Want Safety Outcomes? Safety-Specific Transformational Leadership Programs More Effective Than General Leadership Training Programs, Says Research

A research study by Mullen and Kelloway found safety-specific transformational leadership programs have a higher effectiveness on the safety outcomes of an organisation (and its people) compared to a general transformational leadership program, which according to the research had no discernible effect on safety outcomes.

The purpose of the research was to compare the impact between ˜safety-specific’ and ˜general transformational leadership’ training interventions on both leader and employee safety outcomes. Researchers randomly assigned organisations and leaders to general transformational leadership training, safety-specific transformational leadership training or a wait-list control group.

They assessed the effects of training on leaders’ self-reported attitudes towards safety, self-efficacy, and intentions to promote safety, as well as the effects of training on employee perceptions of safety climate, safety participation, safety compliance, safety-related events, and injuries.

The results of the training interventions showed that leaders’ safety attitudes were the highest among managers who received the safety-specific transformational leadership training, as opposed to managers who participated in the general transformational leadership training or the control condition.

The research paper concludes siting evidence suggesting that safety training is one of the most effective strategies for improving workplace safety (Colligan & Cohen, 2003) and that safety-specific transformational leadership training appears to be a very low cost intervention that has positive effects on a variety of safety outcomes.

œThe human suffering and financial costs that are associated with an accident or injury can be extremely high. Thus, even a small effect can translate into significantly lower costs for the individual and organisation if an injury is prevented because of the safety-specific leadership intervention.

Journal Source: Mullen, J. E. and Kelloway, E. K. (2009), Safety leadership: A longitudinal study of the effects of transformational leadership on safety outcomes. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 82: 253-272. Download here.