Health & Safety Executive chair Judith Hackitt said hard and soft landscapes at the Olympic Park, Heathrow Terminal 5 and Salford Media City were safety showcases.
"What is striking about these examples is not just the safety performance but the way it has been achieved. Health and safety is part of the culture and led from the top," she said.
"Workforce involvement and engagement at every level is clearly visible. Motivation, commitment and collaboration are in the supply chain. It's win-win, not a trade-off."
Hackitt, speaking at a conference last week hosted by Capita Symonds and ACE, said legacy played a huge part in the ethos of the Olympic Park.
"That legacy simply cannot and must not be tarnished by the knowledge that the construction of the 2012 site killed somebody. I can't be the only person who believes this legacy principle has to hold true for every project. No project of any size or type should be a memorial to those who built it."
But this would not be fully achieved through regulation and a compliance-driven approach, she added. It needed leadership and engagement up and down the supply chain.
Hackitt said evidence showed a two-tier industry developing in the built environment, with high accident rates on smaller sites, especially refurbishment work.
"Just as we have moved on from the generic mindset that construction is a dangerous industry, we must not fall into the trap of believing small-scale projects are different or that new and inexperienced workers are more prone to injury."