The Participation Factor: How to Increase Involvement in Occupational Safety

By E. Scott Geller, Ph.D.

Dr. E. Scott Geller's latest offering, The Participation Factor, is yet another book from this author intended to move occupational safety forward. This book, builds upon may of Scott's previous writings and introduces another critical tool to achieve optimal performance with regard to Safety--increasing involvement through participation.

This is a subject that has generally proved frustrating for many safety professionals. In the business community, a great deal of effort has been expended to shift Safety from a priority to a value in the past 5 to 10 years. However, several companies have seen the results of those efforts plateau or diminish as a result of less than desirable involvement and participation at all levels. This is the primary subject, among others, detailed in Dr. Geller's latest book.

Scott asserts early on, "the prevention of occupational injuries requires daily dedicated involvement of all line workers". Naturally, before this becomes the standard or accomplishment, a number of other preceptors are usually found to be present in the business. Many of these are covered in detail in Dr. Geller's new book.

In Chapter 1, self-efficacy, response-efficacy, and outcome-expectancy are discussed in detail. As an example, if a person has the self-confidence to meet a challenge (self-efficacy), believes that a certain technique or strategy will produce a desired outcome (response-efficacy), and the consequence one expects to receive from practicing the technique is positive, then a feeling of being empowered will follow. I found the time invested in the Introduction valuable in that a "can do" attitude of individuals obviously increases their propensity for involvement in the organization.

In Chapter 2, Scott builds upon the Introduction and delves deeper into the strength of empowerment. Understanding and increasing empowerment is related to personal control and optimism. Employees are more likely to use the Safety tools and methods they are taught if they believe the process will increase their personal control. Obviously, if the personal control of employees is strengthened, then there is more reason for the employees to expect the best (optimism). Essentially, these beliefs are a key element to maximizing participation and success in safety improvement.

Chapter 3 provides a means of analyzing less than desirable participation in safety performance. This is an area in which many businesses have a wealth of experience, but few truly understand "the why or the how" to improve. In this chapter, Scott discusses four primary barriers to safety-related participation. More importantly, solid suggestions are made for methods to increase participation.

The next chapter of Dr. Geller's book goes beyond Behavior Based Safety. Chapter 4 deals with the role of self-persuasion and the critical nature it plays in sustaining long-term participation. Thankfully, much of this chapter is spent covering other issues that relate to and effect participation in Safety initiatives. This can be very beneficial, as it serves to explain pitfalls that Safety Professionals and Management often fall into.

A most unusual chapter in Dr. Geller's book (Chapter 5) deals with the interpersonal side of Safety. Rarely is this subject covered, in depth, in Safety publications. Unfortunately, this is one of the facets of Safety that Management and Organizations tend overlook; and then, to negatively impact the most. Scott puts the interpersonal and intrapersonal aspects of what we say, how we say it, and the impact of conversations into perspective in this chapter. I found this chapter, in particular, to be worth taking the time to read for the benefit of better understanding of the importance of conversations with others and how Management is perceived to treat fellow employees. If you want to increase Safety participation, this chapter is a must read. Chapter 6 covers two subjects and their affect upon Safety participation. The first is a need for everyone to feel and believe they are competent. Naturally, it then follows that persons who feel competent are more inclined to participate in Safety goals and initiatives. The second subject covered in this chapter relates to the power of feedback and the appraisal process. As most employees are all too aware, rarely does the appraisal process accurately reflect the contribution of an employee. In this chapter, Dr. Geller discusses the conflict between competence and appraisal, then offers suggestions to resolve this conflict. The bottom-line, participation in an effective safety process provides opportunities to satisfy a basic human need--the need for competence.

In Chapter 7, six social influence principles are described. Often, these principles, and their practice at our place of business, greatly affect the propensity of participation. Also in this chapter is a new tool to this reviewer. This new tool is "The Social Influence Survey" and appears to help an individual to self-asses these principles. Chapter 8 discusses the need for effective leadership and its effect on the safety improvement process, including participation. Covered in this chapter are such topics as Honesty, Integrity, Compassion, Motivation, Flexibility, Listening, Trust, and Coaching among others. All topics are very important to effective leadership for Safety.

In the final chapter (Chapter 9), Dr. Geller provides "Thirty Ways to Fuel The Participation Factor". Although thirty is a rather high number on the surface, the items that comprise this number are very well thought out. Generally, this can be broken down into three areas: Achievement of Teams, Atmosphere of Culture, and Achievement of Leaders.

Obviously, the subjects covered in Dr. Geller's book, The Participation Factor, are very thorough and well thought out. However, as a Safety Professional in a large manufacturing environment, my first thought, as I began to read this book, was that this material is too technical for manufacturing. But, as I continued to read, I found myself being pulled into the book and it's subject matter. As a matter of fact, on three occasions I had to put Dr. Geller's book down. The reason I had to stop reading was to send an e-mail from my home (where I was reading the book) to my work email address. Why? Because the book stimulated me with new ideas and concepts. I had found benefit in the material to the point of utilizing its premise to improve participation at my place of work.

In summary, I found E. Scott Geller's latest book, The Participation Factor, to be well worthwhile to read. Even though this book started more "technical" than I thought I needed, I found that all of the principles built upon one another; each chapter complimented the other chapters resulting in a cohesive work. Overall, Scott's latest offering is a very good read and, in my opinion, some sections are a "must read." Follow Dr, Geller's book and there is no question that participation in safety will improve at your Facility. Over the years, participation in Safety has led to many questions in the business community, now there is an answer.

--Gary L. Karnes
Georgetown, KY