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Safety Science 47 (2009) 980991

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Relation between occupational safety management and rm performance

Beatriz Fernndez-Muiz *, Jos Manuel Montes-Pen 1, Camilo Jos Vzquez-Ords 2
University of Oviedo, Facultad de Ciencias Econmicas y Empresariales, Departamento de Administracin de Empresas y Contabilidad, Avda. del Cristo, s/n, 33071, Oviedo, Spain

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Occupational accidents severely deteriorate human capital, and hence negatively affect the productivity
Received 25 September 2007 and competitiveness of countries. But despite this, we still observe a scarcity of preventive practices, an
Received in revised form 3 October 2008 unsatisfactory management commitment and an absence of safety culture among Spanish rms. The
Accepted 30 October 2008
result is evident in rms high accident rates. This situation is a consequence of the general belief among
rms that investing in safety is a cost, and hence has negative repercussions for their competitiveness.
The current work aims to identify good practices in safety management, and analyse the effect of these
practices on a set of indicators of organisational performance. For this, we rst carry out an exhaustive
Safety management
Competitive advantage
literature review, and then formulate a series of hypotheses. We then test the proposed model on a sam-
Occupational accidents ple of 455 Spanish rms. Our ndings show that safety management has a positive inuence on safety
Productivity performance, competitiveness performance, and economic-nancial performance. Hence they provide
Structural equation modelling evidence of the compatibility between worker protection and corporate competitiveness.
2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction tional health and safety. This commitment must start from the top
management of the organisation.
The occupational accident rate has increased considerably in Various authors attribute this weak management commitment
Spain in recent years, in spite of the legal reforms beginning in to the general belief that preventive measures require expendi-
1995. This large number of accidents has a signicant human cost tures that have nothing to do with the rms production objectives,
for Spanish society, and leads to a loss of economic potential and and consequently have negative repercussions for its protability
productivity for the country,3 since apart from the decrease in hu- and competitiveness. But accidents have adverse affects in terms
man capital and the damage done to production equipment, a large of decreases in productivity and quality, and deterioration of the
number of working days are lost.4 Although the economic cycle (Bec- rms public image or internal climate. It is for this reason that a
erra et al., 1986; Castejn, 2000) and Spanish labour market charac- good occupational safety management can have a positive effect
teristics can explain an important part of the variations in the not only on accident rates, but also on competitiveness variables
accident rate, they cannot alone be considered the main causes. and nancial performance. It is therefore a good opportunity for
Other variables inuence the accident rate, including the cultural those organisations that take up the challenge and adopt safety
perception of preventive actions (Castejn, 2000). In this respect, management. Many authors have defended this theory (Andreoni,
researchers have detected a decient preventive culture in Spanish 1986; Grimaldi and Simonds, 1989; Ashford, 1997; HSE, 1997;
organisations (Narocki, 1999). Indeed, it is a priority objective of Kjelln et al., 1997; Narocki, 1999; Smallman and John, 2001; Best-
the new legislation to build such a culture. But creating an authentic ratn et al., 2003; Rechenthin, 2004), although the literature has
safety culture requires not only stronger institutional pressure, but provided scarce empirical evidence for it.
also a change of mentality and an authentic commitment from rms, The current work is conceived in this context, and its funda-
where everyone participates and commits themselves to occupa- mental aim is to analyse the relation between rms health and
safety management and their performance. This objective breaks
down into the following specic goals: (1) to identify appropriate
* Corresponding author. Tel.: +34 985106215; fax: +34 985103708.
E-mail addresses: (B. Fernndez-Muiz),
preventive practices as part of an effective health and safety man-
(J.M. Montes-Pen), (C.J. Vzquez-Ords). agement system and (2) to analyse the effect of such a system on a
Tel.: +34 985104975; fax: +34 985103708. set of indicators of rms safety, competitiveness and economic-
Tel.: +34 9853704; fax: +34 985103708. nancial performance. In order to accomplish these objectives,
The Spanish economys lost productivity due to occupational accidents amounted
we rst carry out an exhaustive review of the literature on occupa-
to 3% of GDP (13,280m) in 1996, according to estimates from the Spanish Ministry of
Labour and Social Affairs.
tional safety management. We then formulate a model summaris-
The Spanish Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs reported 21,597,604 working ing the hypotheses of the study. Subsequently, we develop
days lost in 2002. measurement scales of the concepts used in the proposed model,

0925-7535/$ - see front matter 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
B. Fernndez-Muiz et al. / Safety Science 47 (2009) 980991 981

