Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Safety Sciences

First Advisor

Majed Zreiqat

Second Advisor

Luz S. Marin

Third Advisor

Christopher Janicak


This study aimed to examine the implementation of safety leading indicators their perceived effectiveness on the injury (frequency and severity) rates within the dairy product manufacturing sector in the United States. Scientific literature indicates there are potential benefits in implementing safety leading indicators to help reduce injury rates. The lack of research determining which, if any, leading indicators has a higher impact on reducing these rates leaves facilities on their own to pick ones they believe may be effective. This study examined safety indicators used in the dairy product industry that could have a higher impact on reducing injury rates. This study also discusses potential explanations as to why the implementation of safety leading indicators may not have the desired effect hoped for.

To gather data on the selection and effectiveness of safety leading indicators, an on-line self-administered questionnaire survey was distributed to all facilities with 11 or more employees. There was a significant agreement among those that completed the survey on which of the safety leading indicators were perceived to have the highest effectiveness on reducing both the overall OSHA injury rate and/or their severity rate. Additionally, there was an agreement of the respondents’ perception regarding the implemented leading indicators on both the overall OSHA incident rate and severity rate reduction. This study showed that regardless of implementation, the respondents perceived observations, stop work authority, near miss reporting, preventative maintenance and audits as the most effective indicators associated with a reduction in injury rates.

This study identified no statistically significant difference, nor any correlation between the implementation of safety leading indicators and the reduction of injury rates. Furthermore, the study showed there was no significant difference in the injury rates for the facilities that hire safety professionals when compared to those that do not. These results could be explained by the descriptive results that showed the respondents believed that injury rates were elevated in the industry because of the lack of management support and the emphasis placed on production over safety.

While the study’s statistical results did not show many significant differences in OIR and DART rates between those facilities that implemented and those that did not implement safety leading indicators, there was evidence that suggested the implementation of leading indicators did have a slightly positive effect on reducing these rates. The lackluster effect leading indicators seemed to have on injury rates could possibly be based on the answers given as to why respondents believe the dairy manufacturing industry has higher than average injury rates. Lack of upper management support for safety coupled with a culture that views production as more important than safety (the top two answers given) could be having a far more negative effect on the injury rates than the positive effect leading indicators could have. Respondents to the survey suggested that unsafe acts performed by employees are one of the reasons why the dairy industry has high injury rates. In the safety profession, it is understood that unsafe acts are performed by employees because of outside influences such as lack of management support for safety and production being the highest priority. The respondents answer that unsafe are a leading cause of higher injury rates could in fact be influenced by the first two reasons given as to why the industry has higher than average injury rates. A vicious cycle could be occurring where employees are taking risks and performing unsafe acts which lead to injuries because they are working in a culture where upper management does not support safety and promotes the mentality of production at all costs.