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Jourml ofSa& Research Vol. 22, pp. 97-103.1991 0022-4375/91$3.00 + .

Q 1991 National Safety Council and Pergamon Press plc Rited in the USA

A Safety Climate Measure

for Construction Sites

Nicole Dedobbeleer and FranCok Beland

This study tests Brown and Holmes’ (1986) three-factor safety climate
model on construction workers. In this model, climate was viewed as molar
perceptions people have of their work settings. Data were collected by a self-
administered questionnaire in a cross-sectional survey conducted among 384
workers employed in nine nonresidential construction sites in Baltimore, MD.
The response rate was 71%. Results using two linear structural relations
(LISREL) procedures (maximum likelihood used by Brown and Holmes and
weighted least squares) indicated a good model fit. The weighted least
squares procedure, which is more appropriate for our data, revealed that a
two-factor model provided an overall better fit. The two factors were (a)
management’s commitment to safety and (b) workers’ involvement in safety.
This model emphasizes management and workers’ involvement in safety
matters. Results also suggest the necessity of addressing concerns of these two
groups in safety policies.

Although the concept of climate has appropriateness of behavior. Based on a vari-

appeared in the literature for over 20 years, ety of cues present in their work environment,
disputes still rage about what it means and employees were believed to develop coherent
how it is measured, In industrial organizations, sets of perceptions and expectations regarding
safety climate models have been constructed behavior-outcome contingencies and behaving
for production workers by Zohar (1980) and accordingly (Frederiksen, Jensen, & Beaton,
Brown and Holmes (1986). In these two mod- 1972, and Schneider, 1975a, 1975b). As in
els, climate was viewed as molar perceptions both models, safety climate was viewed as an
people have of their work settings. Following individual attribute as opposed to an organiza-
Ryan (1970), and Dieterly and Schneider tional attribute, the term psychological climate
(1974), these models assumed that these per- was applied to the two models (James &
ceptions are developed because they are neces- Jones, 1974).
sary as a frame of reference for gauging the According to James and Jones, psychologi-
cal climate is subject to serious theoretical
and methodological questions. With respect
Nicole Dedobbeleer, Sc.D., is an Assistant Professor, to safety climate, these questions may be
Department of Preventive and Social Medicine and member raised about the number of dimensions rele-
of the Inte.rdisciplinary Research Group in Health (GRIS),
Universitk de Montreal, Montreal, Canada.
vant to the safety climate domain. Zohar’s
Francois Beland, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor. model, constructed on an Israeli population,
Deparkent of Health Admmistration and member of the included eight dimensions: (a) importance of
(GRIS), Universid de Montreal, Montreal, Canada. safety training programs; (b) management
Portions of this paper have been presented at the
International Conference on Strategies for Occupational attitudes toward safety; (c) effects of safe
Prevention, Stockholm, Sweden, 21-22 September 1989. conduct on promotion; (d) level of risk at
Summer 1991Molume 22lNunrber 2 97
workplace; (e) effects of required work pace The study population was a sample of 384
on safety; (f) status of safety officer; (g) eligible workers drawn from the 572 workers
effects of safe conduct on social status; and employed at the nine sites. Workers were eligi-
(h) status of safety committee. This model ble if they were allowed to participate in the
was validated by Brown and Holmes on an study by their employer and if at least 50% of
American sample of production workers and the safety practices examined were applicable
was reduced from an eight-factor to a three- to their work. These safety practices were a
factor model. In this three-factor model, the sampling of the Occupational Safety and Health
following dimensions were retained: (a) Administration (OSHA) safety standards relat-
employee perception of how concerned man- ed to ladder use, scaffold use, and personal pro-
agement is with their well-being; (b) employ- tective device use (i.e., hard hats, safety shoes,
ee perception of how active management is in and safety belts). The survey response rate was
responding to this concern; and (c) employee 71%, or 272 workers. Eighteen workers were
physical risk perception. excluded because of response omission to the
As the validity of a safety climate model majority of the questions, particularly to ques-
depends in part on its applicability to groups tions on safety practices.
other than production workers, we tested
Brown and Holmes’ three-factor model on Instruments and Data Collection
construction workers. To perform this test, we A self-administered questionnaire was used
used two (LISREL) procedures: (a) the maxi- to collect data from workers at the worksite.
mum likelihood method chosen by Brown and The closed-format questionnaire incorporated
Holmes, and (b) the weighted least squares items on socio-demographic and employment
method, which is now available and is more characteristics, safety practices, safety train-
appropriate for polychotomous ordinal level ing, safety instructions at initial employment,
variables. We will compare the results knowledge about safety practices, attitudes
obtained with these two procedures. toward safety practices, perceptions of the
workplace, and other social-psychological
h4ETHODS factors. The researcher was present while the
respondents filled out the questionnaire at six
Setting and Subjects sites. A detailed consent form was given to
the workers before they started the question-
The study was conducted on nine nonresi- naire to insure that they fully understood the
dential construction sites located in the nature of their participation in the study.
Baltimore, MD, Metropolitan Area. These
sites were selected from Reports on Measures
Metropolitan Building Permit Activity devel- The three dimensions of Brown and
oped by the Regional Planning Council Holmes’ safety climate model were measured
according to the following criteria: (a) con- with nine variables. These variables were cho-
struction ranging from the framing stage to the sen to represent safety concerns in the con-
stage prior to the finishing stage; (b) new pro- struction industry and were not all identical to
jects or new projects with alterations: and (c) those included in Zohar’s questionnaire. Each
projects valued at $500,000 or more. Fifteen dimension included three variables. Appendix
contractors had construction projects conform- 1 presents the questions used to measure the
ing to these criteria from August to December nine variables.
1983, all were contacted. Seven contractors Employee perception of management con-
refused to collaborate (i.e., problem with insur- cerns was based on items indicating employ-
ance coverage for observers, fear of work dis- ee’s perceptions of management’s attitude
ruption, and labor time costs induced by the toward safety practices, and employee’s per-
administration of the questionnaire), eight ceptions of management’s attitude toward
agreed, and two were found ineligible (i.e., site workers’ safety and foremen’s behavior.
did not correspond to criteria). Among the six Management’s attitude toward safety practices
remaining contractors, three had two sites and (MANA. PRACTICES) was derived from the
three had one site, for a total of nine sites. worker’s perception of the importance of safe-
98 Journal of Safety Research
A) Three-factor model (total coefficient of determination: .884)