in order to operationalise them, and carry out an empirical study (3) Training and development of employee competences, in
on a sample of 455 Spanish rms to test the hypotheses. This study order to improve ability, skills, and aptitudes in terms of risk
uses the structural equation modelling statistical technique. prevention (Shafai-Sahrai, 1971; Zohar, 1980; Glennon,
1982; Ostrom et al., 1993; Cooper and Philips, 1994; Glen-
don et al., 1994; Donald and Canter, 1994; Coyle et al.,
2. The occupational safety management system 1995; Shannon et al., 1997; Cox et al., 1998; Lee, 1998; DeP-
asquale and Geller, 1999; Fleming, 2000; Grote and Knzler,
Managing risks in an integrated way with the organisations 2000; Guldenmund, 2000; OToole, 2002; Vredenburgh,
operations has become increasingly important in recent years, 2002; Silva et al., 2004).
since it not only cuts accident rates but can also improve the rms (4) Communication and transfer of information about the work-
productivity and economic and nancial results (OToole, 2002). place, its possible risks and how best to combat them (Sha-
However, researchers have paid little attention to dening what fai-Sahrai, 1971; Zohar, 1980; Ostrom et al., 1993; Glendon
exactly constitutes an effective occupational health and safety et al., 1994; Donald and Canter, 1994; Berends, 1996; Cabre-
management system (Santos-Reyes and Beard, 2002). Safety man- ra et al., 1997; Shannon et al., 1997; Cheyne et al., 1998; Lee,
agement systems are integrated mechanisms in organisations de- 1998; Fleming, 2000; Grote and Knzler, 2000; Rundmo and
signed to control the risks that can affect workers health and Hale, 2003; Vredenburgh, 2002; Wiegmann et al., 2002;
safety, and at the same time to ensure the rm can easily comply Mearns et al., 2003; Siu et al., 2003; DeJoy et al., 2004; Silva
with the relevant legislation. A good safety management system et al., 2004).
should be fully integrated into the rm and be a cohesive system, (5) Planning (HSE, 1997; Guldenmund, 2000; OToole, 2002),
consisting of policies, strategies and procedures that provide inter- distinguishing between preventive planning and emergency
nal consistency and harmonisation. Guastello (1993) offers a meta- planning. The former attempts to develop an organised
analysis exploring the effectiveness of various interventions for method of putting into practice policies and actions
occupational safety, and nds that behaviour-based processes are designed to avoid accidents. At the same time, the emer-
the most effective. Thus, developing the safety management gency plan attempts to calmly programme the action to be
system should be regarded as a way of creating awareness, taken to provide a quick and efcient response to any inci-
understanding, motivation and commitment among all the organi- dent, thus reducing as far as possible its adverse effects.
sations employees. But its success will depend on the manage- (6) Control and review of activities carried out within the orga-
ments commitment to it (Zohar, 1980; Civil Aviation Safety nisation (Shafai-Sahrai, 1971; Zohar, 1980; Donald and Can-
Authority, 2002). ter, 1994; Cabrera et al., 1997; HSE, 1997; Shannon et al.,
Given the lack of empirical research identifying the specic 1997; Lee, 1998; Grote and Knzler, 2000; Vredenburgh,
dimensions of an adequate safety management system, we have 2002), this will permit continuous improvement. This con-
obtained a combination of the characteristics of the management trol is executed by means of an analysis of working condi-
systems and models from both national and international regula- tions and events occurring within the company, and
tions and guidelines, created by various bodies and institutions through comparisons with other companies. We can distin-
from several countries (total loss control, from Bird, 1974; BS guish two sub-dimensions: internal control (Kjelln et al.,
8800:1996, from the British Standards Institution; HSE, 1997; OH- 1997) and benchmarking techniques (Fuller, 1997).
SAS international guidelines 18001/18002:1999; guidelines on
occupational safety and health management systems, from the To achieve excellence in prevention, safety must be integrated
International Labour Ofce, 2001). These guidelines have a similar into all the organisations decisions and actions, and the prevention
structure, as they are based on continuous improvement (plan-do- must be more organisational and strategic than material, given the
check-act). Likewise, we have considered empirical studies important role that the human component plays in the causal chain
investigating the safety culture (Guldenmund, 2000; Cooper, of workplace accidents. Thus, rms need to implement a system to
2000; Glendon and Stanton, 2000; Sorensen, 2002; Arboleda manage occupational risk prevention like the one described above,
et al., 2003; Richter and Koch, 2004), as well as works analysing foster the commitment and participation of all their members, and
the practices that distinguish between high and low accident rate achieve the support of the top management (Fernndez-Muiz
companies (Cohen et al., 1975; Cohen, 1977; Shafai-Sahrai, 1971; et al., 2007). There must consequently be a profound change in
Guastello, 1993; Shannon et al., 1997; Vredenburgh, 2002; rms behaviour and mentality, leading to a true safety culture.
Tinmannsvik and Hovden, 2003; Mearns et al., 2003). Thus, we
have identied the following key aspects as critical for a good 3. Economic impact of occupational safety
occupational health and safety management system capable of
reducing workplace accidents in a sustained manner: Satisfactory working conditions provide benets of many kinds,
and the beneciaries are both direct and indirect. The direct bene-
(1) Development of a Safety Policy that includes the organisa- ciaries are the workers themselves, since they are the most af-
tions commitment to safety, and formally expresses objec- fected by accidents, but also the rm, because it avoids losses
tives such as the principles and guidelines to follow in and improves its protability. The indirect beneciaries are the
questions of health and safety at work. This aspect is sup- insurers, contractors, consumers, families and society in general
ported by authors such as Donald and Canter (1994), Coyle (Mossink, 2002). There are big differences in the type of damage
et al. (1995), HSE (1997), Daz and Cabrera (1997), Isla and caused by accidents, in the associated costs, and in the system of
Daz (1997), Meli and Ses (1999) and Mearns et al. (2003). evaluation.
(2) Incentives for Employee Participation in health and safety However, rms and more specically their managers are
activities, aimed at promoting safe behaviour and involving considered key actors in safety improvements, since they have
personnel in decision-making processes, by means of pun- the capacity to make decisions to invest in prevention or not. Thus,
ishments/rewards or by consulting them about their wellbe- much of the information about costs and benets and economic
ing in the workplace (Zohar, 1980; Glennon, 1982; Reason, incentives focuses on the organisation.
1990; Lee, 1998; Eiff, 1999; Vredenburgh, 2002; Wiegmann Fig. 1 summarises the economic effects of occupational safety
et al., 2002). from a business perspective. Occupational accidents interrupt the
982 B. Fernndez-Muiz et al. / Safety Science 47 (2009) 980991

- Lower insurance costs

Fewer health & safety risks - Fewer accidents
Better opportunities for - Less damage
rehabilitation - Fewer liabilities
- Lower legal costs
- Less absenteeism
Health & Safety - Lower medical costs

1. Investments Less disruption of work

2. Management Health & process
3. Activities Safety
4. Training Measures

- Higher productivity
- Higher efficiency
Better fit to work processes - Higher quality
More motivated personnel - Better company image
Improvement of skills - Greater innovative

Source: Mossink (2002).

