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Accident Analysis and Prevention 68 (2014) 117130

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Accident Analysis and Prevention

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A system of safety management practices and worker engagement

for reducing and preventing accidents: An empirical and
theoretical investigation
Jan K. Wachter , Patrick L. Yorio
Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Safety Sciences Department, Johnson Hall Room 137, 1010 Oakland Avenue, 15705-1063, United States

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Objective: The overall research objective was to theoretically and empirically develop the ideas around
Received 28 January 2013 a system of safety management practices (ten practices were elaborated), to test their relationship with
Received in revised form 13 May 2013 objective safety statistics (such as accident rates), and to explore how these practices work to achieve
Accepted 26 July 2013
positive safety results (accident prevention) through worker engagement.
Available online 7 August 2013
Method: Data were collected using safety manager, supervisor and employee surveys designed to assess
and link safety management system practices, employee perceptions resulting from existing practices,
and safety performance outcomes.
Safety management systems
Worker engagement
Results: Results indicate the following: there is a signicant negative relationship between the presence
Human performance of ten individual safety management practices, as well as the composite of these practices, with accident
Accident prevention rates; there is a signicant negative relationship between the level of safety-focused worker emotional
Accident rates and cognitive engagement with accident rates; safety management systems and worker engagement
levels can be used individually to predict accident rates; safety management systems can be used to
predict worker engagement levels; and worker engagement levels act as mediators between the safety
management system and safety performance outcomes (such as accident rates).
Implications: Even though the presence of safety management system practices is linked with incident
reduction and may represent a necessary rst-step in accident prevention, safety performance may also
depend on mediation by safety-focused cognitive and emotional engagement by workers. Thus, when
organizations invest in a safety management system approach to reducing/preventing accidents and
improving safety performance, they should also be concerned about winning over the minds and hearts
of their workers through human performance-based safety management systems designed to promote
and enhance worker engagement.
2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. Open access under CC BY license.

1. Introduction 2007), ANSI/AIHA Z10-2012 (American National Standards

Institute, 2012), and the OSHAs Voluntary Protection Program
Organizations often adopt safety management system or (VPP) (Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 2011).
behavior-based system approaches to managing their safety These consensus standards do not strongly emphasize the human
functions in an attempt to achieve performance excellence. Orga- element when developing and implementing the required pro-
nizations typically prefer adopting one system versus the other cesses and procedures described in these standards. Conversely,
probably due to both pragmatic (e.g., resource and implementation traditional behavior-based systems adopt observational method-
constraints) and philosophical reasons. Commonly adopted safety ologies where workers use a list of dened critical behaviors,
management system approaches are described in consensus observe workers for these behaviors, and provide feedback. How-
standards such as OHSAS 18001:2007 (British Standards Institute, ever, more advanced behavior-based systems (e.g., antecedent-
behavior-consequence systems; DO-IT systems) uncover and
correct organizational barriers (i.e., management system decien-
cies) that inhibit safe acts (and therefore accidents) from occurring.
The reality is that aspects of both of these systems are probably
needed to effectively manage safety performance in organizations.
Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 724 357 3275; fax: +1 724 357 3992. An argument can be made that the two types of systems described
E-mail address: (J.K. Wachter). above are complementary and that their respective strengths

0001-4575 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. Open access under CC BY license.
118 J.K. Wachter, P.L. Yorio / Accident Analysis and Prevention 68 (2014) 117130

Fig. 1. Human performance approach to accident causation (U.S. Department of Energy, 2009).

can be merged into a more balanced and comprehensive system occur, the behaviors of workers, who are at the sharp edge of
to managing safety and in preventing accidents from occurring accidents and who interface with both the hazards and the safety
(DeJoy, 2005). Both aspects are prominently featured in the human management system itself, are closely scrutinized during acci-
performance approach to safety management which attempts to dent investigations. This inquiry focus most likely leads to the
understand and eliminate the causes of human error (and thus often quoted and misapplied statistic that the vast majority of all
accidents or events) in the workplace from both safety manage- accidents are caused by unsafe acts (i.e., human behavior) (Seo,
ment and behavioral systems perspectives (see Fig. 1). The human 2005).
performance approach to safety management in organizations can In the eld of human performance improvement, there are a
be viewed as potentially spanning the rational, natural and open number of human performance tools that can be used to systemat-
system organizational approaches as described by Scott (1981). ically reduce the chance of human error. These tools can be viewed
In human performance theory, mission, goals, policies, pro- as vehicles for providing mental and social skills that complement
cesses and programs (i.e., safety management system components) a workers technical skills to promote safe and efcient task perfor-
have latent organizational weaknesses that could give rise to mance, such as carving out time to think about work, in particular
awed defenses and error precursors within organizations (Reason, the critical steps of that work (Muschara, 2012). Some human per-
1990, 1997). These error precursors are unfavorable conditions formance improvement tools commonly used include conducting
that increase the probability of human errors while perform- pre- and post-task briengs, performing peer-checking, and using
ing specic actions. Common error traps include time pressure, self-checking approaches such as take-a-minute, STAR (Stop-
mental pressure, fatigue, being new to the task, distractions, and Think-Act-Review), and stop and seek for workers who do not
overcondence (U.S. Department of Energy, 2009). In the human believe they have the appropriate knowledge to make decisions
performance system, human error is merely a symptom of some (Wachter and Yorio, 2013). These human performance tools are
trouble deeper in the system (Dekker, 2006). emphatically worker-centric in that they engage workers to have
It is probably inevitable that latent organizational weaknesses more situational awareness concerning their safety, error traps
(and resulting awed defenses and error precursors) will arise present, tasks to be performed, and conditions/surroundings.
within a system of safety management practices for a number of Worker engagement in safety may systematically act to reduce
practical reasons. First, safety management systems cannot plan the probability of human errors from occurring by making work-
for, control, and defend against all potential error-prone situa- ers more involved with and aware of their tasks/surroundings and
tions because in doing so work would need to be planned and associated risks, as well as error traps that could be present. Thus,
controlled to such a high and constraining degree that it would increased levels of worker engagement in safety activities could
be time-consuming, unworkable and uneconomical. Second, safety possibly be related to increased safety performance as measured
management systems tend to be institutionalized through policies, by standard safety outcomes (e.g., accident rates).
plans, procedures, and processes and therefore are not easily and The overall goals of the two studies described in this article
readily adaptable to the natural and inevitable variations occur- are two-fold: to theoretically and empirically develop the ideas
ring in work being conducted and the hazards being encountered. around a system of safety management practices and to test its
Lastly, humans, who are fallible, design and implement safety man- relationship with safety performance statistics such as accident
agement systems. Therefore, the lifeblood of a safety management rates (i.e., supporting a safety management system approach to
system is shared with the managers and workers who have birthed managing safety performance) and to theoretically and empirically
the system and have given it daily life (and sometimes death). explore how these practices work (largely using a high perfor-
From a behavioral perspective, workers bring their beliefs, mance work practice perspective) to achieve positive safety results
values, and vision to the design and implementation of safety through worker engagement (i.e., supporting an approach medi-
management systems and ultimately in performing work. In partic- ated by worker perceptions). If these goals are achieved, then the
ular, the individual worker interfaces with the safety management human performance approach to preventing accidents (i.e., a sys-
system by participating or engaging (or by not participating or tem comprised of both safety management and behavior-based
engaging) in the system. Motivation to participate can be affected system components presented in Fig. 1 and a system which is also
by workers beliefs and values, which can impact the workers represented by the person being the center of the safety manage-
degree, quality and consistency of participation. When accidents ment system presented in Fig. 2) is supported.
J.K. Wachter, P.L. Yorio / Accident Analysis and Prevention 68 (2014) 117130 119

