The Impact of Social Proof in the Workplace

Social influences and corporate culture can significantly impact the risk of workplace accidents and injuries. In environments where employees frequently take unnecessary risks, other workers may be tempted to act recklessly as well. Workplaces that foster and promote a safe work environment, however, create an atmosphere where workers recognize and value their own general welfare.

The “When in Rome” Phenomenon

If Worker “A” sees Worker “B” doing something, then Worker “A” is likely to mimic the behavior under the assumption that it is acceptable within the company. For example, if workers see other employees ignoring established safety protocols and flagrantly ignoring government regulations regarding safety equipment, reporting procedures, etc., then these workers are likely to do the same.

The opposite is true, as well. When workers see other employees and their managers following rules and safety guidelines, there is a greater likelihood that they will follow suit. This creates a work environment that is much more effective for protecting the health and safety of workers in their respective industry.

Training Sets the Tone

The right time to establish the appropriate social proof in any organization is during onboarding. The days and weeks following an employee’s first day provide an opportunity to establish adherence to protocols and properly train employees on the equipment they will be using.

Regular training sessions throughout the year reinforce the concepts set forth when an employee is hired. Continued training serves as a refresher that protects a safety conscious culture within the workplace. It also provides the employer with an opportunity to correct unsafe behaviors and practices before they cause an accident or personal injury. Employees are also provided with the opportunity to voice concerns over protocols and guidelines that may be putting their health in jeopardy.

“Why” is the Most Important Question

Why is it done this way? Why is this machine dangerous? Why do I have to report even minor injuries? There are many “why” questions that must be answered in the workplace. Employers and employees who ask the “why” questions and receive the appropriate answers take an active step towards preventing workplace injuries. A work injury attorney in Illinois will almost certainly ask these questions in a deposition to determine why a workplace injury occurred and the actions an employer took that created an unsafe work environment for the employee.