Fig. 1. Economic effects of health and safety at company level.

production process, generating, on the one hand, both nancial and of such investment. Ashford (1997) considers the importance of
opportunity costs (Heinrich, 1959; Andreoni, 1986; Brody et al., technological advances, following Porters (1991) line, and argues
1990; Grimaldi and Simonds, 1989; Kjelln et al., 1997; Bestratn that the new legislation on risk prevention stimulates rms to
et al., 2003), and on the other, decreases in the quantity and quality develop new technologies that help them comply with legisla-
of production achieved, with a consequent decline in the rms tion more inexpensively, thereby improving growth and
productivity (Hunter, 1999). But this is not the only negative effect competitiveness.
that accidents cause in rms. They also undermine the rms inter- Thus, the safety management system is able to reduce not only
nal relationships, and harm its public image, causing a severe dete- personal injuries and harm to workers health, but also material
rioration in the organisations intangibles (Fernndez et al., 2000; damage. Consequently, it reduces down time and labour absentee-
Bestratn et al., 2003) critical factors in the rms survival in ism and improves workers satisfaction and motivation. Similarly,
the market. by reducing the number of interruptions in the productive process,
Unsafe working conditions worsen the industrial climate and this management system can improve productivity, the quality of
undermine workers morale and motivation, as well as their iden- the products and the rms degree of innovation, thereby affecting
tication with the owners and managers. This can ultimately lead customers satisfaction and the rms reputation. Finally, we would
them to leave the rm, and the rm can have difculty in nding expect that safety management would also have a positive effect
qualied workers to replace them. Thus, health and safety in the on the rms position in the market, increasing its market share.
workplace benets the organisation because of the advantages of This increase in market share, together with the reduction in the
keeping its workers healthy and productive workers who are dif- cost of accidents, raises the rms prots and hence its protability.
cult to replace because they possess specic knowledge or skills. These performance indicators can be grouped into three dimen-
Moreover, accidents can adversely affect the rms image and rep- sions. First, the direct consequences of accidents, which are per-
utation (Smallman and John, 2001), provoking a severe deteriora- sonal injuries, material damage, absenteeism and workers
tion in its public relations. This has occasionally led consumers reduced motivation, have been grouped under a single dimension
to boycott certain brands or rms accused of anti-social behaviour. labelled safety performance. Second, the indicators of quality, pro-
Public criticisms and serious accidents are a source of adverse pub- ductivity, innovation, customer satisfaction and company reputa-
licity that can have negative commercial consequences, which are tion are grouped in the dimension competitiveness performance,
often regarded as social sanctions (Gunningham, 1999). Acci- as they are considered key variables in the rms competitive posi-
dents can also cause rms to miss delivery dates, leading, on the tion. Finally, the rms position in the market, measured through
one hand, to economic losses due to the delay itself, and on the the rms market share, prot margin and protability, are
other, to a deterioration in the customers perception of the rm. grouped under the dimension economic-nancial performance.
This can have a negative impact on the order book. All this can The above reasoning leads to the following hypotheses:
damage the organisations value creation, and lead to a decline in
the rms competitiveness, with a consequent loss of market posi- Hypothesis 1. The Safety Management System has a positive
tion. Thus, preventing occupational risks is an essential element in inuence on safety performance.
business management, with important strategic implications for
the organisation (Bestratn, 1996; HSE, 1997; Narocki, 1999; Rik- Hypothesis 2. The Safety Management System has a positive inu-
hardsson and Impgaard, 2004). ence on competitiveness performance.
Investing in safety can also lead to changes in the nature of the
process and production technology, which can offer benets in Hypothesis 3. The Safety Management System has a positive inu-
terms of savings in materials or energy, hence cutting the real costs ence on economic-nancial performance.
B. Fernndez-Muiz et al. / Safety Science 47 (2009) 980991 983

4. Method send them the questionnaire together with a presentation letter.

In this way, we eliminated rms not wishing to take part in the
4.1. Sample study, and guaranteed that the appropriate person would respond
to the questionnaire. When the rm lacked a safety ofcer and had
In order to test the above hypotheses, we carried out an empir- outsourced its occupational safety activities, which was the case in
ical study. The majority of empirical studies limit their sample to some small rms, we contacted the safety coordinator responsible
one organisation from a very specic sector, casting some doubt for liaising between the rm and its external service provider, in
about their external validity (Silva et al., 2004). Thus, with the order not to exclude this type of rm from the study. Finally, we
aim of achieving as high a degree of generalisation as possible received a total of 474 questionnaires. Some of these had been
for the results of this work, we considered the target population incorrectly completed in some respect, so we were obliged to con-
made up of companies located in Spain, both national and foreign, tact the rms concerned again requesting data that was either
from the construction, industrial and services sectors, employing missing or erroneous. But 19 of these questionnaires still had seri-
more than 10 workers. With these criteria, and using the SABI data- ous internal inconsistencies or more than 80% of their values lost,
base (which holds accounting data on Spanish companies), we ob- so we decided to eliminate them, following the complete case ap-
tained a population size of 62,146 rms. Subsequently, we proach described in Hair et al. (1998). In this way, we obtained a
calculated the number of responses that would be necessary to en- total of 455 valid responses. The denitive response rate was
sure that our sample would be representative of the total popula- 12%. The sampling error was 4.57% for the most unfavourable case,
tion, assuming a maximum error of 5% for a condence level of and a condence level of 95%. Taking into account only the popu-
95%. A total of 382 respondents were necessary. Assuming a similar lation that we contacted, the error was 4.18%. Although the re-
response rate to that obtained in other survey-based studies car- sponse rate is not as high as in US or UK studies, the sample is
ried out in Spain (Ordoez, 2002; Ordiz and Fernndez, 2003; Pri- representative because the sampling error, which reects the max-
eto and Revilla, 2004) 10% we concluded that we needed to imum difference between the sample estimator and the corre-
contact and request the collaboration of 3,820 companies. We then sponding population parameter, is low.
divided the population rms into groups according to rm size Table 1 reports the rms distribution by activity and rm size
(small: < 50workers; medium-sized: 50249; large:P250) and for both the population and the sample, as well as the response
sector of activity (industrial, construction and services). Finally, rates by activity and size. The differences between the population
we selected 3,820 rms systematically at random from each of and the sample are due to the different response rates of the seg-
these groups in the same proportion as in the population as a ments of population. We nd that the proportion of construc-
whole. tion-sector rms is very similar in both the sample and the total
We devised a questionnaire to compile the information. As sam- population. But the proportion of industrial rms is higher in the
ple unit we chose the safety ofcer, since this individual can be ex- sample than in the population as a whole, while the proportion
pected to have the most information about the specic practices of service-sector rms is lower in the sample than in the popula-
and procedures that are being carried out within the rm, and be tion. This circumstance is due to the fact that the response rate is
familiar with the difculties involved in implementing the system. higher in the industrial sector than in the service sector, this latter
This ofcer can also be expected to have access to all types of infor- sector not traditionally being associated with occupational risks.
mation concerning potential dangers to the health and safety of the Nevertheless, we observe an extremely diversied sectorial struc-
workers. Likewise, these ofcers occupy an intermediate position ture, which can be interpreted as a signicant reection of the
between the management and the employees, so we consider that Spanish productive structure. Similarly, the sample rms are fun-
their information will be less biased and more accurate. We con- damentally small and medium-sized rms (88.2%) a proportion
tacted this particular ofcer in each rm by telephone in order to in line with the Spanish economy. But we nd small rms with less

