Anticipating Danger: The Shift towards Proactive Safety with Scratchie (Part 1)

We discuss the initial set of drivers that promote proactive safety on worksites and examine how the innovative Scratchie app seamlessly aligns with these factors, fostering a proactive safety culture in today's workplace.
October 23, 2023
Nicole Celestine, Ph.D.
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Part 1 - Distal Antecedents

Preparing the Soil: The Foundation of Proactive Safety Culture

Just as fertile soil nurtures vibrant plant life and well-tuned instruments create harmonious melodies, a proactive safety culture requires its own fertile ground to flourish. It all begins with setting the stage, with creating the ideal conditions for proactive safety behaviours to take root and thrive.

If you’re wondering where to start on such a venture, scientists are providing the answers. With the wealth of knowledge on safe workplaces, we now have a summary of the factors that help create the conditions on worksites that enable proactive safety behaviours to thrive.

In this post, we continue on with our earlier exploration of safety proactivity to explore the first of two sets of drivers that foster proactive safety, and discuss how the innovative Scratchie app aligns seamlessly with these factors to cultivate a proactive safety culture in the modern construction industry.

Recapping the Journey: Embracing Proactive Safety with Scratchie

In our previous post, we embarked on a journey through the realm of proactive safety, exploring its significance on the modern worksite. We examined the essence of proactive safety, defining its characteristics and unveiling a 2x2 matrix that delves into the dimensions of individual safety proactivity.

We discovered that proactive safety isn't just a buzzword; it's a dynamic force for progress. It's about envisioning a safer future, actively working to shape it, and taking personal initiative to make it happen.

Proactivity encompasses protection-focused and promotion-oriented behaviours, which can be directed towards either procedures or people. Understanding these nuances enriches our grasp of safety proactivity, guiding us beyond simplistic definitions and setting the stage for a shift towards a proactive safety culture.

Now, having laid the groundwork, we're ready to dive deeper into the practical steps involved in fostering this proactive mindset in your workplace. We'll also explore how the Scratchie app seamlessly integrates with these dimensions of proactive safety, turning recognition and reward into a dynamic, real-time process.

Understanding the Structure of Proactive Safety Drivers

To foster a proactive safety culture, it's imperative to recognise the complex web of factors that influence safety behaviours. These drivers can be categorised into two main groups—distal antecedents and proximal antecedents.

In this Part 1, we’ll focus on the distal antecedents, which can be thought of as the broader, more distanced factors that set the stage for proactive safety behaviours. These fall into two subcategories:

1. Contextual Antecedents

These factors encompass the organisational, environmental, and industry-specific conditions that create a foundation for safety behaviours. At the highest level, these include safety climate and factors in the physical work environment. They set the stage for the safety culture on a worksite and play a vital role in shaping safety behaviours.

2. Individual Antecedents

On a more personal level, individual antecedents pertain to the characteristics and attributes of the workers themselves. These can include their knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs regarding safety, as well as their skills and experience. Individual antecedents shape the readiness and willingness of employees to engage in proactive safety behaviours.

Proximal antecedents, on the other hand, are the immediate, situational factors that influence safety behaviours and can be thought of as the bridge between the broader distal antecedents and the actual safety actions. They are what ultimately lead to the promotion-focused and protection-focused safety behaviours that shape a proactive safety culture, which we’ll dive into in Part 2.

For now, let’s explore how our two distal antecedents set the stage for proactive safety behaviours on worksites. We'll also see how the Scratchie app can assist in systematically instantiating some of these drivers on worksites, providing a practical solution for enhancing safety engagement.

Contextual Antecedents

When it comes to promoting proactive safety, three key elements at the contextual level play a crucial role. These elements are safety climate, social exchange, and job design.

Think of these as the pillars upon which proactive safety culture is built. Each can be instantiated through systematic changes to the culture of a worksite and the structure of its processes, aided through tools like our very own Scratchie app.

Safety Climate: A Foundation for Proactivity

Imagine a construction site with a strong commitment to safety. The managers here not only talk the talk but walk the walk when it comes to safety. They prioritise training, communicate potential risks clearly, and ensure that every worker feels their contribution to safety is vital. This safety climate is a vital component of an organisation's approach to safety.

