Determinants of safety outcomes and performance: A systematic literature review of research in four high-risk industries

Pieter A. Cornelissen, Joris J. van Hoof, Menno D.T. de Jong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)
167 Downloads (Pure)


IntroductionIn spite of increasing governmental and organizational efforts, organizations still struggle to improve the safety of their employees as evidenced by the yearly 2.3 million work-related deaths worldwide. Occupational safety research is scattered and inaccessible, especially for practitioners. Through systematically reviewing the safety literature, this study aims to provide a comprehensive overview of behavioral and circumstantial factors that endanger or support employee safety.MethodA broad search on occupational safety literature using four online bibliographical databases yielded 27.527 articles. Through a systematic reviewing process 176 online articles were identified that met the inclusion criteria (e.g., original peer-reviewed research; conducted in selected high-risk industries; published between 1980-2016). Variables and the nature of their interrelationships (i.e., positive, negative, or nonsignificant) were extracted, and then grouped and classified through a process of bottom-up coding.ResultsThe results indicate that safety outcomes and performance prevail as dependent research areas, dependent on variables related to management & colleagues, work(place) characteristics & circumstances, employee demographics, climate & culture, and external factors. Consensus was found for five variables related to safety outcomes and seven variables related to performance, while there is debate about 31 other relationships. Last, 21 variables related to safety outcomes and performance appear understudied.ConclusionsThe majority of safety research has focused on addressing negative safety outcomes and performance through variables related to others within the organization, the work(place) itself, employee demographics, and—to a lesser extent—climate & culture and external factors.Practical applicationsThis systematic literature review provides both scientists and safety practitioners an overview of the (under)studied behavioral and circumstantial factors related to occupational safety behavior. Scientists could use this overview to study gaps, and validate or falsify relationships. Safety practitioners could use the insights to evaluate organizational safety policies, and to further development of safety interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-141
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Safety Research
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017


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