Safety climate is a fundamental element in avoiding injuries, illnesses, and accidents in a given work environment.
High-risk work environments such as construction sites must place heavy emphasis on establishing a strong safety climate as it encompasses a preventative approach towards safety when critical tasks are performed. This is done by shaping workers’ perceptions of safety, whilst maintaining daily communication on safety topics.
There is evidence that a strong and positive safety climate results in higher levels of safety performance. However, without a multilevel approach to safety climate, organizations would not have the ability to attribute incident causes and discover new preventative approaches from real incidents.
The Influence of Multilevel Perspectives
A multilevel perspective on improving safety climate in construction is essential as the role of management—not the construction workers on-site—affects safety climate significantly.
Safety climate is thought to shape workers’ behavior through the expectations that management introduces about how organizations value and assess safety. On construction sites, safety climate serves as a predictor for safety outcomes because workers do not have access to management who can express their values directly to workers.
Due to infrequent contact with management, workers are far more likely to gain influence from those they interact with daily. This is how a multilevel safety team becomes highly effective in preventing injuries, illnesses, and accidents. With direct contact, safety coordinators and/or supervisors are enabled to closely monitor and maintain a positive safety climate with workers.
Proximal vs. Distal Antecedents
Studies have found that proximal antecedents of safety performance have a stronger influence than distal antecedents, hence the importance of having a member of safety on-site daily.
Research also suggests that when managers explicitly state their safety values and reinforce them with consistent behaviour, workers take on similar values. Perceptions of management’s commitment to safety were positively correlated with perceptions of supervisor’s safety actions and expectations as well as worker’s ideal and actual safety. Therefore, when managers train supervisors and/or safety coordinators to relay their safety values to workers daily, workers are more likely to exhibit consistent safety behaviour despite the lack of contact with management.
Understanding the Flow of Safety Communication
A misconception of the flow of safety delivery is that it only occurs in the direction of management to safety coordinators and/or supervisors to workers.
In actuality, the root of safety communication could also be initiated by the worker to the safety coordinator and/or supervisor and finally to management.
MGI Construction Corp. encourages open communication on safety-related topics, which creates a channel for workers to share ideas and views as they are the ones who are directly exposed to high-risk tasks daily.
Daily contact between a worker and safety coordinator and/or supervisor ensures consistent trust as familiarity becomes constant. According to researchers, workers share their mistakes when there is full trust in management. This goes to show that open communication is an important factor to organizational safety climate that is not limited to just safety performance but also trust. Therefore, safety communication should be multiway—from management to safety coordinators and/or supervisors and vice versa.