Studies have shown that when safety is a top priority, workers are more motivated to actively engage in safety promotion. Variables such as managerial commitment, supervisor involvement, risk perception, and effective communication play a pivotal role in shaping the safety climate. Workers in such an environment are not just passive observers; they actively participate and engage in citizenship behaviours, going above and beyond to enhance safety.

Social Exchange: Reciprocity in Safety

Now, let's consider another construction site, one where workers reciprocate strong relationships with their supervisors and the organisation. This reciprocal relationship is driven by principles of social exchange theory, where the notion of "you scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours" comes into play. In this setting, the proactive safety behaviours of individuals are a way of giving back for the support and positive interactions they receive.

Leadership styles, like transformational leadership, participative leadership, and the quality of relationships between supervisors and employees, all play a role in fostering this sense of reciprocity. When workers feel supported and valued, they are more likely to reciprocate with proactive safety behaviours. It's a mutually beneficial arrangement where both parties benefit.

The Impact of Job Design

Moving to a different site, imagine one where job roles are designed with an emphasis on autonomy, task control, teamwork, and participative procedures. Employees in this setting have the freedom to make decisions, work together seamlessly, and have a say in how things are done. Such job design factors open up opportunities for workers to get involved in safety tasks that go beyond their job descriptions.

Employees with higher job control and autonomy find themselves more motivated to engage in safety initiatives. This research area, while not as explored as the others, suggests that job and team design characteristics can facilitate an individual's agency in promoting organisational safety. They inspire initiative, prosocial behaviour, and the ability to anticipate and address obstacles related to health and safety.

Individual Antecedents

As we navigate the landscape of proactive safety behaviours, we turn our focus next to the individual level, where personal characteristics and psychological states come into play. In this domain, we'll explore how three key elements—competences, affective states, and role definition—act as pivotal influencers of proactive safety behaviours.

Competences: The Power of Knowledge and Skills

Imagine a construction site where workers are not only well-versed in safety protocols but are also equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to implement them effectively. This knowledge empowers them to identify potential hazards, make quick decisions, and take proactive steps to ensure safety.

Competences, encompassing perceived knowledge, skills, and competencies, play a crucial role in translating organisational safety dimensions into individual safety performance.

Studies have indicated that individuals with higher perceived competencies are more likely to engage in proactive safety behaviours. They bridge the gap between organisational safety guidelines and proactive safety actions. These competences act as proximal antecedents to behaviours that go beyond mere compliance with safety rules and procedures, fostering a culture of proactive safety engagement.

Affective States: The Role of Emotional Commitment

On another construction site, imagine workers who are not only knowledgeable and skilled but also emotionally committed to safety. Their affective states, particularly their emotional commitment to safety, shape their proactive safety behaviours. Affective states are not just about knowing what to do but feeling strongly about the importance of safety.

Tools like Scratchie, in particular, are great for creating this sense of emotional commitment by making safety feel fun, positive, and rewarding.

Research has highlighted the significance of affective commitment as a mediator between organisational dimensions and individual safety performance. It plays a pivotal role in driving safety compliance and prosocially oriented proactive safety behaviour. When workers are emotionally committed to safety, they proactively contribute to safety promotion, going beyond the call of duty.

Role Definition: Expanding Perceptions of Safety Responsibilities

Now, let's shift our focus to a construction site where individuals have a broader perception of their role in ensuring safety. Role definition, in this context, involves how people view their responsibilities regarding safety beyond their formal job descriptions. Workers see safety not just as a set of rules but as a part of their expected role in the organisation.

Studies in this area have explored how individuals develop perceptions about safety-related behavioural role expectations during interactions with colleagues and organisational actors. They consider safety citizenship behaviours as an integral part of their roles.

For example, subordinates' perceived obligations to a safety-conscious leader can encourage them to expand their role to include discretionary safety-specific activities. This expansion is positively associated with safety citizenship behaviours.

Setting the Scene for Proactive Safety Behaviours with Scratchie

Now, let's explore how Scratchie, the innovative safety app, plays a pivotal role in cultivating proactive safety behaviours by seamlessly aligning with the six distal antecedents crucial for fostering a proactive safety culture on worksites.

Safety Climate

Safety climate is essential for setting the stage for proactive safety behaviours. Scratchie, with its real-time recognition system, allows construction supervisors to instantly acknowledge workers who exhibit positive safety attitudes.

