Completed Research

Safety Culture/Safety Incentives (Completed – 2009-2014)

Jack Dennerlein, PhD

Northeastern University
Boston, MA
Ph: (617) 373-5428
[email protected]

Research Team and Partners

Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Construction Services Group, Predictive Solutions, Turner, Skanska, and DFCI Health Communications Core.

Building Safety for Everyone was a construction worksite-based program that used Predictive Solutions to recognize safe physical working conditions and practices from safety assessments and provide feedback to workers.

Jack Dennerlein and his research team partnered with five major Boston area general contractors to implement this safety communication and recognition program aimed at improving safety performance on the construction worksite through novel feedback mechanisms. They conducted a randomized control intervention to study the impact of the program, collecting data on eight different jobsites over three years.

Traditional incentive programs measure performance and provide rewards for reduced rates of reported injuries and illnesses. However, experts in the field – and OSHA – have expressed concern that this approach may reduce injury reporting instead of reducing actual injuries. Building Safety for Everyone takes a more proactive approach, emphasizing hazard recognition and control, thereby improving safety. In this program, safety personnel record safe and unsafe physical working conditions and generate a safety performance score. The score provides a snapshot of safety performance before an incident occurs.

Centrally-located posters throughout the worksite track safety performance with displays of safety scores for the overall site and individual subcontractors active there, fostering a healthy competition to reduce hazards. Additionally, safety personnel provide detailed and relevant safety inspection reports to foremen every week and encourage the foremen to share the results with their crews.

Both quantitative data and feedback from interviews has been encouraging:

  • “The key ingredient of this program is that it promotes teamwork.” – Site superintendent at a Building Safety for Everyone intervention site
  • “It [ACES] created common ground between all of the trades.” – Worker at an Building Safety for Everyone intervention site
  • “There was a lot more talk about safety on this job, and they [workers] never used to talk about safety.” – Worker at an Building Safety for Everyone intervention site

The amount of survey data (over 1,100 individuals surveyed and followed over time) has enabled the research team to document the movement of individuals on and off worksites, something previous researchers have been unable to quantify. Results show a consistent pattern across all worksites: approximately 50% of individuals on-site at the beginning of a given month will remain on-site at the beginning of the next month, 25% will remain at the end of the following month, and so on.

The research team is analyzing this data in more depth; however, early results indicate that these patterns are independent of the project’s phase or a worker’s trade.

  • There was a statistically significant improvement in safety climate on sites that received the Building Safety for Everyone intervention, while control sites were unchanged.
  • On-site managers and employees attributed an increase in teamwork, safety awareness, and communication to the Building Safety for Everyone program.
  • Construction industry partners have expressed interest in adopting the Building Safety for Everyone program for other worksites.
  • The research team has developed an extensive Building Safety for Everyone program manual and website.
  • Researchers have presented findings in 8 regional conference presentations, four poster presentations and several papers.

OUTPUTS – an extensive program website describing how to adapt and implement the program on worksites of varying sizes and management structures.

Article in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health: Improving safety climate through a communication and recognition program for construction: a mixed methods study