Safety at sea: understanding the role of the psychological contract in seafarers' safe and unsafe behaviour using affective events and ego depletion theories

Claire Pekcan

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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One of the intractable problems facing society is how to ensure workers are safe as well as productive. Yet, knowing where to look for answers poses a considerable challenge to safety researchers. Consequently, employee safety behaviour is a relatively under-researched topic. This thesis takes a novel approach and applies psychological contract theory, which proposes that employees’ workplace behaviours are a function of the reciprocal obligations that arise when promises are made, paid for, and are subsequently honoured or broken.
A dual-pathway model is tested in which the motivational and attentional resources of individuals (operationalised as psychological contract violation and cognitive failure) are hypothesised to explain the independent relationships of fulfilment and breach with a range of safe, unsafe and unhealthy behaviours. The two pathways draw on Affective Events and Ego Depletion theories.
The research is conducted with seafarers working for two merchant shipping organisations registered in Denmark and the UK. It consists of a longitudinal survey with 750 and 629 respondents at two time points respectively, and a 14-day daily diary with 50 participants in total.
The two-wave study provides broad support for the dual-pathway model. In cross-sectional and change score analyses of breach, disaffected individuals are more inclined to rule-violating behaviour, and, those whose attentional resources are depleted, less likely to engage in pro-safe behaviours. In cross-section, greater fulfilment is associated with less violation and with more motivation to engage in pro-safe behaviours, but not with fewer attentional lapses. Conversely, longitudinal analyses suggest that increases in fulfilment are associated with increases in attentional disruption and safety behaviour withdrawal.
The second, diary study investigates the dynamic nature of exchanges and the implications these have for day-to-day experiences and behaviour. Findings at the daily level differed to the survey, raising questions about how safety behaviours unfold. Implications and contributions are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Conway, Neil, Supervisor
  • Symon, Gillian, Advisor
Award date1 Jun 2017
Publication statusUnpublished - 2017


  • Psychological contract theory
  • Affect
  • ego depletion
  • Safety performance
  • Seafarers
  • longitudinal study
  • diary study
  • SEM
  • MLM
  • cognitive failure
  • in-role safety behaviour
  • safety citizenship behaviour
  • unsafe behaviour
  • psychological contract breach
  • psychological contract fulfilment
  • organizational behavior

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