Five minutes with…Ian Glendon

Associate Professor Ian Glendon

Associate Professor Ian Glendon is an Organisational Psychologist and one of only six International Association of Applied Psychology (IAAP) Fellows in Australia. His research into safety culture/climate, risk management, organisational identification, and the psychology of traffic and transportation particularly — he is President of IAAP’s Traffic and Transportation Psychology Division — were catalysts for such an appointment, formalised at the International Congress of Applied Psychology in Paris in 2014. We spent some time with Ian to learn a little more about how these areas of research apply to the labour force and workplaces…

What are you working on at the moment?

Another of my areas of research concerns driver behaviour (e.g., risk taking, violations, driver stress). This research aims to better understand psychological factors predisposing drivers, particularly young drivers, to take undue risks. This work has been informed by understanding changes occurring in the adolescent brain, and how these can help to account for observed behaviours [- relevant for transport and logistics employers and employees, travelling salespeople etc.].

Are there ongoing or emerging trends in your field/s of research?

In discussing traditional topics such as safety culture, leadership, group climate, and risk management, the [intellectual] and emotional responses to threats, and their neural [links], are explored in the third edition of my and Professor Sharon Clarke’s (Manchester Business School) book, Human safety and risk management: A psychological perspective (due November 2015). Other recent trends we discuss include increasing understanding by considering an evolutionary approach to human behaviour (e.g., accounting for [intellectual] biases), and managing increasing complexity, for example, in risk-risk trade-offs. In the workplace, a contemporary illustration of the complexity of risk issues may be how best to manage commercial aircraft cockpit access in the face of potential risks.

Finally, are there challenges in your field/s in trying to bridge the gap between research, practice and policy?

My research and consultancy work (for some 80 clients in three continents in various sectors) have always mutually informed each other. By adopting a generic approach, risk management research has clear implications for organisational practice in safety-related issues. My transport-related research, for example, often takes on organisational and experimental components, with some of it taking place in applied [on the job] settings (e.g., evaluating training). Using data from safety climate measures that I have developed in various sectors (e.g., rail, aviation, electricity, healthcare), I have also been able to provide client organisations with benchmarking safety data.

Additionally, my research into driver behaviour demonstrates the importance of using sound psychological theory and rigorous experimental work to inform practice. A key issue for the future will be how road systems will incorporate ‘driverless vehicles’ alongside traditional vehicular traffic.

My research has also informed policy. I was a member of a team, for example, that developed the UK’s first safety management standard (BS8800 — only the third such national standard after Canada and Japan at that time). The UK standard has been further developed since it was initiated in the 1990s and an international safety management standard now exists (OHSAS 18001). Another example was an invitation to join the 6-member Expert Panel informing the NSW Government’s Commission of Inquiry into the Waterfall Rail disaster in 2003. The Expert Panel authored Volume II of the Inquiry report, which led to a revision of the structure of rail safety regulation in NSW.