The Bradley Curve Meaning & Definition | EcoOnline
Health & Safety Glossary

The Bradley Curve

The Bradley Curve is a model used in the field of occupational safety to illustrate the stages of an organization's safety culture maturity.


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What is the Bradley Curve?

The Bradley Curve, also known as the DuPont Bradley model, is a powerful tool that can be used to visualize and assess safety performance in the workplace. 

By plotting the number of incidents against their severity, the Bradley Curve provides a clear picture of an organization’s safety performance over time. This information can then be used to identify areas where improvement is needed.

It was created by Berlin Bradley, a DuPont employee, in 1995, indicating the relationship between accidents in the workplace and how the company’s safety culture affects the occurrence of safety incidents. Bradley_Curve_with_text 2


Improve your workplace safety culture

Download our FREE guide to find out 8 steps to developing a safety culture in the workplace. 


How the Bradley Curve Works

The Bradley Curve aims to plot the relationship between an organization’s culture and the accidents. The core concept behind the Curve is that workplace accidents, in general, are caused due to human behaviour. 

Berlin Bradley identifies various influences that can affect human behaviour:


The way a workforce operates is largely affected by the quality of instructions by the managers and the leaders within the company. Most employees often follow in their footsteps, and avoid actions that aren’t permitted. 

As a result, if managers are generally not cautious, it’s likely that the employees won’t be either, thus impacting the rate of accidents. 

Internal Attitudes

The Bradley Curve factors in an individual’s internal attitudes, which they develop as they socialize with others. A person’s internal attitude can also impact work performance, and can be a leading factor in the occurrence of safety accidents. 

Corporate Safety Culture

The DuPont Bradley Curve also states that the rate of accidents in the workplace is directly impacted by a company’s safety culture. For instance, what behaviours are considered correct and appropriate? 

The safety culture within an organization can determine if employees take a more reactive approach towards occupational safety or if they are proactive. 

Berlin Bradley posits that companies can impact the accident rate by focusing on two key factors: safety culture and leadership. 

The Curve plots the accident rate on the Y-axis and the company’s safety culture on the X-axis, and is divided into four stages, explaining each stage of an organization’s safety culture. 

The Four Stages of Safety Culture in Organizations

The Bradley Curve focuses on the four stages of a company’s safety culture as it develops. Companies that have the highest number of accidents are usually in the first stage, and as the safety culture matures, accidents generally decline. 

Here’s a detailed explanation of each stage.

Stage 1: Instinctive Response 

At the first stage, where the safety culture is just developing or non-existent, the number of occupational accidents is generally higher. Here, employees avoid the responsibility for workplace safety, instead acting on instinct. 

As a result, safety isn’t a proactive approach; it’s mostly a matter of chance. At this stage, workplace accidents are common, and most employees believe them to be unavoidable.

Stage 2: Occupational Safety Dependent on Rules 

As the company’s safety culture matures, the perceptions around occupational safety does too. At this stage, employees start treating workplace safety as a set of rules defined by the upper management. 

The management expects employees to follow defined protocols and safety processes, believing that safety performance will improve if all employees follow the rules. 

The management takes steps to pressure employees into following these rules, creating a dependent relationship. In case an accident occurs, the management first assumes that it’s because the employee may not have been following the rules.

Stage 3: Independent Safety Approach Based on Self-Responsibility

At this stage, the perceptions around occupational safety begin to evolve, as employees begin to take a more personalized approach. At this stage, employees take occupational safety personally. 

They understand why certain safety measures were instituted, instead of just following the rules, and encourage others to follow them too.

Stage 4: Interdependent Safety Approach Based on Shared Responsibilities

The last stage in the Bradley Curve shows the safety culture reaching maturity, where occupational safety is inherently woven into the company’s ethos. 

All employees are expected to prioritize it, not just for themselves, but also for others. Employees work diligently to mitigate risks and to improve safety standards. 

In case any unsafe behaviour is identified, employees investigate it themselves, taking a highly proactive approach to bring the accident rate to as close to zero as possible. 

To summarize, the Bradley Curve documents the various stages that a company’s safety culture passes as it develops, from a purely reactive standpoint to a highly proactive approach, where each employee takes responsibility to reduce workplace accidents.


Improve your workplace safety culture

Download our FREE guide to find out 8 steps to developing a safety culture in the workplace. 



Use EcoOnline to Reduce Workplace Safety Accidents

EcoOnline’s Health & Safety Software allows companies to document all hazards and risks in the workplace. It gives workers the opportunity to easily report hazards, near-misses, or any observations. 

By including your employees in the risk management process, you can help develop a safety culture where employees take responsibility and adopt a safer approach to working. Ultimately, this helps reduce occupational safety incidents in the workplace.