Safety Culture: Effects of Environment, Behavior & Person

Ruoyu Jin, Qian Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During the investigation of several notable disasters (e.g., 1986 Chernobyl nuclear re-lease, Continental Express Flight 2574 crash in 1991), the lack of positive corporate safety culture was identified as a major contributing factor to these incidents (IAEA, 1986, as cited in Cox & Flin, 1998; NTSB/AAR-92/04 1992, p. 54, as cited by Meshkati, 1997). For example, as pointed out by National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), "the failure of Continental Express management to establish a corporate culture which encouraged and enforced adherence to approved maintenance and quality assurance procedures" was a potential cause of the crash (NTSB/AAR-92/04 1992, p. 54, as cited by Meshkati, 1997). Since then, safety culture assessment has been frequently used to identify root causes of system failures or incidents (Cox & Flin, 1998; Gordon, Flin, Mearns, et al., 1996; Pidgeon, 1998; Wilpert, 2000). Accordingly, building a positive corporate safety culture has been an interest in nu-clear energy, offshore and other high-risk industries to improve safety awareness and prevent incidents (Cox & Cheyne, 2000; Fleming, 1999; INSAG, 1999). Construction is well known as a high-risk field. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, 2011), in 2009, construction accounted for 18.3% of all fatal work injuries in the U.S. The industry’s fatality rate (9.9 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers) was the third highest among all industries. The emphasis on building a positive safety culture has proven to enhance contractors’ safety awareness and performance. For example, the 1-Hour for Safety Management program, providing safety education for top management, successfully increased safety awareness, interest and commitment (Hakkinen, 1995). Job-site incidents were also reduced after a cultural intervention program was launched in the Netherlands’ concrete industry (Oh & Sol, 2008). Corporate safety culture has gradually become a primary safety performance indicator (Mohamed, 2003; Reiman & Pietikeinen, 2010). This research’s objective was two-fold: 1) study a safety program launched by a regional general contractor (GC), Messer Construction Co. (here-after called "the GC"), in the U.S. building construction industry; and 2) examine the program’s effectiveness in building a positive safety culture based on a holistic assessment framework. This article presents an example of best safety management practices and offers an assessment tool that can be used to evaluate safety culture and safety program effectiveness.
Original languageEnglish
JournalProfessional Safety
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2013


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