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Enhancing Safety Climate through Leadership

Linda Goldenhar

Research Team: Stefanie Johnson, Natalie Schwatka, John Rosecrance, Jack Dennerlein, Jamie Tessler, Dan Weinstein, Tiffany Rice, Mark Fullen, Marissa Beldon

This project’s overall goal is to help ensure that tens of thousands of frontline construction supervisors nationwide obtain critical leadership training they need to promote a positive safety climate on their worksites and improve safety outcomes.  To meet this goal, we will use the OSHA 30 training guidelines to produce a 2-3 hour safety focused transformational leadership training module and accompanying train-the-trainer materials that will become an elective for the OSHA 30-hour training course. Before disseminating the module, we will test its' impact on worksites of multiple small, medium and large construction companies using a mixed-methods (quantitative, qualitative) experimental research design. We will randomly assign sites from the same company to intervention and control groups. Front line supervisors (i.e., foremen, general foremen) on intervention sites will receive the training. We will examine a number of trainee outcomes as well as outcomes in the field, in particular, the perceptions of safety climate of the trained foremen’s crew on their job sites. To increase statistical power and ensure that all sites benefit from the training, the training will be offered to frontline supervisors at the control sites one month post intervention training and follow-up data will be collected.  Finally, to maximize the impact of the evidence-based training module and train-the-trainer materials, we will disseminate both via the national OSHA Training Institute Education Centers (OTIEC) and other critical stakeholders using research to practice (r2p) principles and methods. The occupational health and safety relevance of this project is that it will improve safety climate at construction sites across the country by institutionalizing supervisory leadership training through the well-established and industry standard OSHA 30-hour training course. We believe that unless there is widespread access to, and adoption of this type of training, only frontline supervisors working for large companies and some unions will have the basic leadership skills they need to create a positive safety climate that can result in reduced worker injury and illness.

The National Academies' review of NIOSH’s construction program and OSHA have identified a positive safety culture and safety climate as critical for improving safety and health outcomes for construction workers. Supervisor leadership training programs have been shown to improve safety climate in particular. The current research proposes to build on these efforts and take them scale by developing and evaluating a transformational leadership training module and incorporating it into the OSHA 30 course as an elective.


Listen as CPWR's Director of Research and Evaluation, Dr. Linda M. Goldenhar, shares the details of how her team's Safety Culture and Safety Climate workbook and online safety climate assessment tool were developed.. Dr. Goldenhar also shares preliminary findings of a more recently developed jobsite supervisory leadership program. 


Linda Goldenhar speaks with Professional Safety magazine about Safety Culture and Safety Climate