Table 1
Distribution of population and sample by activity and size.

Activity sectors (CNAE 93) Population Contacts with rms made Questionnaires received (Sample) Response rate(%)
Industry 26,566 (42.7%) 1,538 (40.2%) 271 (60.0%) 17.6
Food and drink (15) 35 (7.7%)
Textile, footwear and derivatives (17, 18 and 19) 21 (4.6%)
Wood industry (20 and 36) 23 (5.1%)
Chemical, paper and plastics industry (21, 24 and 25) 42 (9.2%)
Metallurgy industry (27 and 28) 95 (20.9%)
Machinery, vehicle and various equipment (29, 30, 33 and 34) 18 (4.0%)
Other manufacturers (22, 26, 31, 32 and 37) 39 (8.6%)
Services 28,257 (45.5%) 1,700 (44.5%) 107 (20.2%) 6.3
Vehicle sales and repairs (50) 15 (3.3%)
Wholesale business (51) 25 (5.5%)
Retail business (52) 11 (2.4%)
Various services (55, 70, 71, 72, 92 and 93) 41 (9.0%)
Construction (45) 9,710 (15.6%) 583 (15.3%) 77 (19.8%) 13.2%
Total companies 62,146 (100%) 3,820 (100%) 455 (100%) 12

Size (no. employees)

1049 48,702 (78.4%) 2,994 (78.4%) 241 (53%) 8
50249 10,985 (17.7%) 675 (17.7%) 160 (35.2%) 23.7
More than 250 2,459 (3.9%) 151 (3.9%) 54 (11.8%) 35.7
Total companies 62,146 (100%) 3,820 (100%) 455 (100%) 12

Source: SABI Database (Sistema de Anlisis de Balances Ibricos/system of analysis of Spanish accounts).
984 B. Fernndez-Muiz et al. / Safety Science 47 (2009) 980991

than 50 employees to be more reluctant to respond to the ques- but depends on the sector of activity. Thus, the cost of insurance
tionnaire, which leads to a lower response rate from this type of to cover compensation and medical expenses is the same for two
rm. As a consequence, some differences exist in the distribution rms in the same sector even if one has a substantially lower acci-
by size between the sample and the population. dent rate. Consequently, in the particular case of Spanish rms,
implementing the safety management system described here will
4.2. Measurement scales not have any effect on the cost of such insurance.
Having obtained an initial structure of items, a rst draft of the
With the aim of measuring the concepts used in the current questionnaire to be used to collect the information was elaborated.
study, scales were built following a multiple indicator approach. In a second phase, the draft questionnaire was submitted to a
Thus, each concept was measured using various items or variables. renement process in order to eliminate items that were highly
This process for generating items involved successive stages. First, redundant because of analogous meanings. For this, the opinion
we conducted an exhaustive review of management systems pro- of various PhDs in business management was considered, followed
posed in the international standards and guidelines (HSE, 1997; by four in-depth interviews with experts on occupational safety
BSI, 1996, 1999; International Labour Ofce, 2001). We also took from the Institute for the Prevention of Occupational Risks of the
into account studies analysing the practices that discriminate be- region of Asturias (Spain). These experts were engineers with con-
tween companies with high and low accident rates (Shafai-Sahrai, siderable experience identifying and controlling risks in the organ-
1971; Cohen et al., 1975; Cohen, 1977; Smith et al., 1978; Guastel- isations, having spent more than 20 years advising and supporting
lo, 1993; Shannon et al., 1997; Bentley and Haslam, 2001; Vreden- companies and monitoring compliance with the current legislation
burgh, 2002; Mearns et al., 2003; Tinmannsvik and Hovden, 2003; in the area of occupational safety. Participants were presented with
Tam et al., 2004), as well as studies of safety culture (e.g., Cox and a list of the rened scale items, and were requested to comment on
Cheyne, 2000; Guldenmund, 2000; Lee and Harrison, 2000; Far- the relevance of each statement to companies. Finally, after select-
rington-Darby et al., 2005; Havold, 2005; Olive et al., 2006). This ing the denitive items the questionnaire was subjected to a pilot
process provided a pool of items to measure some of the concepts test with safety ofcers from eight companies. The ofcers were
considered in this research. But we observed that the evaluation of asked whether they understood the specic terms used, and about
the measurement scales psychometric properties was decient in the intended meaning of each statement. The nal composition of
some studies. This is why we opted here to build specic measure- the scales can be seen in the Appendix A.
ment scales, adapted to the theoretical model developed in this
study, taking into account not only existing scales but also interna-
tional standards and guidelines in safety management. All the 5. Results
items were measured on a 5-point Likert-type scale, the respon-
dents being asked to indicate their perceptions of their company 5.1. Estimation of measurement model
on each item ranging from 1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly
agree. The scales proposed were subjected to a process of evaluation,
The performance indicators (personal injuries, material damage, focusing on the study of their psychometric properties. Specically,
employees motivation, absenteeism, product quality, productivity, we analysed the dimensionality, examined the reliability of their
customer satisfaction, reputation, innovation, nancial protabil- composition and evaluated the content, convergent and discrimi-
ity, growth in market share, growth in prots and prot/sales) nant validity of each subscale, following the original proposals of
were measured subjectively. The respondents were required to re- Churchill (1979) and Anderson and Gerbing (1988). For this pur-
port their degree of satisfaction with these indicators on a 5-point pose, we conducted principal components exploratory factor anal-
Likert scale ranging from 1 = extremely dissatised to 5 = extre- yses with varimax rotation, and conrmatory factor analyses using
mely satised. The level of satisfaction with the indicators was structural equation modelling, employing the statistics programs
measured taking into account the trend followed by them in recent SPSS/PC version 14 for Windows and EQS version 5.7a for Win-
years and the rms position with respect to its competitors, or the dows, respectively.
sector average. Subjective indicators were chosen in view of the
managers refusal to provide objective performance data. Occa- 5.1.1. Dimensionality study
sionally, this refusal was due to managers ignorance of these data, The evaluation process began by carrying out a principal com-
the rm lacking an adequate record of this information. At other ponents exploratory factor analysis, considering all the items pro-
times managers were fearful of making their accident data public posed for each dimension. This analysis reected a composition of
because of the possible legal consequences. At the same time, a the scales in accordance with the starting assumptions, in other
large amount of empirical evidence has found a signicant positive words, it revealed the unidimensional nature of the factors policy,
correlation between objective and subjective estimations of perfor- incentives, training, communication, and the bidimensional nature
mance (Hansen and Wernerfelt, 1989; Lyles and Salk, 1997). Fur- of planning (preventive and emergency) and control (internal and
ther, as Jones et al. (1999) suggest, the rate of near miss reports benchmarking). On the other hand, the analysis identied three
is an important numerical indicator of an industrys safety aware- dimensions in the performance construct, which were labelled
ness. Implementing a safety management system such as the one Safety performance, Competitiveness performance and economic-
described in this study implies an improvement in the process of nancial performance. Subsequently, structural equation model-
recording and analysing any accidents or incidents that occur. ling (SEM) was used to perform a conrmatory factor analysis on
Hence the rms performance in this area may improve, while at the proposed model. The goodness-of-t measures of the initial
the same time the objective indicators of the phenomenon are safety management system model showed that the model ts the
rising. data poorly. Consequently, an iterative process was applied,
We do not consider the potential reduction in insurance costs in whereby items contributing to lack of t, that is, items not con-
this study, since Spain has a national social security system that verging sufciently on their corresponding latent variable (Ander-
covers the compensation and medical expenses of accident victims. son and Gerbing, 1988; Steenkamp and Van Trijp, 1991), were
Spanish rms have to take out insurance to cover these two items systematically dropped. The best model t possible was achieved
through this public system, paying monthly contributions. The after reducing the proposed safety management system scale from
amount the rm pays bears no relation to its safety performance, 40 to 29 explanatory variables structured in eight subscales.
B. Fernndez-Muiz et al. / Safety Science 47 (2009) 980991 985