When a supervisor witnesses a worker finding and fixing an electrical hazard, for example, they can use the app to create an award within seconds. This action underscores the priority and value of safety, effectively communicating the organisation's commitment to safety. The immediate recognition feature aligns perfectly with the principles of a robust safety climate.

Social Exchange

Social exchange theory posits that workers engage in proactive safety behaviours as a way to reciprocate high-quality relations with supervisors and the organisation. Scratchie facilitates this exchange by allowing supervisors to reward workers who actively contribute to safety.

By scanning a QR code through the Scratchie app, workers receive instant recognition for their proactive actions. This system not only reinforces their positive safety behaviour but also fosters a sense of appreciation, strengthening their relationship with their supervisors and the organisation.

Job Design

The job design paradigm highlights the role of job characteristics in facilitating workforce involvement in safety promotion beyond compliance. Scratchie supports this by enabling supervisors to create awards for various safety tasks, such as identifying and fixing electrical hazards.

This aligns with job autonomy, task control, and participative design of procedures, as workers take the initiative to ensure safety on the job. By offering flexibility in award creation, Scratchie accommodates the diverse spectrum of safety proactivity inherent in job design considerations.


Competences, particularly knowledge and skills, are instrumental in bridging organisational safety dimensions with individual safety performance. Scratchie empowers supervisors to recognize and reward workers for gaining competence at new proactive safety actions (e.g., learning to fill out a safety checklist effectively).

By acknowledging these competencies through the app, Scratchie reinforces the importance of knowledge and skills, encouraging workers to further enhance their competences to excel in safety-related tasks.

Affective States

Affective commitment to safety is a driver of proactive safety behaviours, and Scratchie leverages this by providing a platform for supervisors to express their emotional commitment to safety.

When a supervisor issues an award through the app, it signifies their belief in the importance of proactive safety actions. This emotional commitment resonates with workers, motivating them to actively engage in safety promotion and reciprocate the dedication they perceive from their supervisors.

Role Definition

Workers' broader role perceptions and orientations toward safety are critical in shaping proactive safety behaviours. Scratchie supports this aspect by allowing supervisors to create awards for a wide range of safety-related actions, from tidying up an area without being asked to reporting fall-from-height risks.

This diverse array of award categories accommodates the various safety roles that workers can assume on a worksite. It encourages them to define their roles beyond the formal job description, contributing to a proactive safety culture.

Conclusion: Elevating Safety through Scratchie

In the pursuit of cultivating a proactive safety culture on worksites, we've uncovered the intricate network of factors that drive safety behaviours, focusing here on the distal antecedents that set the stage in shaping the safety landscape.

Moreover, we've seen how Scratchie, the innovative safety app, seamlessly integrates with these drivers, empowering construction supervisors to recognize and reward proactive safety behaviours in real-time.

Be sure to keep an eye out for Part 2, and if you’d like to delve deeper into the dynamics of proactive safety, we invite you to join us for our live Procore webinar. In this session, you'll gain insight into how Scratchie can help you systematically instantiate the drivers of proactive safety on your worksites, ultimately enhancing safety engagement. Don’t miss out!


What is proactive safety behaviour, and why is it essential on worksites?

Proactive safety behaviour refers to actions taken by individuals to anticipate, prevent, or address potential safety hazards or risks before they lead to accidents or incidents. These actions go beyond basic compliance with safety rules and regulations and involve taking initiative, looking out for the safety of oneself and others, and actively participating in safety improvement efforts.

Proactive safety behaviour is essential on worksites because it helps prevent accidents, enhances safety culture, and fosters a safer and more productive work environment.

What are distal antecedents and proximal antecedents in the context of proactive safety?

Distal antecedents are the broader, more distanced factors that lay the foundation for proactive safety behaviours. They encompass contextual antecedents related to organisational values, social exchanges, and job design, as well as individual antecedents, such as competences, affective states, and role definition.

Proximal antecedents, on the other hand, are immediate situational factors that influence safety behaviours and act as a bridge between the distal antecedents and actual safety actions (see Part 2).

How does Scratchie contribute to proactive safety behaviours on worksites?

Scratchie is an innovative safety app that enables construction supervisors to instantly recognize and reward workers for their proactive safety actions.

By providing a platform for supervisors to create awards in real-time, Scratchie aligns with various distal antecedents, such as safety climate, social exchange, job design, competences, affective states, and role definition. It reinforces the importance of safety and encourages workers to actively engage in safety promotion.

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