1.1. A system of safety management practices

A safety management system consists of programs, processes,

policies, and procedures for which there is a formal func-
tion overseeing their development, implementation, and ongoing
administration. They are usually codied in writing and issued
as approved documents that specify functions, roles, responsibili-
ties, accountabilities and authorities. Safety management practices
comprising this system can be conceptualized as global data points.
Klein and Kozlowski (2000) describe global data points as being
top-town and largely within the control of organizational man-
agers. Bliese and Jex (2002) further describe them as objective
group properties that vary between groups but not within them. In
terms of the existence of these global data points, they either exist
or they do not exist in an objective sense and act to create a context
in which workers carry out their work. These safety management
system practices do not represent a form of context comprised
through perceptual processes of workers such as safety climate or
management commitment (Guldenmund, 2010). Thus, measures
Fig. 2. Human performance: the center of any safety management system (such as worker engagement or sense of workplace justice) which
Adapted from Fisher (2012) tap into employee perceptions may be considered as consequences
of the objective safety management system practices that are in
In these studies we rst looked at discerning a list of mean- Within the human resource eld, when systems of best prac-
ingful objective practices (based on stakeholder input) that could tices are considered, they are referred to as high performance work
comprise a safety management system in line with viewing organi- practices (HPWPs) (Guthrie, 2001; Huselid, 1995). HPWPs can be
zations as rational systems that pursue relatively specic goals and conceptualized as a group of separate but interconnected human
exhibit a relatively high formalized social structure. This perspec- resource practices that collectively recruit, select, develop, moti-
tive is in synch with the most commonly used safety management vate, and retain workers (Way, 2002). HPWP theory further argues
system consensus standards in that these practices are described that workers are capable of continuous improvement and, when
largely independently of individual/variable actors (i.e., work- motivated, will perform at higher levels (Pfeffer, 1998).
ers) who implement these practices/processes in organizations. In HPWP theory can be applied to a system of safety management
short, we devised a list of integrated practices/processes (some practices in order to gain a more precise understanding of their
of which are actual components within these consensus stan- functioning and impacts from a human performance perspective.
dards) that if present could theoretically and empirically be linked Safety management system practices may be viewed as having
with safety performance without major consideration of articu- characteristics of HPWPs. These safety management practices are
lating the behavioral components within these constructs. Thus, designed to inuence employee knowledge, skills, motivation,
we initially reied to some extent the characteristics of our safety decision-making, attitudes, and perceptions (right side of Fig. 1).
management system components constructs from employee per- Further, these safety management system practices are consistent
ceptual denitions largely to assess if the management system with the premise that organizations can gain sustainable com-
practices can be viewed from mainly a structural and objective petitive advantages by utilizing strategic, synergistic systems of
perspective (such as that exhibited in most safety management interconnected safety practices designed to keep their employees
consensus standards) and to determine if these objective high per- working safely and without incident.
formance work practices would impact accident statistics. But, it Both the theoretical and empirical links between general (e.g.,
should be noted that some of our practices are clearly designed non-safety oriented) HPWPs and occupational safety have been
from an interaction perspective which necessarily involves workers previously examined (Barling and Zacharatos, 1999; Parker et al.,
(i.e., employee involvement, cooperation facilitation, and commu- 2001; Zacharatos et al., 2005). This literature set is grounded in
nication and information perspective); however, these are related the premise that traditional HPWPs used to generally manage
to processes being in place to achieve interaction goals, rather performance and efciency behaviors are also likely to inuence
than promoting certain workers perceptions. Then, informed by important safety behaviors (Parker et al., 2001). The traditional
social psychology research, we investigated the more subjective HPWPs considered in these models consist of job autonomy, high-
worker perceptual inuences present in organizations and linked quality jobs, employment security, transformational leadership,
the extent of these perceptions with the degree of safety man- extensive training, information sharing, measurement of manage-
agement system practices being implemented in order to discern ment practices, selective hiring, and reduced status distinctions.
their combined effects on safety performance. In this way, using These studies provide a strong foundation for the premise that a
a stepwise approach (rst attempting to show that high perfor- system of safety management practices can be used specically to
mance work practices impact both worker perceptions and safety improve safety behaviors and organizational safety performance.
performance, and second attempting to show that worker percep- We recognize that general HPWPs can indeed inuence occupa-
tions can also impact high performance work practices and safety tional safety performance, but we also contend that organizations
performance) we are responding to the criticism of rational sys- rely on various sets of safety management system practices
tem theory: that it largely ignores the impact of environment and designed to manage human safety performance either directly or
behavior on the organization and organizational performance. This indirectly. Other theorists have come to a similar conclusion and
dualistic approach is similar to that presented by Fernndez-Muniz research exists to support the link between specic safety manage-
et al. (2007) in their model linking manager commitment to safety ment practices and safety performance. For example, Aksorn and
performance through the two independent constructs of employee Hadikusumo (2008) found that safety management system prac-
involvement and the safety management system. tices including incident investigations, jobsite inspections, control
120 J.K. Wachter, P.L. Yorio / Accident Analysis and Prevention 68 (2014) 117130