Thus, we eliminated 11 items from the original 40. This could 1.96. The values of the coefcients and the t-values appear in Table
raise doubts about the content validity of the scale. Content valid- 2. This table shows that all subscales full both conditions, there-
ity assesses the extent to which individual scale items cover the fore conrming the convergent validity of the proposed scales. The
range of meanings included in the concept (Hair et al., 1998). The discriminant validity indicates the extent to which two conceptu-
evaluation of this validity is subjective, since it depends on the ally similar concepts differ, and was veried by Anderson and Ger-
opinion of a group of experts about the procedures used in the bings (1988) methodology, which involves estimating the
development of the scale and the dimensions and variables that condence interval around the parameters that indicate the corre-
it contains. lation between the eight unidimensional factors of safety manage-
Initially, given the scarcity of measurement scales in the litera- ment system on the one hand, and the three unidimensional
ture for safety management systems we considered the largest factors of performance on the other, bearing in mind the value of
possible number of items to measure each of the concepts used these parameters and the corresponding standardised errors, to
in this study, in order to shape the scale during its validation pro- check that no interval includes 1.
cess, eliminating items that do not make sufcient contribution or In order to conrm the bidimensional nature of planning and
that generate multicollinearity problems. This is common practice control, we ran a second-order conrmatory factor analysis, and
in studies using this methodology to build a more reliable mea- noted that in all cases the existence of two factors or dimensions
surement model (e.g., Johnson and Hall, 2005). improves the model t. In addition, the resulting standardised
In order to guarantee face validity, before eliminating any item lambda parameters were evaluated, and also the condence inter-
we conducted a detailed analysis of its content and of its contribu- vals of the correlations between the factors, in order to re-check
tion to its scale with safety practitioners and OHS experts, evaluat- the convergent and discriminant validity. Finally, we ran a third-
ing the necessity or otherwise of including the item in the nal order conrmatory factor analysis to conrm that the six dimen-
scale. sions of policy, incentives, training, communication, planning and
For example, we eliminated planning1 and planning2, which control converge on a single latent variable termed safety manage-
measure the identication and evaluation of risks, since the ex- ment system. Fig. 2 shows that the model t is satisfactory. Addi-
perts argued that they did not add relevant information, the two tionally, the regression coefcients of the safety management
items being included in planning3, which measures prevention system factor are much greater than 0.5 and signicant at the
plans. It is a legal requirement that these plans be designed on 95% condence level, conrming the convergent validity of the
the basis of an identication of the dangers and a subsequent eval- concept. Thus, the reliability and validity of the safety management
uation of the risk to the worker. system scale have been demonstrated, and it is possible to struc-
The items nally eliminated appear in italics in the Appendix A. ture its 29 items in six dimensions that refer to the practices to
Table 2 reports the results obtained in the estimation of these re- which they are linked. Likewise, the reliability and validity of the
specied models. The models clearly present satisfactory good- measuring scales of the three types of performance are also con-
ness-of-t indices (Bentler, 1990; Hair et al., 1998; Seo, 2005). rmed, meaning they can be used to test the hypotheses.
We then proceeded to evaluate the reliability and validity of this
nal proposal of items for each of the subscales making up the 5.2. Estimation of proposed structural model
safety management system and performance.
To test the proposed model, we use the structural equation
5.1.2. Reliability analysis modelling statistical technique. This methodology, which is fre-
The reliability study indicates the degree of internal consistency quently used in the literature (Brown et al., 2000; Silva et al.,
between the multiple variables that make up the scale, in other 2004; Siu et al., 2003; Seo, 2005; Huang et al., 2006; Larsson
words, the extent to which the indicators or items of the scale et al., 2008), allows us to test complex models of relations between
are measuring the same concepts. For the purpose of guaranteeing variables considering all the model relations simultaneously. The
the maximum reliability of the scales proposed, Cronbachs a coef- goodness-of-t indices of the suggested model shown may be con-
cient (Cronbach, 1951) and the Composite Reliability Index were sidered satisfactory (Fig. 3), since they are very close to the recom-
calculated for each one-dimensional critical factor identied in the mended values.
previous section. As Table 2 shows, all the unidimensional sub- With regard to testing the hypotheses put forward, the coef-
scales present Cronbach a coefcients greater than 0.7, considered cients reected in the model conrm that safety management sys-
to be an adequate level of reliability to test causal relations (Nun- tem has a direct, positive and statistically signicant inuence on
nally, 1978). Also, the Composite Reliability Index in all cases ex- safety performance, competitiveness performance and economic-
ceeds the minimum level of 0.6 recommended by Bagozzi and Yi nancial performance, corroborating hypotheses H1, H2 and H3,
(1988). respectively.
Moreover, the results show that the safety management system
5.1.3. Validity analysis has a stronger effect on competitiveness performance than on the
The validity of the scales was veried by considering the con- other two types of performance, given its higher structural coef-
tent validity, convergent validity and discriminant validity. The cient (b = 0.55, p < 0.05). Thus, implementing this system affects
content validity, as mentioned above, is conrmed bearing in mind rst and foremost the rms image and reputation, its productivity
that the proposed scales were designed following an exhaustive re- and its capacity to innovate. These are all key factors for the rms
view of the literature and subjected to a process of revision involv- survival in the market.
ing in-depth interviews with safety experts. The convergent We also nd that the safety management system has an impor-
validity of a concept evaluates the extent to which two measure- tant effect on safety performance (b = 0.47, p < 0.05). This means
ments of the concept may be correlated (Hair et al., 1998). Conver- that the more developed the system, the fewer and less serious
gent validity can be analysed by means of standardised factorial the injuries and the more motivated the employees. Finally, the ef-
regression coefcients relating each variable observed with the la- fect of the safety management system on economic-nancial per-
tent one (Anderson and Gerbing, 1988), in other words, by means formance is positive and signicant, but weaker than for the
of standardised lambda parameters. A strong condition of conver- other two types of performance (b = 0.35, p < 0.05). Thus, the safety
gent validity is that those coefcients are over 0.5 and signicant at management system appears to have a positive inuence on the
a condence level of 95%, which requires t-values greater than rms sales, prots and nancial protability, but the effect is less
986 B. Fernndez-Muiz et al. / Safety Science 47 (2009) 980991

