CEO involvement in OHS reduces workplace injuries: Study

CEOs play a more effective role in developing a culture of safety within their organization — one that actually reduces injuries, according to a recent study.
The study put to the test the common viewpoint that top organizational leaders influence front-line employee injuries — and found this to be true, based on data collected from 2,714 employees, 1,398 supervisors and 229 employees in top management teams in 54 small, medium and large-sized private and public sector organizations.

University of Regina professor, Sean Tucker, University of Regina alumnus, Dayle Ehr, and University of Calgary professor, Babatunde Ogunfowora, authored the study entitled “Safety in the C-Suite: How CEOs Influence Organizational Safety Climate and Employee Injuries,” published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

“Our research is the first to gather hard data to test if and how CEOs influence injuries among front-line workers,” said Tucker.

The study had found that CEOs have the most direct safety-related influence on their top managers, who in turn, model the pro-safety values and behaviours to lower-level managers, supervisors and employees. This trickling down of safety behaviour is referred to as “collective social learning” by the study.

The research also demonstrates that when CEOs, senior managers, managers and supervisors, and front-line staff are aligned with their commitment to safety, a strong culture of safety within an organization forms.

“Aside from the human toll, workplace injuries and deaths take a tremendous toll on a business’ bottom line, and this research makes an important contribution to our understanding of how we can improve worker safety and reduce businesses’ costs,” said Phil Germain, vice-president of prevention and employer services at the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board that sponsored the study. “The researchers collected and analyzed a large amount of hard data to show that reducing worker injuries, which can save businesses literally millions of dollars, comes through a CEO-driven, top-down cascade of directives that promote a pervasive climate of safety at all levels of the organization.” 

Workplace injuries do more than just harm the employee; they also cost the Canadian economy $19 billion annually, according to the government of Canada’s Labour Program.