Safety climate and the influence of leadership : a study of safety climate and the influence leadership training has on employee perceptions of health and safety : a thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Business Studies in Human Resource Management at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
The aim of this study is to understand the influence leadership has upon safety in
the workplace as seen through the eyes of its employees. This research was undertaken
in the Island City of Singapore and associated with a business owned by a Multi-National
Corporation, (MNC), operating locally. The research was carried out as a reflection of the
organisations safety climate, through a professionally available questionnaire mechanism.
While research and theory contend that safety culture is enduring and possibly
more difficult to assess, it is recognised that safety climate is measureable and is
considered to be a reflection of safety culture. Theory also contends safety climate as
being a snap shot of the organisations ‘mood’ at a single point in time and therefore has a
short shelf life. It is also recognised that the background to this study is done
acknowledging the continued debate surrounding the understanding and definitions
associated with the concepts organisational culture & climate, safety culture & climate.
Leadership theory and research points out the importance of leadership on
employee behaviour and motivation. The organisations’ senior leadership underwent
intervention training provided by the author based upon leadership theory of a
transformational style and workplace best practice. A Safety Climate questionnaire was
provided to the participating employees of the MNC business and was repeated following
a three-month interval. The study was quantitative, longitudinal and comparative in
nature. The participating employees forming a control group and an intervention group.
Following the leadership training the Senior Leadership was associated only with the
employee intervention group. Safety climate analysis was undertaken with the findings
being a result of questionnaire responses. Prior to the research it was expected that the
results of the research would provide useful future guidance for organisations and their
leadership. The author believed that the study would help organisational leadership
better understand and make full use of the influence they have. This knowledge would in
turn provide leadership the requisite emphasis to improve workplace safety and
employee’s perception through the influence leadership holds.
The study’s hypothesis was that a discernible difference should be noted between
the ensuing assessments due to improved leadership and the understanding of the
influence it holds. The improved leadership influence will be reflected in employee’s
perception of management and workplace safety as captured in the safety climate
It was believed that this research should help provide the organisation greater
understanding of both an organisations safety climate, and leadership culture. Through
this research the organisation should also recognise the role leadership influence plays
and that the utilisation of safety climate assessment can be a useful and predictive tool.
That its use can play a part in the organisations endeavour to reduce workplace injuries
and help reduce the associated escalating financial cost to both employees and the
organisation of such injuries and loss.
The outcome from the study found a positive correlation to the research question
and hypothesis with the safety climate results indicating a positive improvement for the
intervention group associated with the leadership influence, as a direct consequence of
the intervention training. The safety climate measurement improved significantly for the
surveyed dimension of Management Commitment and the other management specific
areas. The Safety Climate Index improvement for the dimension of Management
Commitment alone increased by 41.03% and an overall increase of 16.95% across all of
the nine survey dimensions.