilities imposed by act or operation of law.

Expenses are incurred, for example, when the legal obligation to pay them arises. An individual incurs a liability when a money judgment is rendered against him or her by a court.
 more minor injuries and, consequently, these injuries are not worth complaining about. If jobs are perceived as risky, the reporting of near misses may seem fruitless fruit·less  
1. Producing no fruit.

2. Unproductive of success: a fruitless search. See Synonyms at futile.
 as upper management is perceived to already know about the risk. Furthermore, the risk is often believed to be part of the job and reporting near misses would be seen as simply restating the obvious. Therefore, we hypothesize hy·poth·e·size  
v. hy·poth·e·sized, hy·poth·e·siz·ing, hy·poth·e·siz·es
To assert as a hypothesis.

To form a hypothesis.

H2: Employee perceptions of a higher injury risk factor in their work environment will be associated with an increase in unreported injuries (injuries requiring doctor's attention and first-aid cases) and near misses.

Risk Perception as a Mediator mediator n. a person who conducts mediation. A mediator is usually a lawyer, or retired judge, but can be a non-attorney specialist in the subject matter (like child custody) who tries to bring people and their disputes to early resolution through a conference.  

Although researchers have found that supervisors typically can influence individuals' responses to safety situations, the way they impact these behaviors has not been completely explored. This study investigates the potential of risk perception as one of the factors that may impact whether supervisors actually influence the accuracy of injury reporting. As a precursor precursor /pre·cur·sor/ (pre´kur-ser) something that precedes. In biological processes, a substance from which another, usually more active or mature, substance is formed. In clinical medicine, a sign or symptom that heralds another.  to examining whether risk perception is a mediator between supervisor support and unreported injuries, the relationship between supervisor support and risk perception must first be established.

One of the organizational factors found to have an impact on risk perceptions is management commitment (Fleming et al., 1998), which is often portrayed por·tray  
tr.v. por·trayed, por·tray·ing, por·trays
1. To depict or represent pictorially; make a picture of.

2. To depict or describe in words.

3. To represent dramatically, as on the stage.
 through supervisor behaviors. Supervisor attitudes have been noted to play an important role in developing employee risk perceptions of their workplace (Nelkin and Brown, 1984). Cooper (2001) discusses that safety is (1) learned from others and (2) learned from everyday experiences. Although upper management must support the belief that safety is important, it is the immediate supervisors that are able to convey the everyday experiences to employees. The importance that supervisors place on safety will determine how employees view the steps that the organization is taking to reduce the risk of injuries. If a belief exists that supervisors and/or the organization are doing nothing to increase safety, then the perception of a higher risk of injuries within the workplace is likely. Additionally, measures of safety climate often have items asking about risk perception included in them, and leadership and supervisor support have been found to improve perceptions of the safety climate (Tomas et al., 1999; Barling et al., 2002; Zohar, 2000; Zohar and Luria, 2004). Thus, supervisor support likely influences the everyday perceptions that employees have about their level of risk for injury on the job.

When examining causes of accidents and near misses on offshore oil and gas installations, unsafe behaviors were indicated as the best predictor of injuries. A major cause of these unsafe behaviors was the perceived pressure to hit production targets (Mearns et al., 2001)--perceptions which were influenced by supervisors. When pressures come from supervisors to perform, employees are probably more likely to perceive a reduced belief in the importance of safety behavior. As a consequence, they may also be both more likely to see an increase in job risks (as fewer employees are actually practicing safe behaviors) and less likely to report injuries.

Behn, Thompson, and Hilton (1999) noted that actions intended to demonstrate the importance of safety can lead to both higher levels of perceived supervisor support for safety as well as higher levels of perceived safety in the workplace. Additionally, Zohar (2002) noted that supervisors providing feedback and rewards for safety helped to improve both safe behaviors and perceptions of a safe climate. Both of these studies' findings indicate that the relationship between supervisor behaviors and safety outcomes may be impacted by risk perception.

