The Effectiveness of Narratives in Occupational Safety Communication in Belgium and the Netherlands.

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In order to improve its effectiveness, occupational safety communication will always be subject to change. As long as accidents occur, new and better ways to communicate safety messages should be sought. For this reason, this study took a closer look into the effectiveness of another, relatively under-researched persuasion method for occupational safety communication; storytelling. A 2x2 between subjects experiment was executed in factories and warehouses in Belgium and the Netherlands. In both countries, one group of employees was shown a traditional safety warning for a fork-lift truck; another group was shown the traditional warning plus an additional narrative about Antoine, a fictional 45 year old fork-lift truck driver who became paralysed after an accident. In total, 183 employees from six companies took part in this study, which showed that the addition of a narrative did unfortunately not result in safer behavioural intentions (RQ1). However, transportation, identification and emotion, three underlying psychological mechanisms of narrative persuasion, did, to some extent, individually influence the behavioural safety intentions (RQ 1a, 1b and 1c). Next to the factor country, the cultural dimensions uncertainty avoidance and masculinity were expected to be possible moderators of the persuasive effect of the warning. Although no differences were found between the Dutch and Belgian groups, country and uncertainty avoidance did partly have an influence on behavioural safety intentions (RQ 2, 2a, 2b and 2c), meaning that culture and country can to some extent influence the effectiveness of a warning. Lastly, it was shown that the level of perceived understanding, relevance and realism was influenced by both country and type of warning. Although this study could not prove that narrative persuasion was more effective than a traditional safety warning, it has given an insight into the possibility of applying storytelling in occupational safety communication, which should be further explored in follow-up research.
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