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Impact of supervisor leadership on construction worker safety behavior in China: the moderating role of social capital

Xiuyu Wu (Tianjin University of Finance and Economics, Tianjin, China)
Qinzhen Qian (Tianjin University of Finance and Economics, Tianjin, China)
Meng Zhang (Tianjin University of Finance and Economics, Tianjin, China)

Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management

ISSN: 0969-9988

Article publication date: 16 December 2022

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Abstract

Purpose

Leaders' behavior has a critical impact on workers' safety behavior. However, previous studies have shown contradictive views on the effect of different leadership styles on safety behavior. One reason may be that the effectiveness of leaders' behavior varies according to diverse contexts. This study examines the effect of transformational and transactional leadership (TsL) on the safety behavior of on-site workers under different levels of social capital in construction projects.

Design/methodology/approach

Safety behavior is divided into three types: safety compliance (SC), organizational-oriented safety participation and individual-oriented safety participation (ISP). Questionnaire survey data were collected from 302 construction workers in the Chinese construction industry.

Findings

The results indicate that the positive effect of transformational leadership (TfL) of frontline supervisors on the two types of construction workers' safety participation is enhanced when social capital is high, although TfL has no significant effect on SC behavior. In contrast, TsL can promote construction workers' SC behavior and organizational-oriented safety participation and social capital positively moderating these relationships. TsL has no significant effect on ISP, but its interaction with safety behavior is positively related to ISP.

Research limitations/implications

This study explains the inconsistent findings of previous research related to the role of leadership in safety behavior by introducing the social capitaltheory and distinguishing safety participation into two typesThis study is confined to one specific country, future research may benefit from investigating whether the conclusions of this study will be different in other nations with diverse cultures.

Practical implications

The findings of the study provide frontline supervisors with new insights into improving workers' safety and the efficiency of leadership in safety management.

Originality/value

This study explains the inconsistent findings of previous research related to the role of leadership in safety behavior by introducing the social capital theory and distinguishing safety participation into two types.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This study is supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 71902132) and The Research Foundation of Humanities and Social Sciences of Ministry of Education of China (Grant No. 22YJC630158).

Citation

Wu, X., Qian, Q. and Zhang, M. (2022), "Impact of supervisor leadership on construction worker safety behavior in China: the moderating role of social capital", Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/ECAM-02-2022-0180

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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