TRB’s Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Report 174: Improving Safety Culture in Public Transportation presents research on the definition of safety culture within public transportation, presents methods and tools for assessing safety culture, and provides strategies and guidelines that public transportation agencies may apply to initiate and build a program for improving safety culture.


Organizations with effective safety cultures share a constant commitment to safety as a core value and top priority that permeates the entire organization. Critical elements of an effective safety culture include: (1) acknowledgment of risk and the potential for accidents and injuries, (2) blame-free environment where individuals are able to report errors or close calls without punishment, (3) collaboration across ranks to solve problems and reduce risks, and (4) the commitment of financial and human resources to continually improve safety. An organization’s safety culture embodies the philosophy of senior leaders, which is translated into, and affects, the behavior of employees [from Promoting a Culture of Safety, Pizzi, Pharm, Goldfarb, and Nash, Thomas Jefferson University School of Medicine and Office of Health Policy & Clinical Outcomes (2001)]. While public transportation systems in the United States have a commendable safety record overall, there have been a number of recent events that highlight the need to improve safety culture and safety performance. As such, research is needed to take a comprehensive and multifaceted look at addressing safety culture for public transportation systems.


The objective of this research is to develop resources for assessing, improving, and monitoring organization-wide safety culture that promote safety as a core value and top priority throughout public transportation systems. The resources should (1) explain the imperative of an effective safety culture; (2) identify and assess safety culture concepts from within and outside the public transportation sector; and (3) present organizational models, processes, and pragmatic strategies for assessing, improving, and monitoring the safety performance and safety culture of public transportation systems.

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