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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00668

Walking the plank: An experimental paradigm to investigate safety voice

  • 1London School of Economics and Political Science, United Kingdom

The investigation of people raising or withholding safety concerns, termed safety voice, has relied on report-based methodologies, with few experiments. Generalisable findings have been limited because: the behavioural nature of safety voice is rarely operationalised; the reliance on memory and recall has well-established biases; and determining causality requires experimentation. Across three studies, we introduce, evaluate and make available the first experimental paradigm for studying safety voice: the ‘Walking the plank’ paradigm. This paradigm presents participants with an apparent hazard (walking across a weak wooden plank) to elicit safety voice behaviours, and it addresses the methodological shortfalls of report-based methodologies. Study 1 (n = 129) demonstrated that the paradigm can elicit observable safety voice behaviours in a safe, controlled and randomised laboratory environment. Study 2 (n = 69) indicated it is possible to elicit safety silence for a single hazard when safety concerns are assessed and alternative ways to address the hazard are absent. Study 3 (n = 75) revealed that manipulating risk perceptions results in changes to safety voice behaviours. We propose a distinction between two independent dimensions (concerned-unconcerned and voice-silence) which yields a 2x2 safety voice typology. Demonstrating the need for experimental investigations of safety voice, the results found a consistent mismatch between self-reported and observed safety voice. The discussion examines insights on conceptualising and operationalising safety voice behaviours in relationship to safety concerns, and suggests new areas for research: replicating empirical studies, understanding the behavioural nature of safety voice, clarifying the personal relevance of physical harm, and integrating safety voice with other harm-prevention behaviours. Our article adds to the conceptual strength of the safety voice literature and provides a methodology and typology for experimentally examining people raising safety concerns.

Keywords: Safety voice, safety silence, Safety concerns, Experimental method, Behavioural observations

Received: 05 Oct 2018; Accepted: 11 Mar 2019.

Edited by:

Montgomery Anthony, University of Macedonia, Greece

Reviewed by:

M. Teresa Anguera, University of Barcelona, Spain
Aled Jones, Cardiff University, United Kingdom  

Copyright: © 2019 Noort, Reader and Gillespie. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Mr. Mark C. Noort, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, United Kingdom, m.c.noort@lse.ac.uk