Counterfactual, prevention and causal thinking about workplace slip and trip accidents : a study of safety professionals, managers and accident subjects

Lehane, Paul Michael (2015) Counterfactual, prevention and causal thinking about workplace slip and trip accidents : a study of safety professionals, managers and accident subjects. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.

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Abstract / Description

Counterfactual thinking typically follows an unexpected event and involves the mental simulation of an alternative outcome which can be either better or worse than the original one. In general, exceptional and controllable events are selected for change over those that are routine and uncontrollable, and actions are likely to be changed over inactions. Importantly an individual’s social role is thought to be critical in determining what is changed and how. Counterfactual thoughts have been associated with causal thinking and more recently with missed opportunities to prevent an unwanted outcome.

Accidents at work are unwanted outcomes and are likely to generate counterfactual thoughts. As slips and trips continue to cause a significant number of injuries they are the focus of this research. Safety Professionals, Managers and Accident Subjects are most commonly involved in accident investigations and the study asks whether their different social roles or the type of accident influences how they use counterfactual, prevention and causal thoughts.

612 respondents were recruited representing Safety Professionals, Managers and Accident Subjects. After reading a slip or trip scenario they completed a counterfactual, prevention and causal sentence and these were analysed against 14 structural dimensions, seven of which were used for the first time in this study.

The respondent’s job group and the type of accident were found to influence certain structural dimensions of the counterfactual, prevention and causal thoughts more than others. The respondent’s job group strongly influenced counterfactual direction, and the addition or subtraction of antecedents based on actions or inactions, whilst the type of accident strongly influenced the temporal location of the antecedent.

Norm Theory (Kahneman & Miller, 1986) proposed that exceptional antecedents were selected for counterfactual change and a categorisation of types of exceptional events has been developed and applied in this study.

The implications of these types of thoughts by Safety Professionals, Managers and Accident Subjects are considered.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information:
Uncontrolled Keywords: Office accidents -- Psychological aspects; Office accidents -- Prevention; Industrial accidents -- Psychological aspects; Industrial accidents -- Prevention; Falls (Accidents) -- Psychological aspects; Falls (Accidents) -- Prevention; Risk management -- Decision making; Causation; Counterfactuals (Logic)
Subjects: 300 Social sciences > 360 Social problems & services; associations
Department: School of Social Sciences (to June 2021)
School of Social Sciences and Professions
Depositing User: Mary Burslem
Date Deposited: 02 Sep 2016 08:40
Last Modified: 19 Jul 2021 16:04


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