Smaller Construction Firms Safety Culture and Climate: Robust Definition, Indicative Categorization, and Tailored Framework

Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Civil and Construction Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Osama Abudayyeh

Second Advisor

Dr. Xiaoyun Shao

Third Advisor

Dr. Ahmed Al-Bayati


Construction, safety culture, safety climate, small construction firms, micro construction firms, large construction firms


Few studies have investigated safety culture and climate in construction industry and sought to capture the unique nature of construction sites. These studies investigated safety culture and climate in the construction context and proposed construction-specific models. However, the proposed models assume a safety management structure that is typical of large construction firms. Moreover, to date, there is no clear definition of smaller construction firms in the U.S. Instead, some researchers create ranges from arbitrary numbers of employees while others suggest using annual revenues to define smaller construction firms. Therefore, reaching a robust definition for smaller construction firms and understanding the nature of responsibilities and relationships among their stakeholders should boost research for reducing occupational injuries among smaller construction firms. Over a span of 10 years, at least 97% of construction firms every year had fewer than 50 employees. Through a questionnaire that targets smaller construction firms, the study has sought to identify responsibilities and relationships among smaller firms’ stakeholders investigated the appropriateness of using the number of employees and/or annual revenues as criteria and developed a robust definition of smaller construction firms.

The findings suggest that smaller construction firms can be better defined by the number of employees rather than the annual revenues and can be grouped into three classifications. Construction firms that have fewer than 10 employees are micro, 10 to 50 employees are small, and more than 50 are large construction firms. The findings also indicate that smaller construction firms are not likely to hire a full-time safety manager which leads to a different safety culture representation from larger construction firms. Accordingly, a revised safety culture and climate framework has been developed that is tailored to smaller construction firms. OSHA and other U.S. based agencies should consider the proposed classification (i.e. micro versus small versus. large) for attaining better occupational safety among smaller firms. The overall findings significantly contribute to the body of the knowledge and have critical, practical, and theoretical implications. It is expected that the recommendations from this study will improve the overall safety performance of smaller construction firms.

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