Safetywashing: The Strategic Use of Safety in the Construction Industry

Johan Ninan, Stewart Clegg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


In this article, we discuss the concept of safetywashing defined as the strategic practice of promoting, marketing, and branding of safety practices without full disclosure of negative information to improve the image of the organization. The research seeks to answer two questions: first, what are safetywashing strategies? Second, what are the effects of safetywashing strategies? To study this, 106 news articles relating to construction safety in India, as well as 439 reader comments on them, were systematically collected and their contents analyzed to compile multiple case studies which had evidence of safetywashing. We analyze multiple instances from these case studies to build theoretical insight into these strategies and their effects, using an approach anchored in a social exchange theoretical framework. We highlight different safetywashing strategies employed in the construction sector, such as safety as a project objective, explaining safety initiatives, associating with pioneers, as well as investing in safety. These strategies lead to accepting of organizations, prioritizing safety, and diverting focus, all of which have different implications for safety practice in the construction industry.
Original languageEnglish
Article number05024008
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Management in Engineering
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository ‘You share, we take care!’ – Taverne project
Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • Safetywashing
  • Construction safety
  • Social exchange theory
  • News media


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