Safety Leading Indicators Final Report (Phase 1)

Clara Cheung, Jing Xu, Patrick Manu, Obuks Ejohwomu

Research output: Book/ReportOther reportpeer-review


In several countries, construction is consistently one of the highest risk industries with poor safety performance. In the United Kingdom, although the overall rate of fatal injury in construction did steadily decrease since 1980, it reached a plateau in the 2000s. To break through the plateau, the industry and academia have investigated safety leading indicators in addition to traditionally used lagging indicators such as fatal injury rates. Leading indicators, such as the frequency and content of safety training, are safety initiatives that provide an early indication of impending adverse events, which in turn allows management to initiate corrective steps in a short period of time. Leading indicators are an emergent area in both research and practice where a wide range of indicators being suggested. However, there is insufficient guidance to the industry on what and how leading indicators should be used at different levels of organisation and different stage of construction projects. Against this backdrop, this project aims to help the industry better understand questions like:
1. What are the safety leading indicators evidenced in the literature and in the practice of the construction industry?
2. How have the safety leading indicators been used?
3. How are the safety leading indicators measured?
4. What are the impacts of safety leading indicators on safety outcomes?
5. What are the relationships among the safety leading indicators?
6. Among the safety leading indicators evidenced in the literature and in the practice, what are the key ones that critically have an impact on safety outcomes in construction?
7. What kind of tools can be used to measure the safety leading indicators?
To answer the above questions, the project team from The University of Manchester conducted a systematic literature review on 235 academic journal papers, 5 industry reports and 3 industry guidelines; organised focus group discussion in three industry committee workshops; and applied Delphi technique and voting analytic hierarchy process (VAHP) to the research. The 7 key research outputs are captured in Section 3 of the report.
First, the project puts forward a definition of safety leading indicators in construction as measures that indicate the current performance of a safety management system of a project or firm. As a result, they can: 1) identify the system's weaknesses and strengths, 2) identify situations that might cause incidents and injuries, and 3) drive proactive actions to prevent an incident or injury before it occurs and achieve continuous improvement.
Second, 17 leading indicators and their sub-indicators were identified with detailed description. The 17 indicators are: 1) organisation commitment; 2) safety auditing; 3) training and orientation; 4) client engagement; 5) designer engagement: 6) principal contractor engagement; 7) supply chain and workforce engagement; 8) safety design; 9) plan for safety; 10) hazard identification and control; 11) safety learning; 12) recognition and reward; 13) site communication; 14) safety climate; 15) work involvement; 16) competence and 17) well-being.

Third, both the qualitative and quantitative measurements of the 17 leading indicators and their sub-indicators were presented.

Fourth, conceptual relationships between the safety leading indicators and accident attributors in construction were identified by linking four categories of construction accidents to the 17 leading indicators. The four categories are: 1) cognitive and behavioural; 2) conditional; 3) operational; and 4) organisational.

Fifth, a theoretical framework that captures the relationships among indicators was established in two indicators. The first dimension is based on the level of measurements of safety management performance at the firm, project, or group and individual level. The second dimension is linked with the categories of construction accident attributors, namely organisational, operational and cognitive and behavioural.

Sixth, a ranking of the 17 safety leading indicators and their sub-indicators was presented. The top 5 leading indicators are: 1) organisation commitment; 2) client engagement; 3) principal contractor engagement; 4) principal designer and designer engagement; and 5) training and orientation. The top 5 sub-indicators are: 1) senior management engagement; 2) client leadership; 3) structure and process Integration; 4) safety resource investment; and 5) competence.
Finally, a tool which shows a step-by-step approach to guide the process of implementation of safety leading indicators was illustrated. The tool was developed by linking the framework of safety leading indicators with two HSE guidelines: HSG65; and INDG275.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherHealth and Safety Executive
Number of pages49
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


  • occupational safety and health management
  • leading indicators
  • construction

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Thomas Ashton Institute


Dive into the research topics of 'Safety Leading Indicators Final Report (Phase 1)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this