Association between 'Psychological Capital' and 'Safety Climate' among Norwegian air traffic controllers

'Psychological Capital' and 'Safety Climate'

Bergheim et al (20131) carried out research to ascertain the association between air traffic controllers' psychological resources (efficacy, optimism, hope and resilience) and perceived commitment to safety (by colleagues and by managers) in their organizations. The psychological resources measures were grouped into a construct called 'Psychological Capital', and the perceived safety commitments were grouped into a construct called 'Safety Climate'.

Illustration 1 summarizes the relevant results. At bivariate levels, there was a moderate positive correlation between 'Psychological Capital' and 'Safety climate' (r = 0.52). A subsequent regression analysis on 'Safety climate' as criterion, using 'Psychological Capital', gender and age as predictors, resulted in a similar multiple correlation coefficient (R = 0.56), with 'Psychological Capital' having a large positive correlation (β = 0.80) and gender a small correlation in favor of females (β = -0.31).

Illustration 1. Regression on 'Safety climate'
r ( p ) β ( p )
PsyCap .52 (<.01 ) .80 ( <.05 )
Gender ( — ) -.31 ( <.05 )
Age ( — ) -.00 ( >.05 )
R = .56 (<.001 )
(Dependent variable = Safety climate. Sig ≤ .05)


Questionnaires containing measures of PsyCap and safety climate were sent to 119 employees from two different Norwegian air traffic control centers in Southern Norway. Participation was voluntary and responses were returned anonymously in sealed envelopes. 77 valid questionnaires were returned (N=77). (The sample represented about 25% of all air traffic controllers in Norway, roughly out of 500).


  • Psychological Capital - PsyCap was assesed with the Psychological Capital Questionnaire1. The PCQ has six items for each subscale of hope, resiliency, optimism and efficacy. responses are scored on a 6-point scale with 1= strongly disagree and 6= strongly agree. The questions were framed to ask the participants how they flet "right now".
According to Luthans, et al.,2010 Psychological Capital is characterized by these four componments:2

1. Self efficacy - Having confidence to take on and put in the necessary effort to succeed at challenging tasks.
2. Optimism - Making a positive attribution and expectation about succeeding now and in the future.
3. Hope - Persevering toward goals and, when necessary, redirecting paths to goals in order to succeed.
4. Resilience - When set by problems and adversity, sustaining and bouncing back and even beyond to attain success.

  • Safety Climate - A Nordic questionnaire on work-related safety in the building and constuction business was used as a point of reference. from this questionnaire 14 items (with responses ranging from 1= Strongly disagree to 6= Strongly agree) were extracted. Items that refelected both group-level and management-level commitment to safety in the workplace were carefully selected based on their face validity. Questions adressed how emplyees handled safety issues at work and their relations to safety in everyday life and also addressed how air traffic controller judged their supervisiors attention to safety (e.g., "We who work here have confidence in managements ability to handle safety")


Air traffic controller level of psychological capital is positively related to individual perceptions of group and management safety climate.

Further analysis

To further investigate the relationship related to PsyCap and safety climate using the bootstrapping method is a useful procedure that allows you to caculate effect sizes and hypothesis tests for an estimate even when you are un-aware of the underlying distribution3. In the first analysis identified PsyCap as a predictor for safety climate. The final model showed significant relaionships between gender and safety climate (r=.31) resulting in one third of the variation. Female air traffic controllers rated the safety climate significanty higher than their male counterparts


Pyschological Capital
Psychological capital is defined as "an individual's positive psychological state of development.
Safety Climate
Theoretical term used by safety and personnel professionals to describe the sum of employee perceptions regarding safety.
Modern, computer-intensive, general purpose approach to statistical inference.
Nordic Questionnaire
General Questionnaire for Psychological and Social Factors at Work.

1. BERGHEIM Kjersti, Jarle EID, Sigurd William HYSTAD, Morten Birkeland NIELSEN, Kathryn MEARNS, Gerry LARSSON & Brett LUTHANS (2013). The role of psychological capital in perception of safety climate among air traffic controllers. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies (ISSN 1440-1819), 2013, volume 20, issue 2, pages 232-241. [DOI 10.1177/1548051813475483]
+++ Notes +++

Authors / Editors

Liana MoscaLiana Mosca

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