Linking emotional intelligence to safety performance: The roles of situational awareness and safety training

Zhongmin Wang, Zhou Jiang, Anna Blackman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Safety outcomes in the workplace require individual employees to perform (behave) safely in everyday duties. While the literature suggests that emotional management capabilities or traits can be positively related to individual performance in certain conditions, it is not clear how they can influence safety-related performance in high-risk work contexts. Drawing upon trait activation theory, this paper aims to examine when emotional intelligence (EI) benefits employees’ safety performance. We propose that when employees receive inadequate safety training, EI is more likely to trigger their situational awareness and consequently promote their safety performance. Method: We collected time-lagged data from 133 full-time airplane pilots working in commercial aviation industry. Hierarchical moderated regression analysis was conducted to test the moderating effect of safety training inadequacy on the EI–situational awareness relationship. The moderated mediation model, which involves conditional indirect effects of EI on safety performance via situational awareness across different levels of safety training inadequacy, was tested using the PROCESS-based bootstrap confidence interval. Results: Safety training inadequacy negatively moderated the relationship between EI and situational awareness, such that EI was significantly related to situational awareness only when safety training inadequacy was more salient. The more inadequate safety training was, the greater the indirect effect of EI on safety performance via situational awareness was. Conclusions: Inadequate safety training, as a negative situational cue, can activate individuals’ EI to drive their safety-related cognitions (e.g., situational awareness) and behaviors. Effective safety training may be able to complement employees’ low EI in shaping their situational awareness and safety behaviors. Practical Applications: Aviation managers should monitor the adequacy and effectiveness of safety training; this could make pilots’ situational awareness and safety performance depend less on personal attributes (e.g., EI), which organizations are less able to control. When training capacity is temporarily limited, priority might be given to those with low EI.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)210-220
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Safety Research
Early online date22 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021


  • Emotional intelligence
  • Safety
  • Situational awareness
  • Training

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