A critical review of safety initiatives using goal setting and feedback

Iain Cameron, Roy Duff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


A review and synthesis of behavioural safety literature identified three behaviour change perspectives: cognitive (goal setting); behaviourist (behaviour modification); and eclectic (social learning). Bandura's social learning theory usefully integrates the divergent philosophies of Locke's goal setting and Luthan's behaviour modification. Social learning theory assumes that behaviour is controlled by internal processes and environmental stimuli, and so human action can be explained by the combined effect of goals and feedback. The effectiveness of behavioural safety has been demonstrated consistently, but, despite some success, token reward programmes are controversial because they are close to 'paying for safety'. Researchers have overwhelmingly favoured initiatives based on goals and performance feedback without material reward. Goals and feedback produced good results in the varying cultures of North American, European and Middle-East manufacturing environments, including mines, chemical plants, laboratories, paper mills and shipyards. Goals and feedback, aimed principally at operatives, have been used to improve safety in Finnish, British and Hong Kong construction industries. It is also clear that their effectiveness is strongly related to management commitment; and that they must be supported by a developed safety infrastructure. This suggests that goals should also embrace management safety behaviours, in order to improve management commitment.

Original languageEnglish
JournalConstruction Management and Economics
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2007


  • health and safety
  • organisational behaviour
  • organisational psychology


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