4 Leading Indicators of a Safety Culture

Think your company culture promotes safety on the jobsite? Are you sure?

Dodge Data & Analytics asked more than 300 general and trade contractors what they thought were the leading indicators of a safety culture, among other questions. The results were published in the “Safety Management in the Construction Industry 2017” SmartMarket Report.

The contractors’ choices underscore the importance of top-down and bottom-up involvement in safety. Here are the top four indicators picked, out of seven presented, in order of popularity.

Training at all levels

Not only was this the No. 1 indicator selected, but many contractors, especially the larger ones, seem to practice what they preach. About three-quarters of survey respondents said they offer safety and health training on at least 75 percent of their projects, and 80 percent of GCs said they give employees orientation training on new project sites. About 70 percent of GCs require supervisors to have safety and health leadership training and to undergo basic safety and health training on most of their projects.

Empowering and involving employees

More and more, contractors are recognizing the importance of engaging jobsite workers in safety efforts. In the survey, contractors with 100 or more employees were especially likely to choose “empowering and involving employees” as a safety culture indictor.

How to do it? For starters, ask for workers’ input during safety planning and job hazard analyses. Invite them to participate in safety planning committees, encourage them to report near-misses and empower them to use stop work authority if they see a dangerous situation in the making.

Ensuring accountability at all levels

Ultimately, when safety incidents happen, management must take responsibility — and make changes. High-level managers need to make sure supervisors and foreman are good safety role models and that they enforce company safety policies. Workers should be held accountable for adhering to safety policies — with clear repercussions if they don’t.

Demonstrating management commitment

About half the contractors surveyed chose management-level indicators as having a high impact on project safety. These indicators included ensuring accountability at all levels, (see above), demonstrating management commitment, improving communication and aligning around safety as a value. Three of these indicators — ensuring accountability, demonstrating management commitment and aligning and integrating safety as a value — were ranked first in impact by about one-quarter of the respondents who picked them.

According to the report, “This demonstrates that management of workers and providing leadership from the top on values are considered important factors for improving project safety, even if they lag slightly behind training at all levels and worker empowerment.”

Demonstrating management commitment to safety might mean, for example, setting and enforcing safety policies and devoting time and resources to safety efforts — everything from providing top-notch PPE to investigating near-misses to conducting job hazard analyses and using Prevention through Design (PtD). Providing adequate training also demonstrates a commitment to safety.

Ensuring safety is everyone’s job. But it’s up to management to set the stage for the other players.


Marianne Wait is an editor and writer who creates content for Fortune 500 brands.