Key Takeaways

- While the literature has shown a systematic relationship between situational and person-based OSH, research that directly compares the relative effects of personal versus situational factors in driving worker safety behavior is lacking from the literature and from any industry, including mining.

- Using survey data collected in the mining industry across North America, researchers examined the relative importance of situational and personal constructs in predicting worker behavior.

- Situational factors were found to be significant and, therefore, a disciplined focus on occupational health and safety management systems (OHSMS) and building a strong safety climate/culture should never be overlooked.

- However, surprisingly, person-based factors were a larger driver of OSH behavior in the mining industry. This stresses the importance of OHSMS that build in practices and processes to address the person and not just to stress the priority of safety (i.e., safety climate).

Safety climate is often studied and referenced as a leading indicator of incidents (Beus et al., 2010; Haas & Yorio, 2016; Mearns et al., 2001) and must be considered within any occupational health and safety management system (OHSMS; National Research Council, 2013). Further, the consideration of safety climate and attending to employee attitudes and values becomes more important as lagging indicators plateau (Reason, 2008; 2016). This trend has become the case within the mining industry worldwide, which has seen dramatic reductions in severe incidents and fatalities. Safety climate and safety culture have distinctions that make them unique, yet the terms are often used interchangeably, both in the literature and in practice (Cox & Flin, 1998). However, safety climate provides an understanding of the current safety conditions and insights into areas that can be addressed (Curcuruto & Griffin, 2018). In other words, safety climate can be more readily measured to improve safety behaviors. This study focused on safety climate rather than culture to provide targeted feedback into what aspects of an organization’s climate can be developed or more effectively implemented through an OHSMS.

Generally, safety climate is measured to provide benchmarks for improvement. However, identifying and implementing tangible methods to improve an organization’s safety climate is not well understood, particularly in organizations whose environments constantly change. In the current study, the authors argue that determining this derived or relative importance may be a valuable insight to empirically guide management decisions. To advance a more tangible understanding of safety climate and its impact on organizational strategy, NIOSH surveyed members of 39 mining workforces about experiences at their respective operations. The results can be used to guide how high-risk industries choose valid, high-impact indicators to prioritize decisions and improve organizational behavior while also elucidating the importance of individual-level interventions in the workplace.

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