Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Ron Van Houten

Second Advisor

Dr. Alan Poling

Third Advisor

Dr. Heather McGee

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Oliver Wirth


Safety, behavioral economics, managers, discounting


Workplace injuries continue to be a source of substantial human and financial costs each year. Behavioral safety processes have been effective in reducing workplace injuries by increasing safety-related behaviors. In recent years, the focus in behavioral safety has shifted towards the role of managers in establishing and maintaining safe behaviors and conditions in the workplace. Understanding how managers make decisions to allocate resources is critical to improving safety. The field of behavioral economics has developed methods for studying decision-making. While there have been calls to apply these methods to occupational safety, there are only two empirical studies which have done so, and neither have examined the decisions of management. The present study investigated the effects of Cost, Level of Safety, and Severity of Injury on managers deciding to implement a safety solution. Two experimental surveys were conducted on Amazon Mechanical Turk, each consisting of 75 participants with the “management” qualification. The first experiment presented hypothetical scenarios in which the cost of the safety solution, and the percentage of safe behaviors/conditions observed in a work area were systematically manipulated. The ordinal area-under-the-curve (AUCord) was calculated for the empirical discounting functions, and significant effects were found for both cost and percent safe. In the second experiment, cost and percent safe were once again manipulated, under three different injury severities (i.e., amputation, strain/sprain, and laceration/puncture). The subsequent analysis indicated significant main effects for cost, percent safe, and severity, but no significant interaction effects. In both experiments the likelihood of implementing a safety solution decreased as the cost and percent safe increased. This study provides the first attempt to apply behavioral economic methods to study manager decisions pertaining to workplace safety, and the results suggest that they respond to safety information in an orderly manner which can be described using those methods. Expanding on this application may have predictive utility and could inform interventions with the ultimate goal of improving occupational safety.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access