Perceptions of workplace hazards, and whether or not these hazards are acceptable, help to determine how likely individuals are to report something and in turn how likely they are to get injured (Earnest, 2000). The perceived acceptability of reporting hazards and importance of improving conditions by making organizational changes to eliminate hazards are both expected to be influenced by supervisors. Supervisor support leads to lower levels of perceived risk, so that employees may have an improved belief in the feasibility of staying safe, causing them to be more likely to report injuries when they occur. Thus, risk perception is believed to mediate MEDIATE, POWERS. Those incident to primary powers, given by a principal to his agent. For example, the general authority given to collect, receive and pay debts due by or to the principal is a primary power.  the relationship between supervisor support and unreported injuries and near misses.

H3: Employee risk perceptions will have a mediating effect on the relationship between perceived supervisor support and unreported injuries (injuries requiring doctor's attention and first-aid cases) and near misses.



The sample was obtained from eight organizations in high-risk industrial environments (manufacturing, distribution, public utilities, mining), all located in the same Midwestern state. Four hundred and sixty-four employees completed the survey. Seventy percent of the respondents In the context of marketing research, a representative sample drawn from a larger population of people from whom information is collected and used to develop or confirm marketing strategy.  were male and 20% were female (with 10% not identifying gender). The mean age of the respondents was 39 and ranged from 18 to 70. Fifty-six percent of the respondents had a high school diploma A high school diploma is a diploma awarded for the completion of high school. In the United States and Canada, it is considered the minimum education required for government jobs and higher education. An equivalent is the GED.  or GED GED
1. general equivalency diploma

2. general educational development

GED (US) n abbr (Scol) (= general educational development) →
 and 32% had an associates degree or higher (with 12% not identifying education level). Eighty-four percent of the respondents were Caucasian, with less than 1% African American African American Multiculture A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa. See Race. , Asian, and Latino (with 15% not identifying ethnicity ethnicity Vox populi Racial status–ie, African American, Asian, Caucasian, Hispanic ).


Managers from the participating organizations distributed the paperand-pencil surveys to their employees. A cover letter from the research team accompanied the survey, assuring the respondents that only aggregated results would be reported and that their individual responses would remain anonymous. Employees filled out the surveys on company time and returned the surveys directly to the first author in confidential envelopes.


Independent Variables. The survey asked the employees about their perceptions regarding supervisor support of safety at their organization as well as the risk of injury within their current position. Participants responded on a five-point scale with scale anchors ranging from 1 = "not at all" to 5 = "to a great extent."

Supervisor Support. The three-item scale asked respondents the extent to which "supervisor feedback reinforces safety practices," "supervisors seem to care about safety," and "supervisors place a strong emphasis on safety." These three items were aggregated to form the supervisor support scale. This scale demonstrated good internal consistency In statistics and research, internal consistency is a measure based on the correlations between different items on the same test (or the same subscale on a larger test). It measures whether several items that propose to measure the same general construct produce similar scores.  (Cronbach's alpha Cronbach's (alpha) has an important use as a measure of the reliability of a psychometric instrument. It was first named as alpha by Cronbach (1951), as he had intended to continue with further instruments.  = .87).

Risk Perception. The two-item scale asked respondents the extent to which "taking risks is part of the job" and "the odds of being in an accident in the next 12 months are high." These two items were combined for the risk perception scale. Internal consistency for this scale is .64, which is not very high, but acceptable for a two-item measure.

Dependent Variables. Each of the respondents was asked to indicate the number of unreported injuries that each had incurred with the organization. Participants provided information regarding three categories of safety incidents: injuries needing doctors' attention in the last 12 months (i.e., OSHA recordable cases), injuries needing first-aid attention in the last 12 months, and near misses incurred in the last 30 days.

Control Variables. Size of the organization was measured with a single, open-ended item asking the upper management of participating organizations: "Approximately how many people are in your organization?" Type of industry was measured with a single open-ended item asking upper management the "type of industry" in which they conduct business. The organizations were then classified using OSHA's categorizations: agriculture, forestry and fishing; construction; manufacturing; transportation and public utilities; wholesale and retail trade; finance, insurance, and real estate; and services. These industries were then broken down into two classifications--high risk and low risk--based on the incidence rates per industry provided by OSHA records.