Table 2
First-order Conrmatory Factor Analysis (First order CFA).

Dimension variables Cronbach a Composite Reliability Standardised Lambda t-Values Dimension- Correlation Condence
Indexes Parameters Dimension Interval
First order CFA for safety management system
Safety Policy (SPol) 0.713 0.717 SPol-IN 0.577 (0.4770.677)
Pol1 0.65 13.114 SPol-TR 0.649 (0.5490.749)
Pol2 0.63 14.160 SPol-CO 0.631 (0.5310.731)
Pol4 0.75 15.611 SPol-PrP 0.721 (0.6250.817)
Employees Incentives (IN) 0.731 0.747 SPol-EP 0.465 (0.3570.573)
Incent1 0.57 13.189 SPol-IC 0.658 (0.5680.748)
Incent3 0.52 11.216 SPol-BE 0.458 (0.3520.564)
Incent4 0.80 21.183 IN-TR 0.755 (0.6770.833)
Incent5 0.69 17.359 IN-CO 0.808 (0.7460.870)
Training (TR) 0.782 0.785 IN-PrP 0.523 (0.4210.625)
Train1 0.71 16.803 IN-EP 0.386 (0.2880.484)
Train3 0.74 18.552 IN-IC 0.629 (0.0510.707)
Train6 0.62 15.337 IN-BE 0.450 (0.3420.558)
Train8 0.59 13.395 TR-CO 0.899 (0.8470.951)
Train9 0.58 11.776 TR-PrP 0.650 (0.5600.740)
Communication (CO) 0.805 0.808 TR-EP 0.463 (0.3670.559)
Commun1 0.80 22.704 TR-IC 0.809 (0.7430.875)
Commun2 0.76 20.474 TR-BE 0.470 (0.3680.572)
Commun4 0.74 20.465 CO-PrP 0.676 (0.5940.758)
Preventive planning (PrP) 0.764 0.770 CO-EP 0.552 (0.4640.640)
planning3 0.66 11.816 CO-IC 0.830 (0.7720.888)
planning5 0.83 19.326 CO-BE 0.543 (0.4490.637)
planning6 0.69 14.531 PrP-EP 0.532 (0.4320.632)
Emergency planning (EP) 0.850 0.856 PrP-IC 0.752 (0.6820.822)
planning8 0.82 18.288 PrP-BE 0.397 (0.2950.499)
planning9 0.80 24.075 EP-IC 0.535 (0.4510.619)
planning10 0.86 23.118 EP-BE 0.379 (0.2790.479)
planning11 0.59 16.448 IC-BE 0.580 (0.4960.664)
Internal control (IC) 0.854 0.859
Control1 0.79 20.189
Control2 0.81 23.773 Results of Model Fit: S-Bv2 (349) = 855.561 p = 0.001
Control3 0.71 20.167
Control4 0.81 23.522
Control5 0.58 10.613
Benchmarking (BE) 0.823 0.825 RMSEA = 0.057 IFI = 0.920
Control6 0.79 19.823 BNNFI = 0.901 GFI = 0.879
Control7 0.88 19.922 CFI = 0.920 AGFI = 0.849

