Safety in the C-Suite: How Chief Executive Officers Influence Organizational Safety Climate and Employee Injuries

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According to social learning theory, powerful and high status individuals can significantly influence the behaviors of others. In this paper, we propose that chief executive officers (CEOs) indirectly impact frontline injuries through the collective social learning experiences and effort of different groups of organizational actors—including members of the top management team (TMT), organizational supervisors, and frontline employees. We found support for our collective social learning model using data from 2,714 frontline employees, 1,398 supervisors, and 229 members of TMTs in 54 organizations. TMT members’ experiences within a CEO-driven TMT safety climate was positively related to organizational supervisors’ reports of the broader organizational safety climate and their subsequent collective support for safety (reported by frontline employees). In turn, supervisory support for safety was associated with fewer employee injuries at the individual level. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of these findings for workplace safety research and practice.

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