Multiple linear regression Linear regression

A statistical technique for fitting a straight line to a set of data points.
 analysis was used to test the hypothesized relationships between supervisor support and risk perception and individuals' unreported injuries and near misses (Hypotheses 1 and 2). We then used the procedure suggested by Baron baron

Title of nobility, ranking in modern times immediately below a viscount or a count (in countries without viscounts). The wife of a baron is a baroness. Originally, in the early Middle Ages, the term designated a tenant of whatever rank who held a tenure of barony
 and Kenny (1985) to test for the mediating effect of risk perception on the relationship between supervisor support and unreported injuries and near misses (Hypothesis 3). Specifically, we first examined the model in which the hypothesized mediator (risk perception) was regressed on the independent variable (supervisor support) (Model 1). Then the dependent variables (unreported injuries and near misses) were regressed on the independent variables (Model 2). Finally, we added risk perception to Model 2 to evaluate the full model (Model 3). Hypothesis 3 is supported when the following conditions are met (Baron and Kenny, 1985): (a) the relationship in Model 1 is significant, (b) the relationship in Model 2 is significant, (c) the relationship between risk perception (the mediator) and the dependent variable in Model 3 is significant, and (d) the significant relationship between supervisor support and the dependent variable found in Model 2 is either no longer significant in Model 3 (indicating full mediating effect) or reduced (suggesting partial mediating effect). For all these analyses, we included industry and organization size as control variables.


Correlations and Descriptives

Descriptive statistics descriptive statistics

see statistics.
, reliability estimates, and correlations for all measures are reported in Table 1. The correlation between supervisor support and unreported injuries needing doctors' attention (r = -.12) was significant at the p < .05 level, indicating some support for the relationship between supervisor support and injury reporting. The correlation between risk perception and unreported injuries needing doctors' attention (r = .11) was significant at the p < .05 level and the correlation between risk perception and unreported near misses (r = .18) was significant at the p < .01 level, indicating some initial support for the relationship between risk perception and an increase in the number of unreported injuries and near misses. The correlation between supervisor support and risk perception (r = -.13) was significant at the p < .01 level, indicating support for a relationship between these two variables.


As noted in the Analyses section, the first hypothesis was tested by regressing the three dependent variables on supervisor support and the control variables (industry type and organization size). Supervisor support showed statistically significant inverse (mathematics) inverse - Given a function, f : D -> C, a function g : C -> D is called a left inverse for f if for all d in D, g (f d) = d and a right inverse if, for all c in C, f (g c) = c and an inverse if both conditions hold.  relationships with unreported injuries requiring doctor's attention ([beta] = -.12, p < .05) and unreported first-aid cases ([beta] = -.10, p < .05), but not with unreported near misses ([beta] = -.03, p = .55), indicating partial support for Hypothesis 1 (see Table 2).

The second hypothesis was tested by regressing the three dependent variables on risk perception and the control variables (industry type and organization size). Risk perception was found to be related with unreported injuries needing doctor's attention ([beta] = .11, p < .05) and unreported near misses ([beta] = .20, p < .01), but not with unreported first-aid injuries ([beta] = .02, p = .69), indicating partial support for Hypothesis 2 (see Table 2).

The third hypothesis was tested by using Baron and Kenny's (1985) method to determine mediation mediation, in law, type of intervention in which the disputing parties accept the offer of a third party to recommend a solution for their controversy. Mediation has long been a part of international law, frequently involving the use of an international commission, . Based on the results of the previous analyses for Hypotheses 1 and 2, it was appropriate to examine only the mediating effect of risk perception on the relationship between supervisor support and unreported injuries needing doctor's attention. This is the only type of unreported injury that had significant relationships with both the independent variable (supervisor support) and hypothesized mediator (risk perception). Results of the analyses are shown in Table 3.

