Hämäläinen and colleagues (1) estimated the global number of fatal occupational accidents in 2003 to reach 360 000. The construction industry is one of the worst affected occupational sectors; among European construction workers 4.8% reported one or more accidental injuries in 2007 (2).
Traditionally, occupational safety has been managed through physical barriers and implementation of rules and regulations (3). Such measures will, however, be effective only if rules and barriers are not circumvented. Safety behaviours in terms of compliance can be expected to be influenced by attitudes and social behavioural norms, but also by organizational factors, encouraging or restricting the ability to comply (4). A high level of safety may also be considered dependent not only on safety compliant behaviours, but also on participative behaviour, where employees take own initiatives to identify hazards, and improve workplace safety (5). Social norms that encourage both types of safety behaviour therefore appear as important for safety outcomes. Safety climate research indicate the central role of managers and the quality of leadership behaviour for the development of social norms encouraging safe behaviour at the workplace (6-8), and in a longitudinal study Tholén and colleagues (9) showed that psychosocial climate and safety climate were antecedents of safety behaviour in the construction industry. In a meta-analysis of occupational safety Christian and colleagues (10) further strengthened such results and concluded that situation-related factors, involving safety climate and leadership; and workerrelated factors, involving personality characteristics and attitudes, predict safety outcomes. Safety attitudes, norms and behaviours may also be expected to be grounded in the organizational or professional cultures. Alvesson (11) defined organizational culture as “a shared and learned world of experiences, meanings, values, and understandings which inform people and which are expressed, reproduced and communicated partly in symbolic form” (11, p6). Schein (12) suggested that the core of the culture is a set of shared and tacit basic assumptions. These basic assumptions underlie group members’ values, cognitions and behaviours (12). Studying managers’ and workers’ conceptions of safety leadership and capturing aspects of organizational culture that may influence safety, i.e. safety culture, therefore appears important for extending the understanding of factors or processes that may explain safety outcomes. Such understanding may be used to more effectively improve workplace safety.