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									                                                             Behavior Change
                                                          Behavior Change

          Courage, Culture &
    Practical, evidence-based strategies for injury prevention
                                                          By E. Scott Geller

scientists have conducted field studies to develop
and evaluate intervention strategies to improve safe-
ty-related behaviors in industrial, community and
institutional settings (Geller, 2001b; Glenwick &
                                                          These excuses are irrelevant for the techniques
                                                          described in this article because the techniques are
                                                          straightforward and easy to accomplish with minimal
                                                          effort. More importantly, the empirical research cited
                                                          has demonstrated the beneficial impact of these sim-
                                                                                                                      Abstract: This article
                                                                                                                      reviews practical appli-
                                                                                                                      cations of seven inter-
                                                                                                                      ventions that target
                                                                                                                      safety-related behav-
Jason, 1980; Komaki, Heinzmann & Lawson, 1980;            ple interpersonal approaches to promote safety and          iors. It attempts to
Sulzer-Azaroff & DeSantamaria, 1980). As a result,        prevent harm to people. Thus, the standard excuses          answer the question:
several evidence-based techniques have been identi-       for inaction cannot work in this case.                      What does it take for
fied to increase the occurrence of safe behavior              So, what is the barrier to large-scale implementa-      more people to
and/or decrease the frequency of at-risk behavior.        tion of simple-to-use interpersonal methods that            become interpersonal
Most of these are interpersonal, requiring a safety       clearly benefit those involved? The key word is inter-      change agents for
leader or change agent to target a specific behavior      personal. Each intervention requires personal interac-      occupational safety
of another person in order to decrease, increase,         tion with others and it is likely that many people          and health?
maintain or support that behavior. All of these cost-     lack the courage to be such a change agent. This arti-
effective intervention strategies can be applied on a     cle discusses the level of courage needed and sug-
large scale for substantial injury prevention, and all    gests ways to develop it. In other words, the
have been described in the research literature, along     following question is considered: What does it take
with objective data demonstrating their potential         for more people to become interpersonal change
beneficial impact.                                        agents for occupational safety and health?
   Over the years, many of these practical interven-
tion methods have been presented at safety confer-        What Is Courage?
ences, and some attendees have later applied these           American Heritage Dictionary defines courage as
techniques with notable success, as revealed in fol-      “the state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one
low-up conference presentations. This article             to face danger with self-possession, confidence and
reviews practical applications of seven interventions     resolution.” This definition is consistent with a 2-page
that target safety-related behaviors. Before review-      description of courage found on Wikipedia (http://
ing these injury prevention strategies, it is instruc-, except that entry
tive to consider barriers that prevent the large-scale    distinguishes between physical courage—when con-
application and institutionalization of these proce-      fronting physical pain, hardship or threat of death—
dures. In other words, given their demonstrated           and moral courage—in the face of possible
effectiveness and practicality, why haven’t organiza-     shame, embarrassment or discouragement E. Scott Geller, Ph.D., is Alumni
tions and communities adopted and implemented             (see also McCain & Salter, 2004).              Distinguished Professor at Virginia
them to help keep people safe?                               Leaders certainly need competence Polytechnic Institute and State Uni-
                                                          and commitment (Blanchard, Zigarmi & versity, and is director of the Center
Interpersonal Intervention & Courage                      Zigarmi, 1985) to be effective change for Applied Behavior Systems. He is
    As with any program designed to change behav-         agents. But interpersonal intervention on also senior partner of Safety Per-
ior, people could claim they lack the resources and/or    behalf of safety also takes moral courage. formance Solutions, a training and
time to implement an intervention. Moreover, they         A person could have both competence consulting company in Blacksburg,
could doubt its effectiveness and wonder whether the      and commitment in a particular situation, VA. He is a professional member of
time to implement the intervention is worth the effort.   yet not be courageous. Consider these ASSE’s Star Valley Chapter.
                                                                          MAY 2009 PROFESSIONAL SAFETY             43
                     two authentic safety-related incidents—the first dra- respects. Specifically, individuals with greater com-
                     matic and rare, the second temperate and common. petence and commitment in a given situation are
                                                                             more likely to demonstrate courage. Thus, one’s
                     Responding to an Emergency                              propensity to show courage under certain circum-
                        During a safety meeting, the safety director of a stances is increased whenever relevant competence
                     large construction firm was notified of a horrendous or commitment is augmented.
                     incident. The operator of an industrial equip
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