As seen in Table 3, in Model 1, the relationship between supervisor support and risk perception is significant ([beta] = -.12, p < .01). The negative standardized effect size reflecting the relationship between supervisor support and unreported injuries needing doctor's attention reduces in absolute value from -.12 (p < .05) in Model 2 to -.10 (p < .05) in Model 3 when risk perception was included. The effect of risk perception is also significant in Model 3 ([beta] = .10, p < .05). Taken together, these results indicate a partial mediating effect of risk perception on the relationship between supervisor support and unreported injuries needing doctor's attention. Thus, there is partial support for Hypothesis 3.


Under-reporting of work-related injuries and incidents is common (Pransky et al., 1999), yet exploration of why under-reporting occurs is infrequent in·fre·quent  
1. Not occurring regularly; occasional or rare: an infrequent guest.

. Because of the importance of having accurate injury information in order to reduce major injuries, this is an area that needs to be explored more thoroughly. This study has taken one additional step in determining what may contribute to an employee's decision not to report injuries or near misses within their organization. It is our hope that these findings will help guide organizations in how to improve injury and incident reporting.

Additionally, the findings that risk perception partially mediates the relationship between supervisor support and the likelihood of employees reporting injuries requiring a doctor's attention should be considered. Because the relationship is only partially mediated me·di·ate  
v. me·di·at·ed, me·di·at·ing, me·di·ates
1. To resolve or settle (differences) by working with all the conflicting parties:
 by risk perception, it is likely that supervisor support facilitates improved injury numbers and injury reporting in multiple ways (e.g., improving the value placed on safety, providing safety training and rewards). It is also likely that some supervisor behaviors, whether perceived accurately or not, will still have an impact on safety outcomes (Fleming et al., 1998). Yet because of the partial mediation found, it is also important to further consider the impact that supervisors have on employees' risk perceptions as this is one area they can influence which may lead to improved overall safety.


The ultimate question is "How can organizations and theorists take these additional findings and build on them to help reduce the number of unreported injuries?" Our two independent variables of interest are risk perception and supervisor support. First, let's consider the implications of the findings related to risk perception. If higher perceptions of risk lead to injuries and/or near misses going unreported, it suggests that organizations should emphasize ways to improve both the perceived importance of reporting injuries and near misses, as well as ways to improve employees' overall perceptions of their organization's risk factor. To improve the perception of importance in reporting, the organization should emphasize both the individual and organizational benefits of reporting not just the OSHA recordable cases that are required by law, but also the minor incidents regarding first-aid cases and near misses. This emphasis on safety, being aware of incidents, and how to report them should begin during the selection process. The organization could emphasize inherent risks at the organization as well as expected safety behaviors as part of their "realistic job preview Realistic Job Previews (RJPs) are devices used in early stages of personnel selection to provide potential applicants with information on both positive and negative aspects of the job. ." In addition, the interview process could include certain "what if" questions of potential supervisors and employees as to how they would handle or react to a situation that posed a certain risk or to a situation where an injury actually occurred. The organization should make the importance of reporting safety incidents a standardized piece of new employee orientation. Supervisors should follow-up on these topics with annual "refresher" sessions. Training content should include some statistics on how reporting of these minor incidents will actually help to reduce the overall risk present in the organization's environment. Supervisors also need to make sure that they are responsive to employee incident reports and emphasize how the environment can be made safer through the individual actions of employees. This builds on Behn et al.'s (1999) findings that actions intended to demonstrate the importance of safety can lead to higher levels of perceived workplace safety.

Next, it is important to examine the implications of the supervisor support findings. The results of this study pertain to pertain to
verb relate to, concern, refer to, regard, be part of, belong to, apply to, bear on, befit, be relevant to, be appropriate to, appertain to
 employee perceptions of supervisor support, so any interventions should be geared toward training supervisors on behaviors they can engage in that will be visible to their subordinates. Past studies have provided support for supervisor training impacting safety outcomes (Zohar, 2002; Zohar and Luria, 2004). Thus, training supervisors on how to encourage reporting of incidents and injuries as well as how to respond to these reports should help improve employees' perceptions of their supervisor's support.