First order CFA for performance

Safety Performance (SP) 0.743 0.746
Perform1 0.74 16.591 SP-CP 0.687 (0.6150.759)
Perform2 0.72 14.051
Perform5 0.61 11.450 SP-EP 0.309 (0.2070.411)
Perform6 0.53 10.877
Competitiveness Performance (CP) 0.853 0.857 CP-EP 0.567 (0.4930.641)
Perform3 0.72 15.200
Perform4 0.64 13.432 Results of Model Fit: S-Bv (62) = 222.9081 p = 0.000
Perform7 0.77 15.692
Perform8 0.85 19.107
Perform9 0.70 14.425
Economic-Financial Performance 0.929 0.930
Perform10 0.83 20.834 SRMR = 0.064 IFI = 0.925
Perform11 0.84 20.542 BNNFI = 0.905 GFI = 0.896
Perform12 0.93 26.482 CFI = 0.924 AGFI = 0.848
Perform13 0.90 25.036

Note: t-values above 1.96 indicate signicance at 95% condence level.

evident than for the other two performance indicators. This nding and Stetzer, 1996; Rundmo, 1996; Dedobbeleer and Bland,
may be because a longer time period is needed for these benets to 1998; Flin et al., 2000; Rundmo and Hale, 2003; DeJoy et al.,
become apparent. 2004; Fernndez-Muiz et al., 2007). Despite this, we seem to ob-
serve a weak commitment on the part of the management, which
6. Discussion is reected in the low level of implementation of safety manage-
ment systems in rms, in the allocation of only limited resources
Many studies have recognised the important role played by the to preventive actions, and in a formal compliance with obligations
rms management in reducing accidents (Zohar, 1980; Hofmann that only seeks to avoid legal responsibilities. Firms prioritise
B. Fernndez-Muiz et al. / Safety Science 47 (2009) 980991 987



0.92 Training

SAFETY (20.371)
(12.888) 0.86 Preventive

0.97 Internal C.


Results of Model Fit: S-B 2 (349) = 736.009 RMSEA=0.058 IFI=0.910

p=0.001 BBNNFI=0.901 GFI=0.864
CFI=0.910 AGFI=0.841

Note: t-values in parentheses.

Fig. 2. Occupational safety management system measurement scale (third-order conrmatory factor model).

production criteria, regarding resources dedicated to occupational as a consequence of the improvement in quality and reduction in
safety as expenditures that have nothing to do with the rms pro- nancial costs and opportunity costs derived from losses of pro-
duction aims, in other words, as costs rather than an investment. duction and of business caused by the accidents; (3) the higher
But the current work offers empirical evidence of the economic the customer satisfaction and the better the rms reputation and
advantages of adopting an adequate safety management system, image, since occupational safety is particularly important to soci-
since the results show that the more developed the system is, ety; and (4) the higher the rms degree of innovation, due to the
the better not only the safety performance, but also the competi- technological and organisational innovations derived from the
tiveness and economic-nancial performance. improvements in safety. Innovation, a good reputation, specialist
The results obtained allow us to say that the safety manage- knowledge and motivated employees are all assets that can pro-
ment system reduces both personal harm and material damage. vide rms with a sustainable competitive advantage over relatively
Thus, it reduces workers absenteeism, improves their motivation, long periods of time. These assets are strongly affected by occupa-
and consequently makes them less likely to leave the company, tional accident rates and working conditions. Hence we can con-
which means the company retains workers with specic knowl- clude that managing occupational risk is a capacity that allows
edge who are difcult to replace. organisations to maintain and develop their intangibles, speci-
Likewise, the results show that the safety management system cally their intellectual capital, which has a fundamental value for
has a positive effect on competitiveness performance. The more the development of the rm.
developed the system is: (1) the higher the quality of the rms Finally, we nd that the more advanced the management sys-
products and services (since the safety management system re- tem implemented, the more satised these organisations are with
quires the formulation of working procedures, instructions, and their economic and nancial indicators. This demonstrates the po-
planning and control of the work), (2) the higher the productivity, sitive inuence of safety management on growth in the market
988 B. Fernndez-Muiz et al. / Safety Science 47 (2009) 980991


Incentives SAFETY


SAFETY 0.55*
Emergency 0.35*



Results of Model Fit: S-B2 (181) = 490.079 SRMR=0.058 IFI=0.920

p=0.000 BBNNFI= 0.907 GFI=0.880
CFI= 0.920 AGFI=0.847

Note: * significant at 95% level.

Fig. 3. Results of estimation of proposed model.