Indicators: Practices Safety Foreman Instructions Mectings Equip

.48 1 .14 1 .61 t .I9t .L8j .34 1

Errors: el ez e3 e4 e5 e6 e7 e8 e9

B) Two-factor model (Total coefficient of determination: 850)


Factors: Management 5 Workers

commitment involvement

Indicators: Practices Safety Foreman Instructions Equip

Errors: 5 e2 e3 e4 e5 e6 e7 e8 e9

(1) The measure of association shown on the mows between the factors are correlation coerficients

(2) The measure of association between the factors and their indicators are regression coefficients

(3) The measures of association between the indicator: and the ‘e’ can be interpreted as the error of prediction in regression equations

Summer 1991lVolwne 22INumber 2 99

ty practices to top management and was mea- Analysis
sured by a four-point rating scale ranging
from “very important” to “not at all impor- To test for the replication of Brown and
tant.” Management’s attitude toward workers’ Holmes’ three-factor structures in our data,
safety (MANA. SAFETY) was derived from two LISREL procedures were applied to the
the worker’s perception of this attitude and nine variables described above. The maximum
was measured by an itemized rating scale. likelihood method chosen by Brown and
Foreman’s behavior (FOREMAN) was Holmes was used first. Our second step was to
derived from the worker’s perception of the use the weighted least squares method to esti-
actions taken by the foreman to enforce safety, mate the parameters of the model (Joreskog
and was measured by an itemized rating scale. and Sorbom, 1988), as the data analyzed in
Employee perception of management safety this study are made up of polychotomous
activities included safety instructions, safety ordinal level data. This method is more appro-
meetings, and employee’s perceptions of the priate for our data than the maximum likeli-
availability of proper equipment. Safety hood method, which is recommended for nor-
instructions (INSTRUCTIONS) referred to mally distributed and continuous variables.
the employee’s self-reported exposure to Because we had ordinal variables, we also
instructions on the safety policy of the compa- entered polychoric correlations in the LISREL
ny at the time of initial employment. Safety model. In the second step, the three-factor
meetings (MEETINGS) was the worker’s per- model was tested against a two-factor model
ception of the presence of regular safety meet- and a one-factor model using the X2 statistics.
ings at the worksite. Proper equipment
(EQUIP) was the worker’s perception of the
availability of proper equipment at the work-
site, and was measured by a five-point rating
scale ranging from “always” to “never.” Results from the maximum likelihood
Employee’s physical risk perception includ- method indicated that Brown and Holmes’
ed employee’s perceived control, perception of model was supported by our data (X2 = 28.67,
risk-taking, and perceived likelihood of df = 24, p = .233). Further tests of this model
injuries. Perceived control (CONTROL) was were then conducted by reducing the number
defined as the worker’s perception of control of factors from three to two (Figure 1, Panel
over his/her own safety on the job, and mea- A and B for a description of the models), and
sured by a four-point rating scale. Perception then from two to one. The two-factor model
of risk-taking (RISK) referred to the worker’s was barely acceptable (X2 = 36.57, df = 26,
perception of the extent to which risk-taking is p = 0.082). The one factor model was rejected
part of the job, and was measured by a three- according to the X2 criterion (X2 = 51.07, df =
point rating scale ranging from “very much” to 27, p = 0.003). The difference between the
“not at all.” Perceived likelihood of injuries three-factor and two-factor models was then
(INJURIES) was defined as the worker’s pcr- tested. Results indicated that there was a sta-
ception of his/her susceptibility to work-relat- tistically significant difference between the
ed injuries in the next 12 months, and was two models (AX2 = 7.90, Adf = 2, p = 0.019).
measured by a four-point rating scale ranging Subsequently, Brown and Holmes’ safety cli-
from “very likely” to “not at all likely.” mate model was retained as the best fit model.