of subcontractors, and safety incentives decreased incident rates; this slight overlap in the limited number of cases is not indicative of
jobsite inspections, incident investigations, job hazard analysis, decreased validity for each of the practices but points more toward
safety committees and safety recordkeeping decreased the number evidence of the connected and synergistic fashion in which they are
of unsafe acts that occurred; and incident investigations, jobsite suspected to function. The rigorous, iterative process used to select
inspections, job hazard analysis, and safety auditing were most the practices and the items within those practices provides con-
effective in reducing the number of unsafe conditions. Vinodkumar tent validity to the measurement model used for our two research
and Bhasi (2011) found signicantly differing perceptions of the studies that were conducted (study number one and study number
linkage between safety management systems and safety perfor- two).
mance in OHSAS 18001-certied organizations versus those that In addition, some of the ten management system practices com-
were not certied. This limited research only measured percep- prising our safety management system (i.e., accident investigation,
tions of safety management systems to inuence behavior and detection and monitoring, training) are also major components
did not consider objective, measurable performance data, such as contained in common safety management system consensus stan-
total recordable case (TRC) or Days Away Restricted or Transferred dards. In fact all of the ten practices could be inferred in some
(DART) case rates. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Admin- way as being possible approaches to implementing various consen-
istration (OSHA) claims that on average VPP-certied organizations sus standard requirements, although it may not be directly stated
have DART case rates approximately 50% below the industrial mean in these standards. However, the denitions/characteristics of our
based upon the injury and illness data submitted annually by the system components are much more detailed than those contained
VPP participants (Occupational Safety and Health Administration, in consensus standard language. This is because these consensus
2011). Despite these general claims of safety performance impacts standards largely dene their components from a process output
due to safety management systems being in place, the literature perspective (i.e., what these components are designed to accom-
is somewhat limited in its reporting of and explaining the effect plished overall), while our components are also dened by their
of individual safety management system practices (which char- internal congurations (i.e., how these components function to con-
acterize and comprise the safety management system) on safety trol risk by describing their characteristics).
performance and accident prevention.
In order to develop a characterization model for safety manage- 1.2. Worker cognitive and emotional safety engagement
ment practices, we started with a review of the existing literature
(e.g., Makin and Winder, 2008 and those highlighted above) and Safety management systems are developed and implemented to
we subsequently conducted a series of exploratory interviews identify, evaluate, control and ultimately reduce safety risk and to
with representatives from large U.S. domestic and multi-national generate numerous layers of defenses that prevent accidents from
organizations as well as human performance consulting rms. occurring. But as explained previously these safety management
These organizations (most of which were in safety- and human systems are awed both during their development and imple-
performance-critical sectors) were known to be leaders in the eld mentation (accidents still occur!), perhaps due to the fact that
of human performance. These representatives consisted of safety these systems cannot anticipate and control all possible work situ-
executives, corporate strategic advisors, global safety and health ations and that these systems tend to be slow to adapt to changing
managers, and human performance consultants. Our role was to situations or uncertainty because of their rigid, controlled and com-
ask a series of open ended and clarifying questions designed to plicated structures. In addition, where work is being conducted,
understand the types of management system practices used to for- there is a human, who is capable of error, connecting that work
mally manage human safety performance within organizations. with the safety management system. Active errors occur at this
A consistent set of ten formalized practices emerged: employee sharp edge, where the safety management system touches the
involvement; pre- and post-task safety reviews; safe work proce- worker and the worker touches the work to be performed.
dures; hiring for safety; cooperation facilitation; safety training; What general offenses and defenses do workers have within
information sharing; accident investigation; detection and moni- their control that will keep them safe and make them aware of
toring of deviation; and safe task assignment. Of these ten practices, their ever-changing surroundings, error traps, and the fallibility of
two practices (i.e., safety training and information sharing) were safety management systems and themselves? The answer, perhaps,
similar to the six dimensions described by Fernndez-Muniz et al. is in the ability of workers to become generally engaged with their
(2007) in their set of practices used to analyze causal relationship work and more specically in the safety aspects of their work.
with safety performance. When engaged, an organizations members complete work roles
The questions chosen to reect each safety management by driving personal energy into physical, cognitive and emotional
practice were chosen through the same qualitative, exploratory labors. Engagement involves investing the hands, head & heart
interview approach used to identify the practices themselves. (Ashforth and Humphrey, 1995) of workers in active, full work per-
During a follow-up interview process with each of the original par- formance. Engagement occurs when individuals are emotionally
ticipants, representatives were asked to generate the items that connected to others and cognitively vigilant (Harter et al., 2002;
reect the most effective way the practices are administered. Thus, Kahn, 1990). Connection and vigilance can be described as being
the items chosen to measure the individual safety management psychologically present, fully there, attentive, feeling, integrated,
practices reect what was indicated as the internal congurations and focused in their role performance.
that are likely to result in maximum safety performance benet. The specic mediating role of worker engagement on perfor-
Table 1 describes these ten management system practices com- mance was initially explored by Rich et al. (2010). Their research
prising a safety management system and the theoretical and human explicitly positioned engagement as a motivational concept which
performance framework for including them in this research study. can lead to desired behavioral consequences. As indicated by Rich
There is some overlap in the items content. For example, the com- et al., this emphasis is consistent with Ashforth and Humphreys
munication and information sharing practice includes an item that (1995) argument that because engagement accounts for the simul-
measures the degree to which results from accident investigations taneous expression of both strong motivation and psychological
are shared among the workforce. In this case we felt, in agreement involvement, it is an important motivational concept with great
with the focus group, that this important item tapped more into potential to improve understanding of the mechanism through
characterizing the process of information sharing, rather than the which contextual perceptions and behavioral tendencies ulti-
process of conducting an accident investigation. We suggest that mately inuence behavior and performance.
J.K. Wachter, P.L. Yorio / Accident Analysis and Prevention 68 (2014) 117130 121

Table 1
Safety management system practices, theoretical framework for inclusion, and survey items used in research study number one and study number two.

Safety management system Theoretical framework Survey items used to create safety management system
practices practice composite

Employee involvement/inuence Employee inuence over safety management system practices, Employees are involved in the process of creating safe
programs and safe work procedures works by actively work instructions.
facilitating safe attitudes and behaviors. As employee inuence Employees can inuence STOP work criteria.
over safety practices increases they are more likely to defend Employees are involved in devising solutions to incidents
their existence and adopt the value of working safely and that resulted from human error.
encouraging others to do so. For example, as employees are Employees are involved in performing safety
given the opportunity to contribute to the development of safe observations of other employees.
work procedures they are more likely to identify with those Employees are involved in conducting accident
safe work procedures and thus follow them and further investigations.
encourage others to do so to. Employee inuence and Employees are involved in the hiring for safety of their
involvement over safety practices can have a strong impact on peers.
safety culture and climate as the collective workforce has a
stake in the safety programs success. Also employee
engagement has been directly correlated to the amount of
involvement that employees have in their work processes
(Lockwood, 1997). Employee inuence and/or participation in
developing and implementing safety management system
practices, processes, programs and procedures functions by
actively facilitating employee engagement.

Pre- and post-task safety reviews All routine or non-routine tasks require some element of How often are pre-task safety reviews done (i.e. planning
safety and health risk. When employees perform routine tasks, and reviewing the safety considerations of the task)?
they are more likely to become complacent and fall into the When pre-task safety reviews are done, a review of
cognitive decision-making traps such as anchoring bias critical steps is conducted.
(relying primarily on the outcome of previous task When pre-task safety reviews are done, error likely
executions), knowledge bias (relying primarily on current steps/situations are addressed.
knowledge and overlooking the safest options), optimism bias When pre-task safety reviews are done, the worst thing
(the tendency to underestimate true risk involved in a task), that could happen is discussed.
overcondence bias (overestimation of ones own ability to When pre-task safety reviews are done, special safe work
avoid potential harmful outcomes of a task), and other biases. procedures including PPE is discussed.
When tasks are non-routine the actual risks involved may be When pre-task safety reviews are done, energy sources
unknown. A disciplined practice of reviewing the safety requiring isolation are addressed.
considerations of routine and non-routine tasks helps facilitate When pre-task safety reviews are done, STOP work
maximum cognitive concentration on the safety elements of criteria are discussed.
the task and situational awareness. Post-task safety reviews After nishing a task, employees participate in reviewing
help solidify those elements and increase the likelihood of the safety aspects of their task.
safety concentration in later tasks. These post-task reviews
also allow for generating lessons learned for application to
future work and this acts as a means to achieve continual
improvement of safety performance.

Safe work procedures Safe work procedures are developed to provide the steps Percent of routine tasks that safe work procedures have
necessary to safety execute tasks free of injury and illness. They been developed for.
provide important and consistent information to workers of Percent of high risk jobs for which hazard analyses have
what is expected of them from a safety perspective. There can been completed.
be considerable variation in safe work procedure development, Hazard analyses previously performed are thorough and
content and administration. Safe work procedures can play a robust.
vital role in ensuring that routine, complex tasks are executed Safe work safe work procedures are reviewed and
safely. Safe work procedures can be developed with employee updated when necessary.
inuence and updated at varying frequencies. Safety lessons learned are considered when reviewing
and updating safe work procedures.
Safe work procedures contain a warning about the
potential consequences of deviation.

Hiring for safety Selective hiring for safety works by hiring employees who are The safety values and beliefs of this organization are
less likely to get injured and who have an intrinsic value for discussed in the interviews with potential employees.
safe work. Hiring for safety is a management system practice Only the best people are hired to work in this
that can consist of elements such as ensuring physically organization.
capability, the absence of substance abuse, multiple Number of interviews a job applicant goes through prior
standardized interviews, and a process to instill the value of to a job offer.
safety prior to hire. Job applicants go through background checks.
Job applicants have to pass a physical stating that they
can physically do the job.
Job applicants undergo a drug test prior to being hired.

