We all know that leadership is critical to establishing safety on the construction job site. Workers who believe that both the company headquarters and the field supervisors take occupational safety seriously are more likely to take the time and effort to work safely. But leadership can take many forms: Which are most important?
When supervisors reward safe behavior or punish unsafe behavior, they engage in what psychologists call "transactional leadership." They are striking a deal with employees: if I get something I want, you will get something you want. This kind of leadership did lead to some improvements, but it wasn't the most important kind.
Supervisors whom workers admired for their character, intelligence and skills could exercise much more powerful "transformational leadership." That is, when trades employees saw a foreman they admired making safety a top priority, the workers began to make safety a higher priority as well.
CPWR -- The Center for Construction Research and Training is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization created by the Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO. Working with partners like you in business, labor, government, and the universities, we strive every day to make work safer for the 9 million men and women who work in the U.S. construction industry!