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Institutional trust, safety climate, and perceived risk of pandemic influenza among essential personnel Open Access

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The United States Federal government has been aggressively planning a response to a nation-wide influenza pandemic since the first case of the avian influenza (H5N1) case was observed. Although planning assumptions include estimates for worker absenteeism due to illness, they do not include estimates of personnel who are unwilling to report to work. The willingness of essential personnel, such as healthcare professionals, fire/EMS personnel, and police, to come to work is critical for continuation of the essential functions of healthcare and law enforcement. Some studies (e.g., Qureshi et al. (2005) and Balicer et al. (2006)) suggest that approximately half of essential personnel are willing to come to work during a severe influenza pandemic, and a primary factor affecting willingness is the perceived risk of infection of influenza for themselves and their family members. Therefore, it is important to understand those factors that affect the perceived risk of infection to pandemic influenza. The purpose of this study was to assess the effect of the constructs of institutional trust and safety climate on perceived risk of pandemic influenza among essential personnel of Nassau County, New York. A total of 772 essential personnel consisting of police, fire/EMS, health department personnel, and hospital workers from Nassau County New York, returned completed surveys that included items measuring the constructs of perceived risk of infection to pandemic influenza, safety climate, and institutional trust. Using confirmatory factor analysis and latent variable path analysis, results suggest the indicator items provide some degree of validity and reliability in measuring their respective constructs. Results also suggest that an increase in safety climate leads to increased institutional trust and an increase in institutional trust leads to decreased perceived risk. The causal path from safety climate to perceived risk was not statistically significant. These results suggest that 1) the indicator items may be reasonable starting points for measuring safety climate and institutional trust; and 2) improving the overall safety climate within an organization may lead to improved trust relations between workers and their employer.

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