Safety Intelligence: An exploration of senior managers’ characteristics

L. S. Fruhen* (Corresponding Author), K. J. Mearns, R. Flin, B. Kirwan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)
16 Downloads (Pure)


Senior managers can have a strong influence on organisational safety. But little is known about which of their personal attributes support their impact on safety. In this paper, we introduce the concept of ‘safety intelligence’ as related to senior managers’ ability to develop and enact safety policies and explore possible characteristics related to it in two studies. Study 1 (N = 76) involved direct reports to chief executive officers (CEOs) of European air traffic management (ATM) organisations, who completed a short questionnaire asking about characteristics and behaviours that are ideal for a CEO’s influence on safety. Study 2 involved senior ATM managers (N=9) in various positions in interviews concerning their day-to-day work on safety. Both studies indicated six attributes of senior managers as relevant for their safety intelligence, particularly, social competence and safety knowledge, followed by motivation, problem-solving, personality and interpersonal leadership skills. These results have recently been applied in guidance for safety management practices in a White Paper published by EUROCONTROL.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)967-975
Number of pages9
JournalApplied Ergonomics
Issue number4
Early online date18 Dec 2013
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014


  • organisational safety
  • strategic management
  • air traffic management
  • organizational performance
  • upper echelons
  • top managers
  • job analysis
  • leadership
  • climate
  • culture
  • personality
  • skills
  • determinants


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