Transforming the Safety Culture of a State Department of Transportation

An invitation for State DOTs to participate in a small cohort project to grow a positive organizational safety culture.

Safety of the transportation system is a primary focus for many state DOTs. As more states adopt the National Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) strategy,[1] State DOT leadership is recognizing the need to transform the safety culture of their organizations to achieve and sustain the TZD vision. Furthermore, a DOT’s safety culture impacts its own safety performance and financial performance. The creation of a strong safety culture is necessary to motivate the resources and planning needed to support the full range of innovative strategies that can sustain the TZD vision. However, there are currently no ready-to-use guidelines or “toolboxes” for this transformation process designed specifically for State DOTs. 

To address this need, the Center for Health and Safety Culture (CHSC) of the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University is offering an opportunity to join a cohort of state DOTs to develop a set of tools specifically designed for DOTs to grow a positive safety culture. The CHSC is using a cohort approach to distribute the costs and share the results of the project and thus make it more cost-effective for each participating agency.

The tools developed in this project to be shared by all participants will include:

  • a standard measurement tool to assess the safety culture of each participating State DOT (to be implemented and interpreted by CHSC);
  • a set of relevant strategies and a process for transforming identified aspects of the safety culture in each participating State DOT;
  • a range of support services to help guide and support each participating State DOT in the implementation of their transformation process; and
  • a complete evaluation of the effectiveness of the implemented transformation process.

The same set of tools will be developed for all participating agencies (thus spreading the cost); however, the implementation will be unique for each DOT. For example, CHSC will work with each agency to implement the safety culture measurement tool within their organization and will provide results unique to each agency. It is anticipated that each of the tools will take one year, resulting in a total project period of four years. 

The CHSC has unique expertise in this domain to ensure success.  CHSC has participated in the recent domestic scan to identify key success factors for transforming safety culture in transportation organizations[2] and is leading an ongoing research project to develop guidance for the transformation of the national traffic safety culture.[3]  In addition, the CHSC faculty has expertise in transforming organizational culture, developing transformational leaders, and managing change in organizational settings.

Annual Cost: $35,000

Contact Information

Nicholas Ward
Director, Center for Health and Safety Culture

For more information on this opportunity, please review this pdf.  This pdf can also be shared with others who may be interested.