Cooperation facilitation Safety can be viewed as a personal and or collective endeavor. Employees are encouraged to cooperate with each other
In todays workplace tasks are becoming increasingly on resolving safety issues.
interdependent. Where tasks are interdependent, employees Formal communication mechanisms among co-workers
need to rely on one another for information and cooperation to are robust enough to ensure that information being shared
perform tasks successfully and without incident. Thus an covers all necessary safety information.
increasing concern for current safety programs is to devise Formal mechanisms are utilized to ensure that key safety
ways to formally link employees in information sharing and to information is communicated between off-going and
encourage a willingness to help each other and communicate on-coming shifts.
freely about key safety consideration in interdependent task
122 J.K. Wachter, P.L. Yorio / Accident Analysis and Prevention 68 (2014) 117130

Table 1 (Continued)

Safety management system Theoretical framework Survey items used to create safety management system
practices practice composite

Safety training Safety training is a fundamental safety practice emphasized by Employees are formally trained on the safety aspects of
most federal and state safety and health legislative bodies. their job.
Safety training works by increasing knowledge and awareness Number of hours of formal safety training.
of safety and health in the workplace. There is considerable Throughout the course of the year, how often employees are
variation in the ways that safety training is designed and formally trained on the safety aspects of their job. (seven
delivered. For example, some organizations may elect to train point scale, Never to Always).
employees to minimum compliance objectives in one 10 h Employee safety training incorporates elements of hazard
session per year. A different company might train employees recognition and avoidance.
20 h per year in 2 h increments and go beyond compliance
requirements to incorporate content addressing the art and
science of hazard recognition, evaluation, and control.

Communication and information Communication and information sharing is tied to the Employees are informed of new or revised safety rules
sharing frequency and methods (distinct from safety training) of and safe work instructions.
emphasizing knowledge and the importance of safe work. Employees are informed about potential hazards in the
Companies might use print media (e.g., posters and payroll workplace or their tasks.
stuffers) to increase cognitive awareness of safe work and Information about the importance of working safely is
emphasize its importance. Companies can also share communicated to employees (e.g., print media, posters,
information concerning near misses and incidents experienced and payroll stuffers).
within and outside the immediate establishment. Employees are informed about safety incidents
experienced in other similar organizations.
Employees are informed about safety incidents and/or
near misses experienced by other employees.
When safety incidents do occur, the results of the
investigation are shared among the workforce.

Accident investigation When safety incidents (i.e. employee injuries and near misses) Incident investigations seek to uncover potential reasons
do occur, organizations can investigate those accidents with why human error might have contributed to the incident.
the ultimate goal of reducing the probability of the event How soon accidents are investigated.
occurring again. Accident investigation management practices Accident investigations are conducted by a team of
can differ substantially in administration. For example, individuals consisting of employee representative(s), a safety
organizations may investigate incidents within the shift that it representative, and the injured employees immediate
occurred as opposed to within 48 h supervisor.

Detection and monitoring Detection and monitoring works to reinforce other safety Safety checklists have been developed corresponding to
management system practices used by an organization. possible workplace hazardous conditions.
Organizations can create and utilize checklists used by Safety checklists have been developed which correspond
supervisors and other employees to detect situations and to possible workplace at risk behaviors.
behaviors that may not be in line with the safety rules and Safety observations target behaviors that deviate from
requirements in place. When a violation is observed safe work instructions.
organizations can handle it in different ways. For example, Safe work instruction deviations result in negative
negative sanctions can be divvied out to an employee for a consequences for employees.
deviation from a safe work rule or procedure while other Deviations from safe work instructions are tracked and
organizations may use a constructive problem solving monitored.

Safe task assignment Organizations may take into account how well suited an Supervisors are provided with the exibility to assign the
(task-employee matching) employee is for a particular task in order to maximize the right employee to the task.
likelihood that the task will be executed successfully without When exibility is allowed, past experience with the task
incident. Task-employee matching may take into account is considered.
familiarity with the task, physical demands of the task, etc. When exibility is allowed, the physical demands of the
task are considered.
When exibility is allowed, the risk of fatigue or
extended work hours is considered.
When exibility is allowed, the risk associated with
stress or distraction is considered.

Studies have shown a positive relationship between the mea- Foundation, the Molson Coors beverage company saved $1.7 mil-
sured level of employee engagement with business-unit outcomes lion in safety costs by strengthening employee engagement. It was
such as higher productivity, better quality, lower employee also found that engaged workers were ve times less likely than
turnover, greater customer satisfaction, and increased protabil- non-engaged workers to have a safety incident and seven times
ity (Raines, 2011; Vance, 2006). Further, the notion of employee less likely to have a lost-time safety incident. In addition, it was
engagements relationship to safety performance has also been reported that the average cost of a safety incident was $392 for
identied by researchers to a lesser extent. For example, in a study non-engaged workers, but only $63 for engaged workers (Vance,
reporting on the role of worker engagement on safety performance, 2006; Raines, 2011).
Gallup compared the critical business outcomes of workgroups Employee engagement may play a critical role in combating cog-
within more than 125 organizations. This meta-analysis compared nitive and decision-making biases which workers can fall prey to,
workgroups that were in the top-quartile and bottom quartile especially in routine task execution. When workers are engaged in
in employee engagement measures (Harter et al., 2006). Accord- safe task execution, a conscious effort is being made on the part
ing to the study, engaged business units experienced 62% fewer of workers not to be overcondent, skip safe work procedures,
safety incidents than units with lower employee engagement. In a and/or underestimate the risks involved in tasks. Workers who are
report issued by Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) engaged in the organizational safety management system might
J.K. Wachter, P.L. Yorio / Accident Analysis and Prevention 68 (2014) 117130 123

