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Trust and risk communication in high-risk organizations : a test of principles from social risk research

Conchie, S. and Burns, C. (2008) Trust and risk communication in high-risk organizations : a test of principles from social risk research. Risk Analysis, 28 (1). pp. 141-149. ISSN 0272-4332

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Abstract

This study explored the effects of open communication about occupational risks on workers' trust beliefs and trust intentions toward risk management, and the resilience of these beliefs and intentions to further risk information. An experimental survey of 393 student nurses showed the importance of open communication in the development of worker trust in risk management. Consistent with the trust asymmetry principle, we found that the increase in trust beliefs following open communication was weaker than the reduction in trust following a lack of communication. Further, the level of trust developed through communication (or lack of) influenced the way that subsequent risk information was processed. Negative risk information reduced trust beliefs in nurses with already low levels of trust while positive risk information increased trust beliefs only in those with already high levels. A similar pattern of results emerged for nurses' trust intentions, although the magnitude of these effects was weaker. The implications of these findings for occupational risk management are discussed.