Builders who have been frustrated by an injury on a jobsite, even though workers appear to be following safety protocols and wearing PPE appropriately, should familiarize themselves with the concept of risk compensation. A report in the Journal of Construction Engineering and Management found that this phenomenon can increase risky behavior when workers feel more protected by as much as 55%.
“The results indicated that providing more safety interventions (i.e., higher levels of fall protection) produced a sense of invulnerability among participants,” according to the report.
[Related: How a zero-injury culture endangers construction workers]
The paper used virtual reality and passive haptics—wearable devices—to simulate a roofing project. Participants wore real-time trackers on their heads and ankles as they completed tasks under three safety condition scenarios. Participants were more likely to step closer to or lean over the edge, for longer periods of time, when they were using more fall protection.
The report used unskilled students as participants, suggesting that educating workers about risk, as well as adequate safety protection, is an important part of running a safe jobsite.