be described as being interested in, connected to, and focused on 2.1.1. Specic research questions in safety manager survey
the safety aspects of their job. When workers are engaged in safe The specic questions being addressed in study number one as
work they are willing to invest their mental, emotional, and physi- reported in this article using the data from the rst safety manager
cal efforts toward ensuring that they conduct their work safely and survey are:
without incident. By being emotionally and cognitively connected Question 1. Is there a signicant and/or predictive relationship
to their work and work environment, employee safety engagement between the individual safety management practices and the sys-
may be an important personal defense against the error precur- tem of practices with safety performance outcomes as measured
sors that may be present in the organization. Thus, employee safety by accident (i.e., TRC and DART) rates?
engagement may represent a critical construct in predicting safety Question 2. Is there a signicant and/or predictive relation-
performance. ship between the safety managers assessment of levels of worker
Whereas safety management practices and systems of practices safety engagement (emotional engagement; cognitive engage-
provide for developing and executing processes oriented toward ment; emotional and cognitive engagement composite) with safety
the safe planning, controlling, performing and checking of work, performance outcomes as measured through accident (i.e., TRC and
based on the fact that workers actually have to implement these DART) rates?
processes, the level of worker engagement associated with man- Question 3. Do worker engagement levels (emotional engage-
aging or working within a system of safety management practices ment, cognitive engagement, and cognitive and emotional
and processes may be very important to their safety performance engagement composite) mediate the relationship between the
success. It would appear that by applying the research described so safety management system and safety performance outcomes as
far that cognitively, emotionally and physically engaged workers measured by accident (i.e., TRC and DART) rates?
would be motivated to make these safety management practices
work or would have the situational awareness to see when these 2.1.2. Measures
safety management practices are not working effectively and adapt Safety Management Practices. As was shown in Table 1, the
their behavior accordingly. Both situations should lead to a height- presence and characteristics of each safety management system
ened state of safety performance leading to lower accident rates. practice was measured using a composite of multiple questions.
The total number of survey items designed to reect the safety
2. Methods management practices was initially 52. Each safety manager was
asked to evaluate the degree to which each item within each
In 2011 and 2012, data were collected using surveys designed practice reected the safety management practice for the orga-
to assess and link existing safety management system practices, nization. Each item on the survey was measured using a 7 point
employee engagement levels, and safety performance outcomes. scale from strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (7) except for the
Two separate large scale studies were conducted during this time following items: how often are pre-task safety reviews done? (7
period. For study number one, a survey was administered to points scale: 1 = never to 7 = always); percent of routine tasks that
safety managers and was designed to investigate the relationship safe work procedures have been developed (1 = 0%, 2 = 25%, 3 = 50%,
between a system of safety management practices (as well as indi- 4 = 75%, 5 = 100%); percent of high risk jobs that have completed
vidual practices) with objective safety performance statistics (e.g., hazard analyses (1 = 0%, 2 = 25%, 3 = 50%, 4 = 75%, 5 = 100%); num-
accident rates) through a measure of employee engagement. In ber of hours of safety training per year (1 = 0, 2 = <10, 3 = 1120,
study number two, we utilized a group-level research approach 4 = 21-30, 5 = 3140, 6 = >40); and how soon investigations are ini-
and analyzed the relationship between the system of safety man- tiated after their occurrence? (accidents are not investigated, <24 h,
agement practices, employee-reported engagement levels, and 2448 h, >48 h).
self-reported injuries and illnesses within establishment units (e.g., In order to rene the safety management system survey we fol-
work groups). This second study largely targeted rst line supervi- lowed steps similar to those executed in Fernndez-Muniz et al.
sors and their workers. (2007) and Zacharatos et al. (2005). We rst computed reliability
coefcients (i.e. Chronbachs ) for each of the subscales and iden-
2.1. Study number one tied items that decreased the reliability for each subscale. Based
on this analysis, two items designed to measure training and one
Through the American Society of Safety Engineers member- item designed to measure accident investigation were removed
ship database, a 69 item survey was distributed to 2400 safety from the scales. After removing the items (which are shown in
managers mainly across the U.S. The response rate was 14% (342 italics in Table 1), the resulting internal consistencies for each of
safety managers fully completed this survey in study number one). the practice subscales achieved acceptable levels (Nunnally and
The survey included questions related to the organizations demo- Bernstein, 1994), with a range from .713 to .913 (average is .794).
graphics, demographics and employment information related to Using the remaining 49 items we executed a conrmatory fac-
the survey respondents, the safety management practices uti- tor analysis (CFA) in SPSS Amos 20 (Arbuckle, 2005) to explore
lized at the establishment, the perceived level of employee safety the underlying structure or dimensionality of the safety manage-
engagement, and the establishments accident and injury statis- ment scale. Consistent with previous research in which the item
tics. The mean number of workers per establishment was 632. to observation ratio is a potential concern (Bentler and Chou,
Multiple sectors were represented in the sample, including agri- 1988; Hall et al., 1999; Hoffmann and Morgeson, 1999), the CFA
culture, construction, transportation and distribution, education, was carried out by creating item parcels (i.e. averaging the items
government, healthcare, light manufacturing, heavy manufactur-
ing, mining, research and development, and service.1
variables corresponding to each of the industrial sectors, and created interaction
terms between the safety management system composite and each of the dummy
coded industry sector variables. We then individually executed eleven moderated
It should be noted that given the diverse sectors represented by our sample regressions to explore if the given prediction of the outcomes by the safety man-
in study number one we preliminarily explored whether the regression prediction agement system differed between the isolated industrial sector and the remaining
of the TRC and DART rates by the complete safety management system compos- industries. We found that zero of the 11 interaction terms were signicant. This
ite was different among the industry sectors. In order to conduct this analysis we suggests that the prediction of the outcomes by the safety management system is
rst centered the safety management system composite, created dummy coded consistent across the industrial sectors included in this analysis.
124 J.K. Wachter, P.L. Yorio / Accident Analysis and Prevention 68 (2014) 117130

within each practice subscale) and xing the error variance equal the procedure as follows. First, the predictor (i.e. safety manage-
to one minus the subscale reliability multiplied by its variance: ment system practice composite) must have a signicant statistical
(1 reliability) variance. While keeping the covariance structure association with the outcome (i.e. TRC and DART rates). Second,
between the practices constant, we compared the ten factor, null the mediator (e.g., worker engagement) must also be signicantly
model to a second order factor model in which a safety manage- related to the outcome (i.e., TRC and DART rates). These relation-
ment system latent construct was imposed as the common latent ships are typically shown through two regression models where
factor of the 10 distinct safety managements practice subscales. the outcome is rst predicted by the predictor alone and second
We found that the second order factor model displayed excellent by the mediator alone. In both regression models, the relation-
t. There was a signicant difference between the observed and ship between the predictor/mediator and the outcome variable
modeled covariance matrix, 2 (35, N = 330) = 115.98, p < 001; how- should be signicant. Third, the predictor (i.e. safety management
ever the t statistics suggest that the second order model provided system practice composite) should signicantly predict the medi-
excellent t (GFI = .94, CFI = .95, RMSEA = .03). The second order ator (i.e. worker engagement). Fourth, when both the predictor
model also demonstrated signicantly better t than the 10 factor and the mediator are entered into a multiple regression model,
null model, 2 (10, N = 330) = 805.46, p < 001. The factor loadings simultaneously predicting the outcome, the previously established
of the pathways between the latent system and each of the practice relationship between the predictor (i.e. safety management sys-
composites were .43.87. The correlations both among the practice tem practice composites) and the outcome (i.e. TRC and DART
composites created through the rened list of items and with the rates) should disappear while the mediator remains signicant
overall system provide additional support for our characterization (Research Question 3). These steps are necessary to statistically
model. The average correlation among the management system support the claim that through worker engagement, for exam-
practice composites is 0.44 and provides discriminant validity (i.e., ple, safety management systems impact organizational injuries
the reason why scores of the different practices are reported). The and illnesses.
average correlation between these practice composites and the
overall system composite is .70. Combined with the results of the
CFA, these moderate correlations among the practices coupled with 2.2. Study number two
strong correlations with the composite system provide support for
the way that the scores are being reported in this study (i.e., that In order to more thoroughly explore how safety management
reporting of the total score for the complete composite system is system practices work to reduce injuries and illnesses, a subset of
justied) (Standard 1.11 in AERA, APA, and CME, 1999). those establishments that participated in study number one were
Each practice was represented in the research model by cal- asked to survey their supervisors (largely rst-line supervisors)
culating the mean response per respondent to each set of survey and workers for the characteristics of the safety management sys-
questions comprising a safety management system practice. In tem/management practices in place (supervisor survey) and their
order to model the overall composite of practices utilized within levels of worker engagement (employee survey) toward safety.
a specic establishment, we used an additive approach which Twenty-nine establishments accepted the invitation to participate
has been developed, tested and is popular in the strategic human in the second study. Of those, 23 involved safety critical operations,
resources literature (see Zacharatos et al., 2005). Proponents of this such as heavy manufacturing, nuclear power research and produc-
additive approach to measuring a composite of safety management tion, mining, and construction. These 23 establishments were then
practices argue that this approach is theoretically consistent with asked to choose up to three distinct groups (i.e. department, work
how a management system operates in that there are many differ- group, etc.) within their establishment to participate in the study.
ent/numerous ways that the system can be exibly implemented Instructions were provided to participating organizations to choose
through its components (depending on context) and still be effec- groups that share similar tasks and the same production goals. Con-
tive (Becker and Huselid, 1998; Zacharatos et al., 2005). sistent with previous literature (e.g., Zohar and Luria, 2005) we
Employee Safety Engagement. Safety managers completing the expect that meaningful group-level variation can exist between
survey were asked to evaluate the degree of employee engage- distinct units within the same establishment either due to differ-
ment within their corresponding establishment. Two items were ences in unit level policy design or in idiosyncratic supervisory
adapted from the measures provided by Rich et al. (2010) to mea- implementation.
sure the level of worker emotional and cognitive engagement. Both Each of the work groups (total was initially 66) was asked
items required the safety manager to evaluate the level of worker to complete two different surveys. Consistent with the survey
engagement measured on a ve-point scale (strongly disagree to administered in study number one, the rst survey measured the
strongly agree). The two questions as provided in the survey for characteristics of safety management system. Whenever possi-
study number one were: (1) Workers are emotionally engaged in ble, the survey was independently administered to multiple group
the safety program. For instance, workers display enthusiasm, energy, managers and supervisors within the same work group (e.g., groups
interest, and pride in the safety program; (2) Workers are cognitively associated with shift work involving multiple managers; groups
engaged in the safety program. For instance, workers display focus, having multiple managers by design) in order to counteract poten-
attention, and concentration on the safety aspects of their job. tial bias in rating of human resource practices (Wright et al., 2001).
TRC and DART Rates. Each safety manager was asked to report Another survey was completed by employees within each group
the average OSHA total recordable case (TRC) rate and Days Away, which collected information regarding their level of perceived
Restricted Duty, or Job Transfer (DART) case rate for the 2010, engagement.
2011, and 2012 (year to date) time period. These rates (a standard- We received no supervisory responses from six groups within
ized function of the total number of injuries and number of hours the prospective sample. Thus six groups were dropped from
worked within the establishment) represent important, objective the analysis resulting in a total of 60 groups of matched sets
safety performance statistics. of completed supervisory and employee surveys. A total of 144
department managers completed the survey. Fifty-six employee
2.1.3. Tests for mediation responses had to be eliminated due to lack of supervisory
In terms of testing for mediation (Research Question 3), Baron responses. In total, 650 employee responses were used to create
and Kenny (1986) developed the most prominent statistical test the 60 work groups. The average number of workers in each group
for mediation used currently in empirical research. They outline in the usable sample was 10.83 (range between 7 and 13).
J.K. Wachter, P.L. Yorio / Accident Analysis and Prevention 68 (2014) 117130 125

