Transformational leaders? The pivotal role that supervisors play in safety culture

Document Type

Journal Article


eContent Managment Pty Ltd


Faculty of Business and Law


School of Business/Centre for Innovative Practice




This article was originally published as: Bahn, S. T. (2013). Transformational leaders? The pivotal role that supervisors play in safety culture. International Journal of Training Research, 11(1), 17-26. Original article available here


The purpose of this paper is to investigate the impact frontline supervisors have on workplace safety culture and to argue for increased formal supervisory training. Two studies conducted in 2006-08 and 2011 are examined and compared in which 28 Managers and Occupational Health and Safety Managers in the construction industry in Western Australia were interviewed as well as a case study undertaken of a safety change process for an underground mine. The supervisor is the direct line manager of most of the employees on a worksite and the value that he/she places on safe work practices is crucial to the level of safety. What the supervisor demonstrates and demands, the standards set by that person, is what determines the safety level on the worksites. However, the uptake of supervisory training is limited and badly needed to improve frontline supervision techniques. The paper presents narrative that supports the notion that supervisors play a pivotal role in worksite safety culture. It also highlights the gap in training support for those in frontline supervisory roles.