Companies trying to reduce the number of injuries among their out-of-office workers may want to look at their safety climates. Research by the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety suggests consistent, clear communications combined with management's backing of safety priorities can lead to fewer injuries.

Unlike safety culture, which can mean many different things, safety climate is tangible, according to the authors. "It can be measured and the data obtained through surveys can identify significant discrepancies between a company's safety message and its actual safety practices."

As an example, the authors described a scenario in which a company with a policy prohibiting cellphone use while driving has supervisors who routinely call their drivers. "That would show up as a discrepancy in a safety climate survey," said James Houlihan, Loss Control Advisory Services technical director for Liberty Mutual.