accident proneness

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The propensity of an individual to suffer (or cause) more than an average number of accidents. This is of particular interest in industrial and organizational psychology, which is anxious to analyse the causes of accidents in the workplace in order to reduce their occurrence and their inevitable costs. There is, however, some doubt as to whether such a condition does in fact exist, or whether some people are simply the unlucky statistics that go to make up a normal distribution of accident frequency.

On the other hand, it is not hard to imagine that accidents are more likely to occur at work (or anywhere else) if concentration is distracted by such extraneous factors as fatigue, illness, emotional preoccupation, or stress. Machine operators, for example, have certain skills at processing the information perceived by their senses so that an appropriate response is initiated. In addition to this skill, the personal qualities of the operator must also be involved in the smooth operation of the machine. If the operator is aware that his or her skill with the machine is less than it should be, this is not necessarily a recipe for accidents to occur; the intelligent operator will, under these circumstances, work more slowly, more cautiously, and with greater concentration. It is often, in fact, the more highly skilled operator, many of whose responses are automatic, who is more easily distracted by extraneous factors and thus more accident prone. Although organizational psychologists have been unable to provide a rigorous treatment of accident proneness, much valuable work has been done in analysing those activities that have high inherent risks and those environmental conditions (e.g. poor lighting, inappropriate room temperature) that increase the chances of accidents happening. Human error can be greatly reduced by improved design of equipment and work systems and through training programmes and other administrative interventions.

Subjects: Business and Management.

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