Date of Award


Access Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Aviation


Doctoral Studies

Committee Chair

Tim Brady, Ph.D.

First Committee Member

David A. Esser, Ph.D.

Second Committee Member

MaryJo O. Smith, Ph.D.

Third Committee Member

Steven A. Buckner, Ph.D.


This dissertation investigated the relationship among ethical leadership, an ethical workplace climate, safety culture, safety behaviors, and measured safety outcomes of workers in the high reliability organizations of aviation and healthcare. The primary objective was to develop a model linking these factors and assess their fit within the model. A secondary objective was to examine differences between the two populations. In this study, a 101-item instrument was used to collect and analyze employee responses on ten factors comprising the model. Structural equation modeling – path analysis was used for testing and evaluating relations using a combination of statistical analysis and qualitative assumptions. The model evolution allowed the improvement of the data fit; the best-fit model accounted for the data and was used to qualify conclusions. Data from 837 employees was used to develop a model in which ethical leadership predicted occupational injuries and ethical workplace climate, moderated by safety climate to predict safety related events. To assess the difference between employment samples, an ANOVA was conducted. Although significant differences at both the item level and the factor level existed, the model fit was not significantly different between the aviation and healthcare samples. An unmediated path was found between the constructs of ethical leadership and occupational injuries that improved model fit and possessed greater weighting than the hypothesized mediated path. Highly weighted paths between the ethical workplace climate and safety climate constructs were also present in the model. Together, these findings demonstrate that perceptions of an ethical workplace climate can yield significant impact upon an organization’s safety culture while workplace perceptions of ethical leadership are directly related to safety outcomes. This relationship provides a novel method for the prediction and mitigation of potential workplace mishaps.