Safety Knowledge and Behavior: An Exploration of Individual Differences in Tacit Safety Knowledge

Hiller, Michael, and Linda Haynes Slowik

Tacit knowledge refers to personal beliefs, perspectives and values that are embedded in individual experience (cf., Sternberg, Wagner & Williams, 1995). Different than general intelligence, tacit knowledge contains subjective insights, intuitions, and hunches about how to do things in the context of includes beliefs, values, morals, personality, and ideas. In the workplace, managerial aptitude is the primary area in which tacit knowledge has shown utility, in that it predicts managerial performance (cf., Weekley & Jones, 2001). The current research seeks to expand understanding of individual differences in safety by applying the concept of tacit knowledge. Safety is fairly well understood as it relates to environmental factors (e.g., climate for safety; Schneider, 1984), but is poorly understood in terms of individual differences. It is not difficult to think of anecdotal evidence in support of the idea that people vary in the degree to which they value safety and enact such values in their lives. A measure of tacit safety knowledge is proposed and its psychometric qualities examined. In addition, the relationship between tacit safety knowledge and safety-related outcomes (i.e., accidents at home, in the car, and at work) is examined in the context of impulsivity and conscientiousness, two variables that would be expected to have a meaningful relationship with safety. Results suggest that tacit knowledge predicts safety outcomes after taking into consideration the effects of conscientiousness and impulsivity, supporting the idea that there are differences across individuals in terms of their tacit knowledge of safety, and that such differences relate to safety outcomes.