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RR752 - Behavioural economics - A review of the literature and proposals for further research in the context of workplace health and safety

Historically, economists can be accused of having ignored behavioural issues. However, recent times have seen an upsurge in interest generated by the failure of conventional economics to adequately address recent economic reality. As a consequence, research was commissioned by the Economics Analysis Unit of the Health and Safety Executive, with three main aims: to provide a detailed review of the current and emerging literature on the use of behavioural economics; to provide initial proposals relating to the sorts of policies that could be both feasible and effective in changing favourably the health and safety behaviour of both employers and employees; and to offer recommendations on priorities for further research.

Several theories have been identified that could be relevant in health and safety policy making, including: that there is a skewed perception of risk; there is a cost of processing information; that compliance with health and safety might be affected by the level of stakeholder involvement and/or employees’ perceptions of fairness; that the act of publicly committing to standards affects health and safety performance; and that the monetising of non-compliance through fines can affect health and safety outcomes. The decision as to whether and how any of these theories might be further researched by HSE is subject to a wider consultation across HSE.

This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.

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Updated 2010-03-19