Model df X2 pValues X2 df p Values

1 factor 27 43.65 0.022
2 factor 26 21.19 0.732 22.46 1 O.ooO
3 factor 24 16.45 0.871 4.74 2 0.093

100 Journal of Safety Research


A) Three-factor model (total coefficient of determination: .943)


Indicators: Practices Safety Foreman Instructions Meetings Equip Control Risk Injuries

.55 t 23 t .53 t ,601 .72t .41 t ,591 ,761 .&St

Errors: 5 e2 e3 e4 e5 e6 el e8 e9

B) Two-factor model (Total coefficient of determination: .923)


Factors: blanagementn Workers

commitment involvement

Indicators: Practices Safety Foreman Instructions Equip


(1) The measure of association shown on the arrows between the factors are correlation coeficients

(2) The measure of association between the factors and their indicators ar_ regression coefficients

(3) The measures of association between the indicators and the ‘e’ can be interpreted as the error of prediction in regression equations

Results using the weighted least squares (see Figure 2, Panel A for a description of this
method are given in Table 1. The three-factor model). The fit for this model is a p value of
Brown and Holmes model was not rejected 371. Further tests of this model were con-
Summer 19911Volume 22lNumber 2 IO1
ducted by reducing the number of factors lar result had they used the weighted least
from three to two, and then from two to one. squares procedure.
The two-factor model was tested and indicat- The first factor in the two-factor model
ed a p value of .732 (Figure 2, Panel B). The measured management’s commitment to safe-
model with one-factor was rejected according ty in terms of management’s safety attitudes
to the X2 criterion. and practices. Contrary to production workers,
The three-factor and two-factor models were construction workers perceived management’s
tested for differences (Table 1). The difference words and deeds as a single dimension.
between the X2 of these two models was 4.74 The second factor was labelled workers’
with 2 degrees of freedom, which isn’t a signif- involvement in safety. This label was given
icant difference. Thus, the two-factor model because indicators of worker’s physical risk
was retained because it was as efficient as the perception that defined the third factor of the
three-factor model in describing the safety cli- Brown and Holmes model were associated in
mate and was the best fitting model according this study with indicators of workers’ percep-
to the difference between X2%. tions of control. This association led us to
The two-factor model is described in Figure speculate that workers’ perceptions of risk
2, Panel B. The first factor comprised workers’ and control may be highly related to workers’
perceptions of management’s attitude toward involvement or responsibility for safety. This
safety practices and workers’ safety, workers’ result is consistent with those of other stud-
perception of foreman’s behavior, and avail- ies. Walter and Haines (1988) indicated that
ability of proper equipment and safety instruc- workers frequently emphasize individual
tions at the time of initial employment. As the responsibility for occupational health and
variables included in this dimension are work- safety. Frenkel et al. (1980) and Nelkin and
ers’ perceptions of management’s safety atti- Brown (1984) further noted that workers
tudes and actions, it was labelled “manage- often rely on individual, private efforts to
ment commitment to safety.” The second fac- cope with occupational problems rather than
tor included workers’ perceptions of suscepti- raising the problem with a union representa-
bility to injuries in the next 12 months, risk- tive or pursuing it through other channels.
taking at work, perception of control over However, contrary to these views, the results
one’s own safety on the job, and presence of obtained in this study with the two-factor
regular safety meetings. And as workers’ per- model indicate that construction workers per-
ception of risk was related to items expressing ceive safety as a joint responsibility between
workers’ perceptions of control over their own individuals and management.
safety, the second factor was labelled “work- Safety climate, as defined in this two-factor
ers’ involvement in safety.” model, has some practical implications for
practitioners who use a safety climate survey to
evaluate and recognize potential problem areas.
DISCUSSION The proposed model can be particularly useful
in the design of such safety climate surveys in
The results of this study provide some sup- construction industry. The data imply that spe-
port for the Brown and Holmes safety climate cific questions on both workers’ perceptions of
model, though the nine variables included in management’s commitment to safety and work-
this study were adapted to the construction ers’ involvement or responsibility in safety
industry. Results using the maximum likeli- should be included in such surveys.
hood and weighted least squares procedures Our results also have implications for the
indicated a good model fit. The Brown and development of safety policies. Workers’ per-
Holmes model was, however, not retained in ceptions of safety climate indicate that these
our study because the more appropriate pro- policies should address both management and
cedure for our data, the LISREL weighted workers’ safety concerns. Management’s safe-
least squares procedure, revealed that a two- ty concerns and actions should be highly pub-
factor safety climate model provided an over- licized among the workers; safety meetings
all better fit. Now we are left debating if can be a proper means for involving workers
Brown and Holmes would have found a simi- in safety matters. Workers’ involvement can
102 Journal of Safety Research
include participation in the development of They arc concerned about safety but they could
do more than they are doing to make the job safe. 0
safety programs, conduct of safety audits, and
identification of solutions. They are really only interested in getting the
job done as fast and cheaply as possible. 0

