Safety Minute: The Dangers of Emotional Stress | AIChE

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Safety Minute: The Dangers of Emotional Stress

Safety Minute


Worrying about personal problems harms his mental skills, especially memory and concentration.

Talking Points

  • Are supervisors too shy to ask their workers about personal problems?
  • Do we understand the risks involved in not knowing the mental state of our employees?
  • Can supervisors assign high-risk individuals to lower-risk tasks?

This Safety Minute was prepared by Larkin Communication ( in partnership with CEP.

How Personal Problems Can Increase Risk

This Safety Minute was prepared by Larkin Communication ( in partnership with CEP.

Further Reading

Personal Problems Increase Risk by 50%

Research conducted by the U.K. Royal Navy

  • Researchers measured the psychological stress of 153 employees of the U.K. Royal Navy using a questionnaire
  • They asked the number of accidents employees had been involved in over a three-year period
  • An accident was defined as an injury where the person missed three or more days of work
  • Results showed that those people with higher levels of stress had significantly more accidents
  • “Accident-prone” people had, on average, 50% more accidents
  • People with numerous accidents also reported problems with:
    • concentration
    • remembering instructions
    • physical coordination

Source: Visser, E., et al., “Accident Proneness, Does it Exist? A Review and Meta-Analysis,” Accident Analysis & Prevention, 39 (3), pp. 556–564, (May 2007).

Source: Day, A., et al., “Accident Proneness Revisited: The Role of Psychological Stress and Cognitive Failure,” Accident Analysis & Prevention, 49, pp. 532–535, (Nov. 2012).

3% of Employees Account for 22% of Accidents

Research conducted by Shell

  • Researchers at the Shell complex in Deer Park, TX, studied five years of accident records (1981–1986)
  • In this five-year span, 7,131 accidents occured:
    • 392 of these accidents were major (OSHA recordable)
    • 6,382 were minor (involved some injury)
    • the remaining accidents involved no injury
  • To eliminate some variability, the researchers grouped accidents according to job family:
    • Operations — operator, lab tester
    • Electrical — electrician, instrument mechanic
    • Process — pipefitter, machinist
    • Maintenance — boilermaker, welder
    • Miscellaneous — carpenter, insulator, garage mechanic
  • Result: 3.4% of employees accounted for 21.5% of accidents
  • The number of employees with multiple accidents was much higher than what would be expected if the accidents were random
  • Statistically, the number of employees who should have had 10 accidents during the five-year span is less than one. However, the actual number of employees who had 10 or more accidents during this period was 27

Source: Mayer, D. L., et al., “Accident Proneness in the Industrial Setting,” Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting, 31, pp. 196–198, (Sept. 1, 1987).

This Safety Minute was prepared by Larkin Communication ( in partnership with CEP.



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