Keeping Employees Safe During Health Crises: The Effects of Media Exposure, HR Practices, and Age

Shuqi Li (First Author), Henry R. Young (Participant Author), Majid Ghorbani (Participant Author), Byron Y. Lee (Participant Author), Daan van Knippenberg (Participant Author), Russell E. Johnson (Participant Author)

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal


Occupational health and safety are critical in promoting the wellness of organizations and employees. The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most life-threatening viruses encountered in recent history, providing a unique opportunity for research to examine factors that drive employee safety behavior. Drawing from terror management theory, we propose and test a moderated mediation model using data collected from employees working during a peak of the pandemic. We identify two sources of influence — one external (i.e., media exposure), and one internal (i.e., HR practices) to the organization — that shape employees’ mortality salience and safety behaviors. We find that COVID-19 HR practices significantly moderate the relationship between daily COVID-19 media exposure and mortality salience, with media exposure positively associated with mortality salience at lower levels of HR practices but its effects substituted by higher levels of HR practices. Moreover, our results also show that mortality salience spurs safety behaviors, with age moderating this relationship such that younger — but not older — employees are more likely to engage in safety behaviors due to mortality salience. Taken together, we offer theoretical implications for the safety behavior literature and practical implications for organizations faced with health crises or having employees who commonly work in hazardous conditions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Business and Psychology
Early online date5 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Safety behavior
  • HR practices
  • Media
  • Mortality salience
  • Age
  • Health crisis


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