Utilizing Construction Leading Safety Indicators: Case Study of Tennessee


The construction industry has historically suffered from a high frequency and severity of accidents, making safety a major concern for all associated stakeholders. To improve safety performance, leading safety indicators have emerged as a more effective alternative to the traditional lagging indicators measured after the occurrence of an incident or accident. Prior research has defined and assessed leading safety indicators but has not sufficiently understood their actual current application at the local and/or regional levels. To this end, this research aimed to study, define, evaluate, and provide guidance in relation to using leading safety indicators in Tennessee. This paper uses an interdependent research methodology. Based on a comprehensive literature review, an industry questionnaire was developed to target construction professionals in middle and east Tennessee. The results of the questionnaires were analyzed through different statistical analysis techniques including reliability measures, measures of central tendency and variability, correlations, normality, and comparisons of means. The results of the survey received from construction professionals with over 600 years of collective experience showed that 66.7% of the firms investigated had an instituted system of leading indicators. Firms with no use or awareness of an instituted system still applied concepts similar to leading indicators. Also, it was revealed that among the 78 indicators presented in the survey, only 48 were used by the responding firms. The most popular indicators, used by more than 80% of the respondents, were related to housekeeping, use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and substance abuse programs. In contrast, the least popular indicators were associated with contractual safety obligations, feedback stemming from safety meetings, and perceptions and evaluations of reporting systems. Larger companies were more likely to use passive leading safety indicators related to policy-making and strategic programs than were smaller companies. Pursuant to the findings of this research, it is advisable to repeat similar studies at other local and regional areas across the nation to assess similarities and differences in implementation, which would better help in developing effective and efficient proactive strategies for a zero-accident construction industry.


Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Accidents; Construction; Construction industry; Protective clothing; Reliability analysis; Surveys, Construction professionals; Lagging indicators; Leading indicators; Literature reviews; Personal protective equipment; Reliability measure; Research methodologies; Safety performance, Accident prevention

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

0742-597X; 1943-5479

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


File Type





© 2017 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Sep 2017