Psychosocial safety climate, emotional exhaustion, and work injuries in healthcare workplaces

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Abstract

Preventing work injuries requires a clear understanding of how they occur, how they are recorded, and the accuracy of injury surveillance. Our innovation was to examine how psychosocial safety climate (PSC) influences the development of reported and unreported physical and psychological workplace injuries beyond (physical) safety climate, via the erosion of psychological health (emotional exhaustion). Self-report data (T2, 2013) from 214 hospital employees (18 teams) were linked at the team level to the hospital workplace injury register (T1, 2012; T2, 2013; and T3, 2014). Concordance between survey-reported and registered injury rates was low (36%), indicating that many injuries go unreported. Safety climate was the strongest predictor of T2 registered injury rates (controlling for T1); PSC and emotional exhaustion also played a role. Emotional exhaustion was the strongest predictor of survey-reported total injuries and underreporting. Multilevel analysis showed that low PSC, emanating from senior managers and transmitted through teams, was the origin of psychological health erosion (i.e., low emotional exhaustion), which culminated in greater self-reported work injuries and injury underreporting (both physical and psychological). These results underscore the need to consider, in theory and practice, a dual physical–psychosocial safety explanation of injury events and a psychosocial explanation of injury underreporting.

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