Promoting a culture of prevention: the role of company management. An empirical study on the factors influencing management commitment to safety and health at work

Project No. FF-FP 0416


completed 03/2023


Entrepreneurs play a central role for occupational safety and health (OSH) in small-sized companies. So far, how-ever, this target group has tended to be underestimated. The present research project focused on entrepreneurs OSH-activities and their potential influencing factors. From the findings, suitable intervention measures for this target group should be derived, tested in a pilot study and finally evaluated.


Based on a literature analysis, N=34 representatives of small-sized companies were interviewed about their OSH-activities. The interviews were fully transcribed and analyzed by content analysis. The potential influencing factors of OSH-activities were examined in interviews with managers of another N=27 small-sized companies. The "Theoretical Domains Framework" (TDF; Atkins et al., 2017) served as the basis for the deductive content analysis procedure. The influencing factors were also evaluated using the "Grounded Theory" methodology (GTM; Strauss & Corbin, 1996) and were, in a further step, quantified. The potential effects on the OSH were examined in a survey with employees in the same companies. Intervention measures for small-sized business owners were derived from the literature and the results of our interview studies. In addition, a workshop was held with prevention experts from the four German Social Accident Insurance Institutions involved in this project German Social Accident Insurance Institution for the building trade (BG BAU), German Social Accident Insurance Institution for the energy, textile, electrical and media products sectors (BG ETEM), German Social Accident Insurance Institution for the trade and distribution industry (BGHW), German Social Accident Insurance Institution for the health and welfare services (BGW). In order to promote the OSH-activities in small-sized companies, guidelines for an individual consulting concept were developed and tested as an example with two entrepreneurs over a period of six months. In addition, an alternative approach to addressing this target group was developed and implemented in two online-seminars organized by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Chamber of Crafts. The success of the counseling concept was evaluated using several self-assessments and external assessments. An evaluation was carried out with the participants to check the success of this approach.


Management Commitment (MC) with its different components proved to be a suitable concept for describing the relevant OSH-activities. In particular, the addressing of OSH and the provision of appropriate structures and resources proved to be decisive for the activities in small-sized companies. A total of 13 factors influencing the MC were identified. Further analyzes showed that MC could be reduced to five components (duty of care, sense of responsibility, importance of OSH, holistic understanding of OSH, OSH as a central corporate task). It showed significantly positive relationships to the managers OSH-behaviors as well as to employees perception of MC. Through individual consulting, managers OSH-activities could be increased substantially from their own as well as from their employees point of view. The indirect addressing of current "hot topics" in a neutral setting proved to be a promising way of convincing entrepreneurs of the benefits of OSH-activities.

Last Update:

28 Apr 2023


Financed by:
  • Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung e. V. (DGUV)
Research institution(s):
  • Hochschule der Wirtschaft für Management

-cross sectoral-

Type of hazard:

work-related health hazards, work organization/safety and health management


occupational health and safety organisation, prevention, organizational safety measures

Description, key words:

culture of prevention, company management