Defining and measuring safety climate: A review of the construction industry literature
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Defining and measuring safety climate: A review of the construction industry literature

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  • Alternative Title:
    Ann Occup Hyg
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    Safety climate measurements can be used to proactively assess an organization's effectiveness in identifying and remediating work-related hazards, thereby reducing or preventing work-related ill health and injury. This review article focuses on construction-specific articles that developed and/or measured safety climate, assessed safety climate's relationship with other safety and health performance indicators, and/or used safety climate measures to evaluate interventions targeting one or more indicators of safety climate. Fifty-six articles met our inclusion criteria, 80% of which were published after 2008. Our findings demonstrate that researchers commonly defined safety climate as perception based, but the object of those perceptions varies widely. Within the wide range of indicators used to measure safety climate, safety policies, procedures, and practices were the most common, followed by general management commitment to safety. The most frequently used indicators should and do reflect that the prevention of work-related ill health and injury depends on both organizational and employee actions. Safety climate scores were commonly compared between groups (e.g. management and workers, different trades), and often correlated with subjective measures of safety behavior rather than measures of ill health or objective safety and health outcomes. Despite the observed limitations of current research, safety climate has been promised as a useful feature of research and practice activities to prevent work-related ill health and injury. Safety climate survey data can reveal gaps between management and employee perceptions, or between espoused and enacted policies, and trigger communication and action to narrow those gaps. The validation of safety climate with safety and health performance data offers the potential for using safety climate measures as a leading indicator of performance. We discuss these findings in relation to the related concept of safety culture and offer suggestions for future research and practice including (i) deriving a common definition of safety climate, (ii) developing and testing construction-specific indicators of safety climate, and (iii) focusing on construction-specific issues such as the transient workforce, subcontracting, work organization, and induction/acculturation processes.
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