Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering
Steven A. Freeman
Previous studies have documented positive correlations in industrial environments between employee perceptions of trust in their leadership, safety climate, and safety performance. However, no such studies exist for university research laboratory environments even though highly publicized incidents and fatalities have resulted in increased scrutiny of research laboratories. This study explored the relationships among the following four concepts 1) employee perceptions of trust in two levels of leadership--laboratory supervisor and principal investigator, 2) safety climate within the laboratory environment in the same two levels of leadership, 3) injury and illness data, and 4) non-compliance data at a Midwest AAU university. A questionnaire was used to collected employee perceptions of trust and safety climate. Injury, illness, and non-compliance data were obtained from the university. Descriptive statistics, correlations, and regression analysis were used to calculate the relationships between the variables.
The major findings of this study include the following. There was a significant positive relationship between: 1) employee perceptions of trust in the principal investigator and the laboratory supervisor; 2) safety climate for the principal investigator and the laboratory supervisor; and 3) employee perceptions of trust in the principal investigator and the laboratory supervisor with the level of safety climate. Academic department significantly influenced the relationship between: 1) trust and incident rate; and 2) safety climate and incident rate. However, academic department did not influence the relationship between: 1) trust and non-compliances events; and 2) safety climate and non-compliances events. Laboratory type significantly influenced the relationship between trust and non-compliance events, but not between trust and incident rates. Finally, there was no relationship between academic department and laboratory when looking at employee perceptions of trust and safety climate.
In conclusion, academic departments and laboratory leadership (both the principal investigator and laboratory supervisor) have significant impact on both employee perceptions of trust and safety climate. Effective traditional safety initiatives (e.g., safety training and compliance) are critical components of university safety programs. However, to achieve excellence in safety performance, university leaders and safety professionals must also focus on increasing trust between workers and laboratory leadership and on improving safety climate in academic research laboratories.
Stephen Albert Simpson
Simpson, Stephen Albert, "A study of safety climate and employees' trust of their organizational leadership in university research laboratories" (2015). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 14487.