Improving construction site safety through leader-based verbal safety communication

Tidsskriftartikel - 2010


The construction industry is one of the most injury-prone industries, in which production is usually prioritized over safety in daily on-site communication. Workers have an informal and oral culture of risk, in which safety is rarely openly expressed. This paper tests the effect of increasing leader-based on-site verbal safety communication on the level of safety and safety climate at construction sites. Method: A pre-post intervention-control design with five construction work gangs is carried out. Foremen in two intervention groups are coached and given bi-weekly feedback about their daily verbal safety communications with their workers. Foremen-worker verbal safety exchanges (experience sampling method, n = 1,693 interviews), construction site safety level (correct vs. incorrect, n = 22,077 single observations), and safety climate (seven dimensions, n = 105 questionnaires) are measured over a period of up to 42 weeks. Results: Baseline measurements in the two intervention and three control groups reveal that foremen speak with their workers several times a day. Workers perceive safety as part of their verbal communication with their foremen in only 6-16% of exchanges, and the levels of safety at the sites range from 70-87% (correct observations). Measurements from baseline to follow-up in the two intervention groups reveal that safety communication between foremen and workers increases significantly in one of the groups (factor 7.1 increase), and a significant yet smaller increase is found when the two intervention groups are combined (factor 4.6). Significant increases in the level of safety are seen in both intervention groups (7% and 12% increases, respectively), particularly in regards to 'access ways' and 'railings and coverings' (39% and 84% increases, respectively). Increases in safety climate are seen in only one of the intervention groups with respect to their 'attention to safety.' No significant trend changes are seen in the three control groups on any of the three measures. Conclusions: Coaching construction site foremen to include safety in their daily verbal exchanges with workers has a significantly positive and lasting effect on the level of safety, which is a proximal estimate for work-related accidents. It is recommended that future studies include coaching and feedback at all organizational levels and for all involved parties in the construction process. Building client regulations could assign the task of coaching to the client appointed safety coordinators or a manager/supervisor, and studies should measure longitudinal effects of coaching by following foremen and their work gangs from site to site.


Kines PA, Andersen L, Spangenberg S, Mikkelsen S, Dyreborg J, Zohar D. Improving construction site safety through leader-based verbal safety communication. Journal of Safety Research 2010;41(5):399-406.
doi: 10.1016/j.jsr.2010.06.005

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