REI;ERENcES Foreman’s behavior

How much emphasis does the foreman place on safety practices on
the job? (Please check one answer)
Brown, R. L., & Holmes, H. (1986). The use of a factor- He regularly and frequently makes us aware of dangerous
analytic procedure for assessing the validity of an work practices and conditions, and praises us for safe

employee safety climate model. Accident Analysis & conduct. cl

Prevention, 18(6), 445470.
He regularly and frequently makes USaware of dangerous
Dieterly, D., & Schneider, B. (1974). The effect of
work practices and conditions. 0
organizational environment on perceived power and
climate: A laboratory study. Organizational Behavior He occasionally points out the most dangerous work practices
and &man Petformance, II, 316-337. and conditions. 0
Frederiksen, N., Jensen, O., & Beaton, A. E. (1972).
Prediction of organizational behavior. New York: He seldom mentions danger or safety practices. Cl
Pergamon Press.
Frenkel, R. L., Priest, W. C., & Ashford, N. A. (1980). He never mentions danger or safety practices 0
Occupational safety and health: A report on worker
perceptions. bogey Labor&view, I&11-14.
Safety instructions
James, L. R., & Jones, A. P. (1974). Organizational climate:
When you were hired by your present employer, were you given
A review of theory and research. Psychological Bulletin, instructions on the safety policy. safety requirements of the
81,1098-1112. company?
Jor&kog & Sbrbom. (1988). LISREL VU: A guide to the Yes 0 NO0
program and application (Computer program). Chicago,
a: SPSS Incorporated.
Nelkin, D., & Brown, M. S. (1984). Workers at risk. Safety meetings
Chicago, EL:University of Chicago Press. Are there regularjob safety meetings at your present job site?
Ryan, T. A. (1970). Intentional behavior: An approach to Yes 0 No0
human motivation. New York: Ronald Press.
Schneider, B. (1975a). Organizational climate: Individual
Proper equipment
preferences and organizational realities revisited. IS the proper equipment for your tasks available at your job site?
Journal of Applied Psychology, 60.457-465. Always
Schneider, B. (1975b). Organizational climate: An essay. Most of the lime :
Personnel P~c~iogy, 28,447479. Occasionally cl
Walter, V., & Haines, T. (1988). Workers’ perceptions, Rarely a
knowledge and responses regarding occupational health NcV.3 cl
and safety: A report on a Canadian study. Social Science
and Medicine, 27 (II), 1189-1196.
Zohar, D. (1980). Safety climate in industrial organizations: Perceived control
How much control do you feel you have yourself over what hap-
Theoretical and applied implications. Journal of Applied
pens to your safety on the job?
Psychology, 65(I), %-101. Almost no controi
Almost total control :
Primary catrol but luck is a factor Cl
Little conaol, mostly a matter of luck Cl

Perceptlon of risk-taking
Management’s attitude toward safety practkes: Is takingrisks part of the job?
How important do you W the workers’ safety practices are to Very much
the rn~~ement of your company? (Please check one answer) Somewhat
vayixzpmnt Not at all
Relatively important 5:
Highly important 0
Not at all important cl Perceived likelihood of InJuries
How likely do you thii it is that you might be injured on the
job in the next 1Zmonth period? Would you say it is
Management’s attitude toward workers’ safety: Very likely 0
How much do supervisors and other top management seem to care Somewhat likely 0
about your safety? (Please check one answer) Not very liiely
They do as much as possible to make the job safe. 0 Not at all Likely