Another recommendation we would suggest in regard to building perceptions of supervisor support (as well as encouraging incident reporting) is for the supervisor to give feedback to employees about what actions have been taken to correct potentially hazardous situations that were identified in response to a near miss or first-aid case. Furthermore, it would seem prudent that the supervisor would encourage their subordinates to take an active role in the problem-solving process for an identified safety concern. Finally, if employee ideas for improving safety are implemented, the supervisor could effectively reinforce their commitment to safety by recognizing/rewarding the appropriate employees for their contributions to improving organizational safety.

Limitations and Directions for Future Research

While this study examines an under-researched area of the safety literature, it does have some methodological limitations. First, all of the data in this study are cross-sectional. Although we ask respondents to answer questions about safety incidents in the previous year, these are retrospective LAW, RETROSPECTIVE. A retrospective law is one that is to take effect, in point of time, before it was passed.
     2. Whenever a law of this kind impairs the obligation of contracts, it is void. 3 Dall. 391.
 accounts. Thus, it is important to note that we cannot make causal causal /cau·sal/ (kaw´z'l) pertaining to, involving, or indicating a cause.


relating to or emanating from cause.
 inferences about the relationships we found. For example, it is possible that injury reporting behavior may influence employees' perceptions of risk rather than the other way around. The theory we present suggests a specified direction for the hypothesized relationships, but we cannot make definitive conclusions until our findings are replicated across time. Thus, we encourage future research studies on injury reporting to implement longitudinal lon·gi·tu·di·nal
Running in the direction of the long axis of the body or any of its parts.
 research designs.

A second limitation is the fact that all the participating organizations were located within the same midwestern state. Some of the concerns about generalizability are alleviated al·le·vi·ate  
tr.v. al·le·vi·at·ed, al·le·vi·at·ing, al·le·vi·ates
To make (pain, for example) more bearable: a drug that alleviates cold symptoms. See Synonyms at relieve.
 because a good variety of high-risk industrial environments were represented in the sample. Nevertheless, further investigation of these relationships with more geographically diverse organizations is warranted. Additionally, future research should consider looking at specific types of industries and how unreported injuries may vary depending on the industry and differing OSHA requirements for particular jobs. Investigating the effect that workers' compensation laws (and their associated costs) may have on the reporting of injuries, especially on those injuries needing a doctor's attention (i.e., OSHA recordable cases), would also be an interesting avenue for further research.

Future research studies may also want to incorporate a new measure of risk perception. In this study, a two-item scale (with only fair reliability) was used. This may have limited our ability to detect other significant relationships that may exist between risk perception and injury reporting. Additionally, inherent in this relationship between risk perceptions and the reporting of near misses is the paradox paradox, statement that appears self-contradictory but actually has a basis in truth, e.g., Oscar Wilde's "Ignorance is like a delicate fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone.  that in this study employees are asked to self-report their near misses, yet employees may not have an accurate perception of their own near misses if they either see the risk as part of the job or have not assessed a risk as high. No matter how well a near miss is defined, it is inherently subjective depending on the individual viewing the situation. Future studies may need to draw on peer reports of unreported near misses or explore other avenues to get an additional perspective on what is not getting reported.

Finally, we acknowledge that the control variables and proposed mediator did not represent an exhaustive list of possible predictors. Provided that they are theory-driven, we encourage future research studies on injury reporting to incorporate additional control variables into the analyses and to examine other potential mediators of the relationships between supervisor support and safety outcomes.


The current study contributes to the safety literature by examining the relationships between supervisor support and risk perception and the number of injuries and near misses that go unreported. Our findings show that supervisor support and risk perception have significant relationships with unreported injuries and near misses, indicating that organizations are not receiving vital information about safety problems and concerns in their workplace that could lead to more serious injuries in the future and ultimately increased costs and lost revenues. This suggests that organizations need to focus on managing these specific employee perceptions in an effort to ensure the reporting of more minor safety incidents (first-aid cases and near misses) in order to improve the organization's overall safety environment.


