The role of individual risk perception in an organization managing high risks


Communication is often recognized as pivotal for organizations managing high-risk technologies. Such communication is generally informed by industry and government regulations, which are then translated into procedures, guidelines, and the like. These are disseminated, discussed and trained among staff by the executive team members, with the aim to reduce potential dangers. However, it is questionable as to whether all organizational members share the same perception and therefore interpretation, of risk. Interview data evidence suggests that employees, other than the executive team are notpreoccupied with regulations, but rather with the question of how to keep themselves and their fellow workers safe. Following from this assumption, mere communication is perceived to be inadequate to create common awareness concerning safety and potential risk.

This paper offers the results of empirical research, based on Repertory Grid, conducted with all employees of a natural gas terminal in Europe about their perceptions of the risks faced by their organization. It reveals that indeed those occupying different roles in the organization have very different perceptions of workplace risks. These differences are affected by various factors such as the level of experience and tacit knowledge. However, previous real life threatening experiences seem to be a dominant predictor for a broader and more divergent view on the present risks. These findings might have a major impact on risk communication by transforming the transfer of procedures into quasi-risky situation experiences, which has implications for safety courses and training.

📥 Download this paper from Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Engaged Management Scholarship, Atlanta, Georgia, September 19-22, 2013

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