Key Takeaways

- This article provides practical, intuitive definitions for construction safety culture and construction safety climate. Construction safety culture and climate are shared responsibilities, which means that all parties have obligations to maintain them.

- This study highlights the importance of safety personnel in initiating and maintaining higher levels of construction safety culture. The competency of safety personnel is vital and must be carefully assessed by upper management during the hiring process.

- Safety personnel can use the framework presented in this study to benchmark and improve safety efforts in their firms. The relative importance index can help construction firms identify where to start with safety.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, 2019a) reported a 5% increase in fatalities in the private construction industry in 2019. A total of 1,061 construction workers were killed in 2019, which represents the largest total since 2007. Overall, the U.S. construction industry accounted for roughly 20% of fatalities over the past 10 years, whereas the construction industry only accounts for roughly 4% of the U.S. workforce (Al-Bayati et al., 2019; Liu et al., 2020). The rate of nonfatal injuries in construction was 71% higher than that of all other industries (Waehrer et al., 2007). Furthermore, BLS (2019b) suggests that the rate of incidents necessitating days away from work has increased by roughly 50 per 10,000 full-time equivalent construction workers. Thus, the construction industry significantly contributes to fatal and nonfatal injuries (Niu et al., 2017).

Safety culture and safety climate have been suggested as leading indicators that could help improve overall safety performance. The construction industry has been trying to utilize safety culture and climate to reduce fatalities and injuries (Goldenhar et al., 2015; Hofmann et al., 2017). However, Zohar and Hofmann (2012) highlighted a noticeable lack of clarity surrounding definitions and measurements for safety culture and climate. The following have been suggested as some of the main challenges to full utilization of safety culture and climate in the construction industry:

- The current definitions of safety culture and climate are often used interchangeably (Al-Bayati et al., 2019; Petitta et al., 2017).

- The current proposed safety culture and climate measurements have not been particularly validated in the construction context because they have been proposed based on other industries’ needs (Schwatka et al., 2016). As a result, they do not capture the construction industry’s proclivities (Niu et al., 2017).

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