Owner's Role in Construction Safety (Best Practice)

RT-190 Topic Summary
RT 190


The objective of RT-190 was to determine the role and influence that owners have in the area of construction safety. The research focused on the owner’s involvement in safety management as demonstrated through the selection of safe contractors, inclusion of safety requirements in the contract, and active participation in safety during project execution.

The overall conclusion of the research was that owners set the overall tone for safety performance on a project. 

The research further concluded that improved safety performance is possible through the use of the following specific owner practices: 

  • Careful selection of safe contractors
  • Contractual safety requirements
  • Proactive involvement in the safety practices of projects
  • Establishment of and funding for a safety recognition program
  • Active participation in safety training and orientation and verifying the comprehension of the training
  • Assigning a full-time safety representative on site

Key Findings and Implementation Tools

1 : Owner Involvement

Overall owner involvement results in improved safety performance. This is exemplified in typical better safety performance in private projects as compared to public, and in petrochemical projects as compared to general manufacturing. In both cases, the project types with better performance are generally viewed as having more owner involvement. (RS190-1, p. 6)
Reference: (RS190-1)

2 : Type of Contract

Design-build contracted projects (in which the constructor is responsible for the design) deliver better safety performance than projects where design and construction are contracted separately. (RS190-1, p. 9)
Reference: (RS190-1)

3 : Contractor Selection Process

Contractor selection, which includes safety performance as an important selection criterion, results in better safety performance. (RS190-1, p. 12)
Reference: (RS190-1)

4 : Owner’s Contractual Arrangement

Research findings indicate that when safety requirements are established in the language of the contract, better safety performance occurs. Example of a provision associated with better safety performance is where the contractor is required to assign at least one full-time safety representative to the construction site. (RS190-1, p. 18)
Reference: (RS190-1)

5 : Owner Involvement in Project Execution

Owner involvement and continued verification throughout the execution of the project result in better safety performance. (RS190-1, p. 22)
Reference: (RS190-1)

6 : Industrial vs. Commercial Construction

Although it is typical for industrial (petrochemical) projects to have better safety performance than commercial projects, one case study shows that if commercial construction adopts the same proactive safety measures as those used in the industrial sector, commercial project safety can be dramatically improved. (RS190-1, p. 37)
Reference: (RS190-1)

Key Performance Indicators

Improved safety, Total recordable injury rate (TRIR)

Research Publications

The Owner's Role in Construction Safety - RR190-11

Publication Date: 09/2003 Type: Research Report Pages: 175 Status: Reference

The Owners' Role in Construction Safety - RS190-1

Publication Date: 03/2003 Type: Research Summary Pages: 46 Status: Supporting Product

Supporting Resources

Education Materials

The Owner's Role in Construction Worker Safety - WS11-02

Publication Date: 02/2008 Type: Video Pages: 0 Status: Supporting Product

Presentations from CII Events

Session - The Quest for Injury-Free Performance

Publication Date: 06/2005 Presenter: Number of Slides: 14 Event Code: AC05

Session - Working Safely in Global Construction

Publication Date: 06/2004 Presenter: Tom Will Number of Slides: 24 Event Code: AC04

Session - Owner Influence on Contractor Safety Performance

Publication Date: 06/2003 Presenter: Number of Slides: 39 Event Code: AC03

Session - Safety-Owner Involvement Makes a Difference

Publication Date: 06/2003 Presenter: Number of Slides: 31 Event Code: AC03