Putting the Brakes on MVIs

Apr 07, 2011

Putting the Brakes on MVIsHealth and Safety Ontario wants to put the brakes on motor vehicle incidents.

Motor vehicle collisions on Ontario roads are the greatest single cause of and account for more than 30% of all Ontario worker fatalities, according to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). This number increases to 45% when powered industrial vehicles or powered mobile industrial equipment in the workplace – vehicles used to lift and move material – are included.

Health and Safety Ontario and its system partners plan to use a Positive Community Norms (PCN) approach pioneered by Dr. Jeff Linkenbach, director of the Center for Health and Safety Culture at Montana State University in Bozeman, MT.

Positive Community Norms is based on work by Dr. Linkenbach on health and safety norms, and earlier research into social norms, which developed into a framework he calls “The Science of the Positive.”
“The essence is that if you want to have a positive effect on group behaviour, we’re going to need positive approaches. Reactive approaches alone are not going to result in the changes we want.”

Norms theory says people adapt to what they see as acceptable behaviors, what they think most people do. Often they are wrong, and engage in risky activities – speeding, not using seatbelts – because they perceive that to be the norm. But if they understand and believe that safe behaviour is the true norm of their peer group, they reduce risky behaviour.

When this positive message is sustained in a PCN campaign, the negative health behaviors of the group begin to shift downward to reflect the healthier majority behaviour. More information on PCN can be found at www.mostofus.org.

Dr. Linkenbach presented the PCN approach to the special Motor Vehicle Safety Summit organized by Health and Safety Ontario in October, and he will present it again to a broader audience at the Partners in Prevention 2011 Health and Safety Conference and Trade Show, May 18, at the International Centre in Mississauga.

The summit involving industry, government, and community organizations was organized to determine how motor vehicle safety can be approached through a new framework by the health and safety system, says Kiran Kapoor, of Workplace Safety and Prevention Services. It is an issue that runs across all sectors so that a successful shared effort will have a significant impact on the system, workplaces and communities as a whole.

The gathering resulted in the creation of a Motor Vehicle Safety Action Committee, representing more than 20 organizations, that has been asked to shape three deliverables for 2011, says Kapoor, also a member of the committee.

The first, an online community hosted on the Health & Safety Ontario website, will provide a virtual venue for collaboration, innovation and sharing of information, ideas and solutions. The community will contain a discussion forum and other features conducive to building more networks that will help build a positive motor vehicle safety culture in Ontario.

The second, a three-day institute focused on transforming the culture around workplace motor vehicle incidents, has been scheduled for June 28 to 30, Kapoor says, to further the work started in the fall. Invitations will be sent in early April to stakeholders from last year’s summit, as well as to an expanded base of industry, government, and community associations. The intent is to build the foundational work required to guide the research work ahead, and subsequent campaign over the next few years, as well as build skills for participants to influence culture within their own organizations.

“In October, we were planting or seeding. In June, we’re actually rolling up our sleeves and getting started,” says Dr. Linkenbach, who will return to play a lead role for the institute. “We’ll be looking at the vision, the planning, the metrics, and other details that need to be determined before launching a Positive Community Norms campaign.”

The third deliverable – a research project based on the seven-step PCN model and outlined by the institute – will be conducted over the remainder of the year, says Kapoor. Initial research will gather information to focus on the priority areas, conduct the formative and baseline research, establish targets, and set the stage for the next steps in developing a multi-year PCN motor vehicle safety campaign.

Working to improve motor vehicle safety is not a new theme for Dr. Linkenbach, whose Centre for Health and Safety Culture has been involved in numerous PCN campaigns in the United States focusing on increased seatbelt use, impaired driving prevention, and improved commercial motor vehicle safety. Other campaigns have included preventing substance abuse, preventing child abuse, and reducing underage drinking.

“Something positive exists in every person and community,” says Dr. Linkenbach. PCN campaigns involve several steps including developing baseline data, message development, communications planning and evaluation, to appeal to those positives and to bring them out in positive behaviour.

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