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Kristy J. Lauver

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Scott Lester

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Huy Le

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Table 1
Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations between Supervisor
Support, Risk Perception, Control Variables, and Injuries/Near Misses

Variable                    Mean    N     SD        1

1. Supervisor Support       3.69   427   0.92   (.87)

2. Risk Perception          2.45   428   1.08   -0.13 **

3. Doctor's Unreported      0.15   437   0.53   -0.12 *

4. First-aid Unreported     0.32   439   1.24    0.09

5. Near Misses Unreported   0.46   439   2.62    0.02

6. Type of Industry         0.47   439   0.50    0.06

7. Size of Organization     0.73   439   0.44   -0.12 *

Variable                        2         3         4        5

1. Supervisor Support

2. Risk Perception          (.64)

3. Doctor's Unreported       0.11 *    (--)

4. First-aid Unreported      0.01      0.16 **   (--)

5. Near Misses Unreported    0.18 **   0.05      0.06     (--)

6. Type of Industry         -0.11 *    0.04      0.10 *   0.06

7. Size of Organization      0.14 **   0.04      0.07     0.10

Variable                        6         7

1. Supervisor Support

2. Risk Perception

3. Doctor's Unreported

4. First-aid Unreported

5. Near Misses Unreported

6. Type of Industry         (--)

7. Size of Organization     -0.53 **   (--)

Coefficient alphas for the two scales are on the diagonal

* Indicates correlations with a p-value <. 05; ** Indicates
correlations with a p-value <. 01.

Table 2
Results of Regression Models Examining the Effects of Supervisor
Support and Risk Perception on Unreported Injuries and Near Misses

Dependent Variable: Supervisor Support

Independent    Doctor's Attention
Variables      Injuries          First-aid Injuries      Near Misses

                 [beta]     p      [beta]     p          [beta]     p

Industry             .09   .14         .08   .17             .00   .99
Size                 .07   .22        -.05   .42            -.10   .08

Supervisor          -.12#  .02#       -.10#  .05#            .03   .55
               [R.sup.2]   p    [R.sup.2]    p       [R.sup.2]    p

                     .02#  .03#        .02#  .04#            .01   .20

Dependent Variable: Risk Perception

Independent    Doctor's Attention
Variables      Injuries          First-aid Injuries     Near Misses

                 [beta]     p      [beta]     p         [beta]     p

Industry             .09   .12         .08   .16            .01   .92
Size                 .07   .23        -.04   .52           -.13#  .03#

Risk                 .11#  .02#        .02   .69            .20#  .00#
               [R.sup.2]    p    [R.sup.2]    p       [R.sup.2]    p

                     .02#  .04#        .01   .21            .05#  .00#

N = 429; bold values indicate significant effect at p < .05.

Note: bold values indicate significant effect at p < .05 is
indicated with #.

Table 3
Results of Regression Models Examining the Mediating Effects of Risk
Perception on the Relationship between Supervisor Support and
Unreported Injuries Needing a Doctor's Attention

                                          [beta]   P    [R.sup.2]    p

Model 1 :
Dependent Variable: Risk Perception                        .04      .00
  Industry                                -.06     .29
  Size                                     .10     .08
  Supervisor Support                      -.12     .01
Model 2:
Dependent Variable: Unreported Injuries                    .02      .04
    (Doctor's Attention)
  Industry                                 .08     .14
  Size                                     .07     .22
  Supervisor Support                      -.12     .02
Model 3:
Dependent Variable: Unreported Injuries                    .03      .01
    (Doctor's Attention)
  Industry                                 .09     .13
  Size                                     .06     .32
  Supervisor Support                      -.10     .03
  Risk Perception                          .10     .05
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Author:Lauver, Kristy J.; Lester, Scott; Le, Huy
Publication:Journal of Managerial Issues
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2009
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