Work safety interventions and threat complexity – A formative investigation into why farmers do not act safely
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Department of Work Science, Business Economics & Environmental Psychology, Alnarp, Sweden
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Catharina Elisabeth Alwall Svennefelt   

Departement of Work Science, Business Economics & Environmental Psychology
Ann Agric Environ Med. 2019;26(2):280-289
Fear appeals are a common tactic used in work safety interventions to motivate farmers to adopt safer behaviours. They begin by introducing a threat, followed by information on how to remove the threat. However, fear appeals tend to be ineffective when developed without a firm grasp of the cognitive processes underlying behavioural change. Although previous research on farm safety interventions have investigated fear appeals, they have focused on very narrow threats and behaviours, such as tractor or cow safety, while others have studied the threats but not the cognitive processing. Consequently, not enough is known about the range of threats that evoke fear, how farmers behave when under threat, or their general cognitive beliefs regarding self-efficacy, response cost and response efficacy. In In this study, 23 Swedish Farmers were interviewed and participated in a work safety intervention to identify the range of threats farmers perceive, and actions taken to remove those threats.

Material and methods:
The extended parallel processing model was used to gain insights into how farmers cognitively processed threats and their subsequent behaviour. Interestingly, it was found that farmers were more fearful of work safety threats related to family members and employees—yet the actions they took to reduce threats were mostly personal in nature. To help explain this finding, a typology of threat complexity was developed by the authors.

It was found that simple, common, and direct threats to safety tended to lead to adaptive, threat-reducing behaviours, whereas complex, general, or indirect threats promoted more maladaptive behaviours that reduced fear, but not the threats.

We thank the Scania farmers for their willingness to participate in this study and The Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry (KSLA) that made this work possible through the research project (H142-0024-SLO).
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