2.2.1. Specic research questions focus a great deal of attention on the safety rules and procedures nec-
The specic research questions from the set of supervisory and essary to do my work safely (cognitive); and (5) At work, I concentrate
employee surveys are similar to those addressed in the safety man- on the safety aspects of my job (cognitive). The internal consistencies
ager survey. The questions are: for all related engagement constructs (i.e. cognitive, emotional, and
Question 4. Is there a signicant and/or predictive relationship overall engagement) were all greater than .90.
between the individual safety management practices and the sys- Employee responses to these questions were aggregated in
tem of practices with safety performance outcomes as measured order to form the groups level of safety engagement. Justication
by the number of self-reported recordable accidents (beyond rst for aggregation was supported through ANOVA procedures show-
aid) and lost-time accidents in the workplace? ing that the within group variability was less than the between
Question 5. Is there a signicant and/or predictive relation- group variability (F = 3.80, p < .001). These constructs, then, repre-
ship between the level of worker-reported safety engagement sent compositional forms of context and can be aggregated (to the
(emotional engagement; cognitive engagement; emotional and group level) in order to study how well they are predicted by the
cognitive engagement composited) with safety performance out- corresponding safety management system practices.
comes as measured through the number of self-reported recordable Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. Safety outcomes in the
and lost-time accidents? employee survey were not determined using TRC and DART rates
Question 6. Do worker engagement levels (emotional engage- as in the safety manager survey because workers or their supervi-
ment, cognitive engagement, and cognitive and emotional sors typically did not have ready access to their individual groups
engagement composites) mediate the relationship between the rates. Rather safety outcomes were determined through work-
safety management system and safety performance outcomes as ers self-reporting on the frequency of certain types of injuries
measured by the number of recordable and lost-time accidents? they experienced in the workplace (e.g., number of recordable
and lost workday cases in their workplace) in the preceding six-
2.2.2. Measures month period. Based on previous investigations, six months is
Safety Management Practices. The same survey that was used to the maximum time over which workers should be asked to recall
measure the safety management system practices in the rst safety injuries they have sustained with any accuracy (Veazie et al., 1994;
manager survey was applied to the second survey for supervisors Zacharatos et al., 2005).
in the organization. Thus, the identical ten safety management sys- Since the size of employee groups changed among those groups
tem composites were generated using essentially the same set of participating in the study, mean numbers of recordable and lost
questions. workday cases were calculated (e.g., standardized) per person per
Because of the smaller number of supervisory responses in the work group in order to account for changes in group size. Using
study number two sample compared to the number of items within the mean per person per work group approach (rather than a raw
the safety management system survey, the execution of a reliable count) decreases the probability of a non-normally, zero-inated
factor analysis was questionable. Thus we rely on the factor analy- outcome and in the case of the current study, we found that the
sis performed in the study number one as well as the correlations outcome distributions did not deviate from normality.
between the practice composites and the overall system compos-
ite to justify the characterization model and used the 49 items that
performed adequately. Similar to the rst study, the average cor- 3. Results
relation among the practice composites (0.39) as well as between
the composites and the overall system (.65) are consistent with the 3.1. Study number one results
way the scores are being reported in this study. For study number
two, the Cronbachs for each safety management practice com- We tested the distribution of both the TRC and DART rates and
posite range from .734 to .921 (average is .814). Similar to study found that within the original sample the assumption of normality
number one, when the system of safety management practices is was violated because of a positive skew. Upon inspection of the dis-
considered in the measurement model, an additive approach was tribution of the 342 data points, we identied and eliminated the
utilized. highest 12 outliers (i.e., TRC rates greater than 18). The distribution
Employee Engagement. Whereas the rst safety manager survey of the TRC and DART rates for the remaining 330 establishments
asked for safety managers opinion as to the level of worker engage- did not violate the assumption of normality (Shapiro Wilk W = .995,
ment in the organization, the employee survey more appropriately p = .22 and Shapiro Wilk W = .997, p = .32, respectively). As such we
asked workers themselves as to their degree of engagement. made no transformations to the dependent variable and proceeded
Also, the number of questions in the employee survey related to with the analysis. (It should be noted that the correlation and
engagement was expanded with respect to characterizing worker regression results obtained in Research Study Number One were
engagement levels. Similar to study number one, the engagement essentially the same with or without the inclusion of the 12 outlier
questions were adapted from Rich et al. (2010). data points.)
Employee engagement in the safety program is a theoretical In order to answer the rst two research questions, simple corre-
construct designed to reect both cognitive and emotional engage- lations were rst performed. Pearson correlations were calculated
ment in the safety program. Cognitive safety engagement reects and the signicance of these correlations was determined using
active focus on, attention to, and concentration on the safe exe- a two-tailed test. In order to further address these questions (as
cution of work tasks. Emotional safety engagement is designed well as to provide information required to support the mediation
to reect both enthusiasm for and interest in the safety program analyses), regression analyses were then performed. Regression
in each establishment. Multiple questions were used to create an coefcients were determined and reported along with their sig-
overall employee engagement composite and reected the deni- nicance levels and the coefcients of determination (R2 ).
tions provided for both cognitive and emotional engagement. Results from the analysis of safety manager survey information
The employee questions (using a Likert scale) that were utilized are shown in Tables 24. The following observations can be gleaned
to develop mean responses per work group were: (1) I am enthusi- from the correlations presented in Table 2:
astic about the safety program (emotional); (2) I am very interested All correlations among constructs are signicant at the p < 05
in the safety program (emotional); (3) At work, my mind is focused on level. The vast majority of correlations are signicant at the p < 001
how to do my job in the safest possible way (cognitive); (4) At work, I level. This suggests that the surveys were well designed in terms of
126 J.K. Wachter, P.L. Yorio / Accident Analysis and Prevention 68 (2014) 117130

Table 2
Correlations and descriptive statistics for constructs (study number one).

