Yueng-hsiang Emily Huang, PhD, Oregon Health and Science University Yimin He, PhD, University of Nebraska Omaha Jin Lee, PhD, Kansas State University Theodore K. Courtney, MS, TKC Consulting LLC, Harvard University Angela Garabet, MASc, Oregon Health and Science University W. Kent Anger, PhD, Oregon Health and Science University Anna Kelly, BA, Oregon Health and Science University, Colorado State University Elisa Rega, MM, Oregon Health and Science University Jessie Zhen, MS, Oregon Health and Science University, Cornell University

Conventional Safety Climate (SC) scales have limitations when applied to unprecedented safety and health issues emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. The present study developed and validated a COVID-19 safety climate scale which could also be used as a model should there be a similar future crisis.

We extended the SC literature by incorporating a new attribute of SC regarding the physical health and safety of workers in a pandemic like COVID-19. Accordingly, we conceptualized COVID-19 Safety Climate as employees? perceptions of an organization?s policies, procedures, and practices for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. We inferred that the dimensions of the COVID-19 SC would match with the three antecedents of behaviors outlined in the theory of planned behavior: subjective norms, attitudes, and perceived behavioral control. Based on this premise, we examined the association between COVID-19 SC and a series of attitudes and behaviors that help to prevent and mitigate COVID-19 exposure at work and other work-related psychological and behavioral outcomes.

Phase 1: Item Generation and Reduction We used a deductive approach to generate an initial set of potential dimensions and items that reflect the definition of the COVID-19 SC construct based on the SC literature and NIOSH guidelines for COVID-19 safety. Next, we solicited content validity ratings of the initial 52 items from 20 subject matter experts who possessed various expertise crossing occupational health and safety researchers, practitioners, and educators working in government, academia, and private industry. Phase 2: Item Selection and Psychometric Property Testing We used two different samples. In Sample 1, participants recruited from Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) were asked to respond to a two-wave longitudinal online survey (n = 482 for wave 1 and n = 289 for wave 2). Sample 1 was used to perform exploratory factor analysis (EFA) to examine the factor structure. In Sample 2, participants were recruited from a semiconductor company in the U.S. (n = 436 employees, a 41.52% response rate); we conducted confirmatory factor Analyses (CFAs) on the final 29 items with Sample 2. Phase 3: Criterion-Related Validity To establish the criterion-related validity, we examined the relationship between COVID-19 SC and multiple outcomes, including COVID-19 safety compliance, COVID-19 safety voice, perceived COVID-19 risk, job satisfaction, and physical and psychological health.

The newly developed and validated COVID-19 SC scale consists of two levels. Organization-level COVID-19 SC refers to the employees? perceptions of the strategies and efforts upstream in an organization. It consists of four dimensions: management commitment and proactivity (6 items), workplace flexibility and capacity (3 items), equipment and sanitization for COVID-19 prevention (3 items), and COVID-19-related communication and training programs (6 items). Group-level COVID-19 SC refers to the employees? perceptions of the intermediate support and care from supervisors. It consists of three dimensions: supervisor commitment and proactivity (4 items), safety monitoring (3 items), and COVID-19-related supervisory communication (4 items). Organization- and group-level COVID-19 scales, respectively, represent the unique efforts at the upstream and intermediate levels of organizational hierarchy for the COVID-19 response. Satisfactory convergent validity was found and discriminant validity in comparison with the organization- and group-level SC was supported. As hypothesized, COVID-19 SC was associated with a series of attitudinal and behavioral criteria that aim to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as well as other health and well-being outcomes.

This study extends the SC literature by incorporating urgent pandemic-related policies, procedures, and practices for the adequate control of COVID-19 and promotion of workplace health and well-being during the pandemic. We identified the dimensions of the COVID-19 SC scale that are representative of subjective norms, attitudes, and perceived behavioral control, which are the three major antecedents of behavioral intention, proposed by the theory of planned behavior. Our study offers important practical implications as well: our COVID-19 SC scale is a unique, universally applicable tool for assessing organization readiness for the COVID-19 crisis and the appropriateness of their efforts to mitigate the relevant risk factors at work. The COVID-19 SC dimensions underscore the importance of supervisory roles. Supervisors can be trained to develop positive attitudes toward the organization?s efforts to address COVID-19 through constructive and supportive communication, and the adoption of rigorous standards for COVID-19 safety. Also, our COVID-19 SC scale can be benchmarked for the management of pandemic risks similar to COVID-19.

Our COVID-19 SC scale can be a helpful tool for assessing organizational strengths and opportunities for COVID-19 management and interventions. Future studies can further diversify the sources of participants and their industry sectors, including an adequate number of organizations for the organization-, group-, and individual-level analysis, and consider more objective COVID-19 diagnostic data that may support the universality of the scale.

Tags: Applicable to all occupations/industries, Applied research, COVID-19, Hazardous Work Environments and Safety, Manufacturing, Research and Intervention Methods, Research Methodology, Safety Climate; Safety Management; and Training, Workplace Injuries and Illnesses