Safety climate as a relative concept

Rita Peihua Zhang (School of Property, Construction and Project Management, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)
Payam Pirzadeh (School of Property, Construction and Project Management, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)
Helen Lingard (School of Property, Construction and Project Management, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)
Steve Nevin (Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited, Clandeboye, New Zealand)

Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management

ISSN: 0969-9988

Publication date: 16 April 2018



The purpose of this paper is to use a longitudinal approach to measure safety climate at construction projects, and explore the relationship between safety climate and the level of project completion in the dynamic construction project environments.


Multi-wave safety climate surveys were conducted at four processing plant construction projects in New Zealand. Safety climate was measured with a multi-level measurement instrument, which measured construction workers’ perceptions of client’s organisational safety response (COSR), principal contractor’s organisational safety response (PCOSR), supervisors’ safety response (SSR) and co-workers’ safety response (CWSR).


At the organisational level, the research identifies a general downward change trend in workers’ perceptions of COSR and PCOSR. At the group level, no clear or consistent change trend is identified between the level of project completion and workers’ perceptions of SSR and CWSR.

Research limitations/implications

The research suggests that the construction project management should consistently emphasise the importance of safety, even when they are facing production pressure. The research highlights the opportunity to examine the role of supervisors’ leadership as an antecedent to the group-level safety climate and the development of workers’ safety concerns for their co-workers over time.


This research provides the starting point for understanding safety climate in the dynamic and constantly changing construction project environments, in which the relative priorities change, adverse events arise and production pressures fluctuate over time.



Zhang, R., Pirzadeh, P., Lingard, H. and Nevin, S. (2018), "Safety climate as a relative concept", Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Vol. 25 No. 3, pp. 298-316.

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