Mean SD 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

1. TRC rate 2.65 1.58

2. DART rate 1.42 .98 .78
3. Emotional engagement 5.36 1.02 .34 .32
4. Cognitive engagement 4.52 .89 .27 .22 .68
5. Engagement composite 4.94 .95 .32 .31 .93 .90
6. System of safety 42.68 6.59 .30 .27 .54 .54 .58
management practices
7. Safe work procedures 4.21 .79 .23 .21 .41 .38 .42 .76
8. Employee involvement 4.35 1.00 .31 .29 .48 .44 .50 .81 .58
9. Safe task assignment 4.68 1.38 .15 .12 .38 .36 .39 .64 .43 .36
10. Pre- and post-task safety 4.91 .75 .27 .31 .49 .50 .53 .84 .71 .68 .48
11. Detection and monitoring 3.88 .84 .17 .15 .35 .30 .35 .70 .56 .53 .37 .54
12. Accident investigation 3.35 .75 .12 .19 .14 .20 .19 .46 .29 .36 .17 .30 .25
13. Communication and 5.36 .98 .23 .18 .38 .41 .42 .81 .54 .65 .37 .61 .52 .36
information sharing
14. Safety training 3.71 .80 .27 .21 .32 .33 .35 .69 .49 .51 .29 .54 .37 .28 .64
15. Cooperation facilitation 3.71 .73 .22 .17 .47 .48 .51 .76 .53 .61 .39 .56 .54 .30 .65 .48
16. Hiring for safety 4.52 .83 .11 .10 .33 .34 .36 .56 .28 .46 .29 .40 .32 .13 .39 .37 .40

Note: number of establishments = 330. All correlations are signicant at the p <.05 level. Correlations greater than or equal to .17 or less than or equal to .17 are signicant
at the p <.001 level.

Table 3 Regression analyses are presented in Table 3. As shown in

Regression results: prediction of TRC and DART rates by safety management systems
and engagement constructs (study number one).
Table 3, both safety management system (total) and engagement
composites described in this study can be used to predict TRC and
Outcomes DART rates (which satises the rst two requirements for conduct-
TRC rate R2 DART rate R2 ing mediation analyses). All regression coefcients were signicant
at p < .01. The regression slopes for TRC rates were higher than those
Safety management systems .12* .09 .07* .07 for DART rates. This result is not surprising since TRC rates are
Engagement composite 1.08* .11 .58* .09 almost always higher than DART rates. The coefcients of deter-
Emotional engagement .97* .11 .55* .11 mination (R2 ) tended to be low, indicating that 11% or less of the
Cognitive engagement .87* .07 .41* .05
variability of the TRC and DART rates could be explained by the
Note: Unstandardized regression coefcients reported. * p < .01. effects of the individual predictor.
The mediation regression results are shown in Table 4. As shown
in Table 4, safety management systems can be used to predict (at a
those safety management system practices selected and the survey signicance level of p < 01 for the regression coefcient) the engage-
items used to characterize these practices and that these surveys ment composite, emotional engagement and cognitive engagement
were measuring what they were intending to measure regarding levels (which satises the third requirement for conducting media-
the safety management system practices constructs. tion analyses). The coefcients of determination (R2 ) were between
The two safety performance outcomes, TRC and DART rate, are 0.33 and 0.38, indicating that more than 30% of the variability in
all negatively and signicantly correlated with the measures of the engagement levels could be explained by safety management
engagement and with each of the ten safety management sys- system effects. When both of the engagement and safety manage-
tem practices suggesting that all of the constructs being measured ment system constructs were used to predict safety performance
(engagement and safety management system practices) may be outcomes as described by the TRC rate, the engagement compos-
important in reducing workplace incidents. As expected, the TRC ite as well as the emotional engagement construct predicted safety
and DART rates were highly correlated (.78). The measures of emo- performance at the p < 01 level, while the cognitive engagement
tional and cognitive engagement were also highly correlated (.68) construct predicted safety performance at the p < 05 level. How-
with each other. ever, the safety management system effects on TRC rate did not
The safety management system practices that had the highest fade away to insignicance suggesting only partial mediation by
negative correlations with TRC rates were employee involvement engagement constructs on TRC rate using information obtained
(.31), conducting pre- and post-safety reviews (.27) and safety from the safety manager survey. A similar pattern was observed
training (-27). for the DART rates.

Table 4
Mediation regression results (study number one).

Mediators Outcomes

Engagement Emotional Cognitive TRC rate DART rate

composite engagement engagement

Engagement composite NA NA NA .24** NA NA .21** NA NA
Emotional engagement NA NA NA NA .73** NA NA .26** NA
Cognitive engagement NA NA NA NA NA .15* NA NA .09
Safety management systems .09** .08** .08** .15* .14* .20** .16* .12* .22**
Adjusted R2 .36 .38 .33 .13 .11 .11 .12 .13 .10

Note: Unstandardized regression coefcients reported. * p < .05, ** p < .01.

J.K. Wachter, P.L. Yorio / Accident Analysis and Prevention 68 (2014) 117130 127

Table 5
Correlation and descriptive statistics for constructs (employee survey) (study number two).

Mean SD 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

1. Recordable accidents 1.23 .34

2. Lost time accidents 1.16 .27 .91
3. Emotional engagement 3.89 .36 .48 .41
4. Cognitive engagement 4.27 .38 .67 .59 .74
5. Employee engagement composite 4.12 .35 .63 .56 .91 .95
6. Safety management systems 45.84 5.41 .45 .42 .53 .62 .62
7. Safe work procedures 4.75 .87 .44 .38 .65 .66 .70 .74
8. Employee involvement 5.11 .98 .37 .41 .36 .55 .50 .66 .59
9. Safe task assignment 5.16 .99 .28 .18 .33 .43 .40 .68 .49 .31
10. Pre- and post- task safety reviews 5.55 1.03 .45 .49 .33 .46 .43 .80 .57 .49 .58
11. Detection and monitoring 4.44 .75 .41 .35 .53 .44 .52 .67 .64 .58 .26 .32
12. Accident investigation 2.11 2.08 .15 .13 .24 .07 .15 .46 .15 .21 .36 .34 .21
13. Communication and information sharing 5.98 .78 .40 .41 .56 .57 .60 .77 .64 .69 .34 .58 .70 .02
14. Safety training 4.20 .89 .08 .07 .19 .20 .21 .62 .15 .13 .43 .48 .22 .58 .40
15. Cooperation facilitation 4.03 .55 .36 .37 .46 .67 .62 .88 .67 .76 .42 .64 .54 .20 .74 .56
16. Hiring for safety 4.51 .73 .08 .05 .01 .12 .09 .23 .12 .16 .31 .18 .00 .39 .05 .15 .04

Note: N = 60. All correlations greater than or equal to .27 or less than or equal to .27 are signicant at the p < .05 level. All correlations greater than or equal to .35 or less
than or equal to .35 are signicant at the p = .01 level.

