Episode Summary

Our discussion today centers around the paper entitled: “Assessing the Quality of Safety-Focused Leadership Engagements” by Siddharth Bhandari, Matthew R. Hallowell, Caleb Scheve, James Upton, Wael Alruqi, and Mike Quashne– published by the American Society of Safety Professionals in January 2022.

Episode Notes

The authors’ goal was to produce a scoring protocol for safety-focused leadership engagements that reflects the consensus of a panel of industry experts. Therefore, the authors adopted a multiphased focus group research protocol to address three fundamental questions:

1. What are the characteristics of a high-quality leadership engagement?

2. What is the relative importance of these characteristics?

3. What is the reliability of the scorecard to assess the quality of leadership engagement?

Just like the last episode’s paper, the research has merit, even though it was published in a trade journal and not an academic one.  The researchers interviewed 11 safety experts and identified 37 safety protocols to rank. This is a good starting point, but it would be better to also find out what these activities look like when they’re “done well,” and what success looks like when the safety measures, protocols, or attributes “work well.”

The Paper’s Main Research Takeaways:

  • Safety-focused leadership engagements are important because, if performed well, they can convey company priorities, demonstrate care and reinforce positive safety culture.
  • A team of 11 safety experts representing the four construction industry sectors identified and prioritized the attributes of an effective leadership engagement.
  • A scorecard was created to assess the quality of a leadership engagement, and the scorecard was shown to be reliable in independent validation.

Discussion Points:

  • Dr. Drew and Dr. David’s initial thoughts on the paper
  • Thoughts on quality vs. quantity
  • How do the researchers define “leadership safety engagements”
  • The three key phases:
    • Phase 1: Identification of key attributes of excellent engagements
    • Phase 2: Determining the relative importance of potential predictors
    • Phase 3: Reliability check
  • The 15 key indicators–some are just common sense, some are relatively creepy
  • The end product, the checklist, is actually quite useful
  • The next phase should be evaluating results – do employees actually feel engaged with this approach?
  • Our key takeaways:
  • It is possible to design a process that may not actually be valid
  • The 37 items identified– a good start, but what about asking the people involved: what does it look like when “done well”
  • No matter what, purposeful safety engagement is very important
  • Ask what the actual leaders and employees think!
  • We look forward to the results in the next phase of this research
  • Send us your suggestions for future episodes, we are actively looking!


“If the measure itself drives a change to the practice, then I think that is helpful as well.” – Dr. David

“I think just the exercise of trying to find those quality metrics gets us to think harder about what are we really trying to achieve by this activity.” – Dr. Drew

“So I love the fact that they’ve said okay, we’re talking specifically about people who aren’t normally on-site, who are coming on-site, and the purpose is specifically a conversation about safety engagement. So it’s not to do an audit or some other activity.” – Dr. Drew

“The goal of this research was to produce a scoring protocol for safety-focused leadership engagements, that reflects the common consensus of a panel of industry experts.” – Dr. David

“We’ve been moving towards genuine physical disconnections between people doing work and the people trying to lead, and so it makes sense that over the next little while, companies are going to make very deliberate conscious efforts to reconnect, and to re-engage.” – Dr. Drew

“I suspect people are going to be begging for tools like this in the next couple of years.” – Dr. Drew

“At least the researchers have put a tentative idea out there now, which can be directly tested in the next phase, hopefully, of their research, or someone else’s research.” – Dr. Drew


Link to the Research Paper

The Safety of Work Podcast

The Safety of Work on LinkedIn