share and hence the rms position on growth in prots, prot/ in the data, and accept models that do conform to them (Meli,
sales, and in short, on the rms protability. 2004). In our case, the results indicate that the data are consistent
Thus, this work conrms that the safety management system, with the hypothesised causal relations.
far from being a burden for the rm, is actually a factor of produc- Given the above limitations, we would suggest a number of pos-
tivity, and an essential ingredient for improving the rms position sible future lines of research. The time lag between efforts to im-
in the market. Consequently, this work shows that not only are prove working conditions and obtaining superior performance
safety management and economic performance compatible, but makes it advisable to obtain a data panel that would allow a
that safety management can become an important source of com- time-series analysis. Researchers could then study the inuence
petitive advantages for rms. This work should therefore encour- of the safety management system on the rms competitive situa-
age rms to implement such a system and adopt a responsible tion in the market more fully, as in Grimaldi (1970), Kjelln et al.
behaviour in this area. They can be assured that doing this will pro- (1997). It would also be advisable to collect employers, employees
vide them with the opportunity to gain signicant benets. and customers opinions to give a more complete picture of the re-
sults. In addition, other aspects could be studied further, such as
6.1. Limitations of study the organisational variables that favour or limit the implementa-
tion of such a management system, and the integration of the sys-
First, although the constructs used in this research have been tem into the management of the rm. The sector of activity and
dened as precisely as possible, based on the available relevant lit- rm size conceivably condition the development of this manage-
erature, clearly articulating our conceptual framework and carry- ment system. For example, this system will presumably be more
ing out a meticulous process of generation and revision of items, developed the larger the rm size and the higher the risk of the
the measures developed should be understood as an approxima- activity. Finally, it would be interesting to study in more detail
tion to latent phenomena, which cannot be measured in full. More- the process of technological and organisational innovation un-
over, it should be borne in mind that the relations have been leashed as a consequence of the improvement in the working con-
evaluated from the viewpoint of the rms safety ofcer only. Like- ditions, as well as the economic valuation and quantication of the
wise, and although it has been shown to be representative, we effects of the safety management system. This would provide rms
should bear in mind that the sample is based on the safety ofcers with a useful tool for undertaking the fullest possible cost-benet
willingness to respond. This fact could originate biases, with the analysis.
rms with the best safety culture being more predisposed to par-
ticipate in the study. But this is a common problem in studies that
use this methodology based on questionnaires. Finally, the study 7. Conclusions
was carried out at a specic moment in time, and therefore it is
cross-sectional survey. Thus, conclusions of a causal type may be This work has aimed to analyse the effect of implementing an
debatable. But the methodology used does allow us to reject causal occupational safety management system on rms performance.
models that do not conform to the patterns of association detected For this purpose, we rst identied good management practices,
B. Fernndez-Muiz et al. / Safety Science 47 (2009) 980991 989

and then carried out an empirical study on a sample of 455 Spanish Appendix A
Appendix A (continued)
rms using a questionnaire sent to their safety ofcers. After veri-
Pol4 Safety policy contains commitment to
fying the reliability and validity of the measurement scales of the
continuous improvement, attempting to
concepts used in the study, we built a structural equation model
improve objectives already achieved
to test whether implementing a safety management system like
Employees incentives
the one proposed here consisting of a safety policy that estab-
Incent1 Incentives frequently offered to workers
lishes principles and the responsibilities of all organisation mem-
to put in practice principles and
bers, incentives that encourage workers involvement, training, a
procedures of action (e.g., correct use of
uid communication, planning of the activities to carry out and
protective equipment).
an adequate control of such activities subsequently has a positive
Incent2 Modications of production processes or
effect on:
changes in jobs consulted directly with
workers affected or their representatives
(1) safety performance, since it reduces the accident rate, and
Incent3 Resolutions frequently adopted that
hence the personal injuries and material damage, and simul-
originated from consultations with or
taneously improves working conditions, which raises
suggestions from workers
employees motivation and reduces their absenteeism;
Incent4 Meetings periodically held between
(2) competitiveness performance, due to its positive inuence
managers and workers to take decisions
on the rms image, reputation, productivity and innovation;
affecting organisation of work
(3) economic-nancial performance, due to its positive inu-
Incent5 Frequent use of teams made up of
ence on the rms sales, prots and protability.
workers from different parts of
organisation to resolve specic problems
The results provide evidence to support the proposed effects.
relating to working conditions
Thus, far from being an economic burden for rms, implementing
Training in
this safety management system can be seen as an opportunity,
occupational hazards
since it has numerous positive effects on rm performance. The
Train1 Worker given sufcient training period
ndings of this work consequently represent an important source
when entering rm, changing jobs or
of motivation for rms to implement a safety management system
using new technique
like the one described here and improve their safety.
Train2 There is follow-up of training needs and of
efcacy or repercussion of training
previously given
Train3 Training actions continuous and periodic,
This work has been supported by funds from the following re-
integrated in formally established
search projects:
training plan
Train4 Training plans elaborated taking into
 Audits of occupational health and safety systems in Spain:
account rms particular characteristics
evaluation of results, nanced by the Regional Ministry of Edu-
Train5 Specic training plans elaborated according
cation and Science of the Region of Asturias (Consejera de Edu-
to section or job position
cacin y Ciencia del Principado de Asturias).
Train6 Training plan decided jointly with
 Integration of prevention of occupational risk in the strategic
workers or their representatives.
management of the company, nanced by the Regional Minis-
Train7 Training actions carried out during working
try of Industry and Employment of the Region of Asturias (Con-
sejera de Industria y Empleo del Principado de Asturias), the
Train8 Firm helps workers to train in-house
Regional Ministry of Education and Science of the Region of
(leave, grants)
Asturias; and the European Union, through FEDER funds.
Train9 Instruction manuals or work procedures
 Determining factors in the development of safety manage-
elaborated to aid in preventive action
ment of Spanish companies, nanced by the University of
Communication in
prevention matters
Commun1 There is a uent communication
embodied in periodic and frequent
Appendix A. Measurement scales of study variables
meetings, campaigns or oral
presentations to transmit principles and
Safety policy rules of action
Pol1 Firm coordinates its health and safety Commun2 Information systems made available to
policies with other HR policies to ensure affected workers prior to modications
commitment and well-being of workers and changes in production processes, job
Pol2 Written declaration is available to all positions or expected investments
workers reecting managements Commun3 When starting in new job position workers
concern for safety, principles of action are provided written information about
and objectives to achieve procedures and correct way of doing tasks
Pol3 Management has established in writing the Commun4 Written circulars elaborated and
functions of commitment and participation meetings organised to inform workers
and the responsibilities in safety questions about risks associated with their work
of all organisation members and how to prevent accidents
(continued on next page)
990 B. Fernndez-Muiz et al. / Safety Science 47 (2009) 980991

Appendix A
A (continued)
(continued) Appendix A
Appendix A (continued)
Preventive planning Perform7 Customer satisfaction
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positions. Perform9 Innovation
Planning2 Systems in place to evaluate risks detected Economic-nancial
in all job positions. performance
Planning3 Prevention plans formulated setting Perform10 Financial protability
measures to take on basis of information Perform11 Growth in market share
provided by evaluation of risks in all job Perform12 Growth in prots
positions. Perform13 Prot/sales
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responsible for carrying out action
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