Table 6 detection and monitoring of deviation, communication and infor-

Regression results: prediction of number of recordable and lost time incidents by
mation, and cooperation facilitation.
safety management systems and engagement constructs (supervisor and employee
surveys) (study number two). As expected, the number of recordable and lost time accidents
was highly correlated (.91). The measures of emotional and cogni-
tive engagement were highly correlated (.74) with each other.
Recordable R2 Lost time R2 Regression analyses are shown in Table 6. As shown in this table,
incidents incidents the safety management system composite (e.g., ten safe work prac-
Predictor tices together) and all engagement constructs can be used to predict
Safety management systems .03* .20 .02* .18 the number of recordable and lost time incidents (a necessary ini-
Engagement composite .59* .40 .41* .31 tial requirement for conducting mediation analyses). All of the
Emotional engagement .41* .23 .28* .17
Cognitive engagement .59* .45 .41* .35
regression coefcients are negative (e.g., the presence of engage-
ment and/or management system practices predicts the reduction
Note: Unstandardized regression coefcients reported. * p < .01.
in the number of incidents). All of these regression coefcients are
highly signicant at p < .01. The coefcients of determination for the
3.2. Study number two results regressions predicting recordable incidents range from .20 to .45
indicating that between 20 and 45% of the variation in the record-
Results from the analysis of supervisor and employee survey able incident data could be explained by the effects of the predictors
information are shown in Tables 57. The following observations being examined. The coefcients of determination for the regres-
can be derived from the correlations presented in Table 5: sions predicting lost time incidents were lower, ranging from .17
Correlations among most of the system constructs are signi- to .35.
cant at the p < 05 level or lower. The majority of correlations are The mediation regression results are shown in Table 7. As
signicant at the p < 01 level. shown in this table, the presence of a system of safety man-
The two safety performance outcomes, number of recordable agement practices can be used to accurately predict the level
and lost time accidents, are negatively and signicantly correlated of worker engagement (a requirement for conducting medi-
with all of the measures of engagement and with most of the ten ation analyses). The regression coefcients are signicant at
safety management system practices suggesting that the constructs p < 01. When engagement and safety management system pre-
being measured (engagement and many of the individual safety dictors are regressed together against the safety performance
management system practices) may be important in reducing the outcomes (recordable incidents and lost time incidents), the fol-
number of workplace incidents. The safety management system lowing can be observed:
practices having the highest degree of negative correlation with The engagement composite and cognitive engagement predic-
these safety performance outcomes (at p = .01 or lower) are: safety tors signicantly predict the number of recordable and lost time
management system practice composite (total), safe work proce- incidents (p < 01), while the effect of safety management systems
dures, employee involvement, pre- and post-task safety reviews, on the safety performance outcomes diminishes. This suggests that

Table 7
Mediation regression results (supervisor and employee surveys) (study number two).

Mediators Outcomes

Engagement Emotional Cognitive Recordable accidents Lost time accidents

composite engagement engagement

Employee engagement composite NA NA NA .54** NA NA .35** NA NA
Emotional engagement NA NA NA NA .29* NA NA .01 NA
Cognitive engagement NA NA NA NA NA .56** NA NA .37**
Safety management systems .04** .03** .04** .01 .02 .00 .01 .01 .00
Adjusted R2 .38 .29 .38 .41 .29 .45 .32 .23 .36

Note: Unstandardized regression coefcients reported. p < .07, * p < .05, ** p < .01.
128 J.K. Wachter, P.L. Yorio / Accident Analysis and Prevention 68 (2014) 117130

safety management systems effects on safety performance out- the system! Workers, who come into daily contact with hazards and
comes are mediated by certain worker engagement constructs. In hazardous situations and who are at the sharp-edge of accidents,
other words, the system of safety management practices may work appear to play an equally important role as does the specic sys-
to reduce the number of recordable and lost time incidents by tem of safety management practices in preventing accidents from
engaging workers. occurring. The results in this study indicate that workers cognitive
To a lesser extent, the emotional engagement predictor predicts and emotional engagement, which as explained previously may be
the number of recordable and lost time incidents (p < 05 and p < 07, viewed as a result of safety management system practices being
respectively), while the effect of safety management systems on in place, may act as a necessary implementation component for
the safety performance outcomes tends to have a much less signif- keeping the system of safety management practices effective (e.g.,
icant impact (when compared to the effects of safety management practices continually and successfully being reduced to practice)
systems alone on safety performance when performing the regres- in preventing accidents from occurring. Thus, a system of safety
sion using only this single predictor, see Table 6). This also suggests management practices work not only through the written poli-
mediation by the emotional engagement predictor. cies, plans, procedures, and processes in place to identify, evaluate
The mediating role of cognitive engagement seems to be and reduce hazards and risk (traditional safety system approach),
stronger than the mediating role of emotional engagement. but through the behaviors of and consequential actions by work-
ers themselves, especially highly engaged workers, who interact
necessarily with the safey system and its practices.
4. Discussion

The results of these two research studies answered a number of 4.2. A system improvement approach to understanding results
the intended research questions regarding the association of a sys-
tem of safety management practices and worker engagement levels There is a alternate way of looking at these mediation results.
on objective measures of safety performance (TRC and DART rates; In attempting to prevent human error from occurring in the work-
number of recordable and lost time incidents). There appears to be place due to the deciencies inherent in all safety management
a signicant correlation between the various safety management systems, human performance tools that are being utilized typi-
system practices identied for investigation in these studies (as cally by high performing organizations to prevent human error
well as the entirety of the system of these safety management prac- from occurring (e.g., pre- and post-task safety reviews) are decid-
tices when viewed together) on both worker engagement levels and edly worker-centric in either their design or implementation. These
safety performance outcomes (e.g., accident rates). Upon further tools work by informing, involving, and engaging workers to be
investigation, the effects of safety management system practices more aware of the tasks to be performed, their hazards, their risks,
on safety performance outcomes are often mediated through the and the presence of error traps or precursors. Most of these tools
perceptual construct of worker engagement. work by heightening the sense of awareness of workers. This is
The results of our studies illustrating the effect of engagement consistent with the work by Rich et al. (2010) who stated that since
on safety performance objectively reinforce the importance of the engaged individuals invest their physical, cognitive, and emotional
role of worker engagement on meaningful business (Raines, 2011; energies into their work roles, they should exhibit enhanced per-
Vance, 2006) and safety performance (Harter et al., 2006; Raines, formance because they work with greater intensity on their tasks
2011; Vance, 2006) outcomes as determined in previous studies. for longer periods of time, they pay more attention to and are
The specic mediating role of worker engagement on safety per- more focused on responsibilities, and they are more emotionally
formance discerned in our studies supports other research that connected to the tasks that constitute their role. The best human
investigated the role of worker engagement on non-safety perfor- performance tools may be those that allow the workers to con-
mance outcomes (Rich et al., 2010). In addition, the results of these tinually learn and adapt from their work situations in order to be
studies bolster the work of DeJoy (2005) who advanced the notion more aware of and safely deal with deciencies within or changes
that a balanced and comprehensive system for managing work- occurring in the workplace.
place safety would include a participatory problem-solving process Perhaps worker engagement mediates by improving the per-
(e.g., associated with employee involvement) and a culture change formance of the safety management system (and thus increasing
process (e.g., associated with management systems). safety outcome performance) due to its effectiveness in dealing
with deciencies present in the management system itself, such
as the presence of error traps and awed defenses. Thus, a system
4.1. A human performance system approach to understanding
safety approach to accident prevention should rigorously include
both organizational and behavioral system components. However,
this is somewhat contrary to the approaches for designing and
Using a human performance system approach to understanding
implementing most safety management systems that are currently
how accidents occur in the workplace, our research results make
being described through international safety management system
sense. The presence of a system of safety management practices in
consensus standards.
organizations is a necessary foundation for achieving a safe work-
ing environment, but it cannot guarantee it. Thus, the requirements
and resulting practices and processes implemented through safety 4.3. A system realism perspective to understanding results
management system consensus standards such as OHSAS 18001,
ANSI/AIHA Z10 and OSHA VPP provide the necessary rst steps in The results of these studies ultimately support the system real-
arriving at safety excellence. But it is interesting to note that these ism perspective advocated by Conklin (2012) and the systemic
consensus standards are primarily manager- or process-centric, accident model described by Dekker (2006). Through engagement
rather than employee-centric, in terms of dening roles, responsi- in everyday normal activities, things can go right because peo-
bilities, and requirements (although most do include small sections ple can learn to overcome design aws and functional glitches,
on employee participation). adapt their performance to meet demands, interpret and apply
Our research results suggest the idea of a safety system needs procedures to match conditions, detect and correct when things
to be expanded to more emphatically include workers beyond that go inevitably wrong, and understand error prone situations and
emblematic of a strict safety management system. Workers are are defend against them. Therefore, in this realistic system, humans are
J.K. Wachter, P.L. Yorio / Accident Analysis and Prevention 68 (2014) 117130 129

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