Personal attributes of supervisors: are these the key to transforming construction safety in the UK?

The UK construction industry accounts for a disproportionately high number of major and fatal injuries. The industry has a poor worker safety record and several stakeholders have made efforts to improve its performance. Much of such efforts have however targeted reactive control measures. Research indicates that there is a positive correlation between a proactive alternative - safety behaviours, and safety performance. These behaviours are shaped by the personality of individuals or determined by their social sphere of interaction including supervisors. Thus, the role the supervisor plays in influencing frontline workers’ (FLW) behaviours was investigated. Using a survey and statistical tests, the perspectives of FLW were obtained and analysed respectively to establish the vital supervisors’ qualities that improve their safety behaviours. The emerging qualities were found to rank from highest to lowest potential as follows: integrity/trust, openness/transparency, genuine care, accountability, flexibility, respect, fairness, consistent high personal standards, ability to empower and beliefs. The findings from this study suggest that organisations can improve their safety performance by focusing on the above qualities in three stages. The findings also highlight the need for organisations to focus on subtle but significant human qualities that are often ignored in safety management.