The association between subcontractor safety management programs and worker perceived safety climate in commercial construction projects

Ann Marie Dale, Ryan Colvin, Marco Barrera, Jaime R. Strickland, Bradley A. Evanoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Problem: Safety management programs (SMPs) are designed to mitigate risk of workplace injuries and create a safe working climate. The purpose of this project was to evaluate the relationship between contractors’ SMPs and workers’ perceived safety climate and safety behaviors among small and medium-sized construction subcontractors. Methods: Subcontractor SMP scores on 18 organizational and project-level safety items were coded from subcontractors’ written safety programs and interviews. Workers completed surveys to report perceptions of their contractor's safety climate and the safety behaviors of coworkers, crews, and themselves. The associations between SMP scores and safety climate and behavior scales were examined using Spearman correlation and hierarchical linear regression models (HLM). Results: Among 78 subcontractors working on large commercial construction projects, we found striking differences in SMP scores between small, medium, and large subcontractors (p < 0.001), related to a number of specific safety management practices. We observed only weak relationships between SMP scales and safety climate scores reported by 746 workers of these subcontractors (β = 0.09, p = 0.04 by HLM). We saw no differences in worker reported safety climate and safety behaviors by contractor size. Discussion: SMP only weakly predicted safety climate scales of subcontractors, yet there were large differences in the quality and content of SMPs by size of employers. Summary: Future work should determine the best way to measure safety performance of construction companies and determine the factors that can lead to improved safety performance of construction firms. Practical applications: Our simple assessment of common elements of safety management programs used document review and interviews with knowledgeable representatives. These methods identified specific safety management practices that differed between large and small employers. In order to improve construction safety, it is important to understand how best to measure safety performance in construction companies to gain knowledge for creating safer work environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-288
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Safety Research
StatePublished - Sep 2020


  • Construction
  • Injury prevention
  • Leading indicators
  • Safety climate
  • Safety management systems


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