Occupational injuries and communications in Swedish agriculture safety interventions
Abstract: Systemic changes in Swedish agriculture have seen the average farm size increase, employees become more common, adoption of new technologies and an ageing farm population. This has led to many new physical and psychological health risks and the need for continued work in preventing occupational injuries. To date, education has been the main tool (in terms of total spending) used by stakeholders to influence work safety behaviour. However, this approach has been criticised by occupational safety experts for being inefficient, if not largely ineffective. It is often unclear whether the education tool itself or its implementation is the problem. Given the need to improve safety at work within agriculture and identify the mechanisms underlying intervention outcomes, this thesis explored work safety interventions in Sweden and sought to develop a deeper understanding of how motivation can be used to effect behavioural change and the underlying cognitive factors promoting or hindering these changes. Over a six-year period, four studies were carried out using mixed methods and covering topics such as occupational safety intervention implementation, outcomes, fear appeals and cognitive mediation processes. The results confirmed that there is marked under-reporting of occupational injuries in Sweden. More importantly, they showed that, despite substantial efforts to reduce occupational injuries, on taking into account the reduced labour demand in agriculture and the decline in the number of farms since 2004, the rate of occupational injuries has not significantly decreased. Fear appeals were found to be the most common motivational tool used by the largest organisations in Sweden to influence work safety behaviours. Use of an extended parallel processing model (EPPM) to describe and evaluate marketing communications revealed a mismatch between the types of threats used in communications and the behaviours promoted. Contradictory evidence was also found. On the one hand, some farmers interviewed seemed to be aware of the most common threats in their environment and nearly all had made at least some changes to their work safety environment (crediting an intervention that took place one year earlier), indicating that the intervention had worked in terms of generating awareness and stimulating adaptive behaviours. On the other hand, many of the same farmers who had made adaptive changes also showed clear signs of maladaptation. These insights can be applied to address the communication motivation and cognitive challenges in safety interventions in Swedish agriculture.
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