Literature and industry standards do not mention inclusive guidelines to generate safety recommendations. Following a literature review, we suggest nine design criteria as well as the classification of safety recommendations according to their scope (i.e. organisational context, stakeholders addressed and degree of change) and their focus, the latter corresponding to the type of risk barrier introduced. The design and classification criteria were applied to 625 recommendations published by four aviation investigation agencies. The analysis results suggested sufficient implementation of most of the design criteria. Concerning their scope, the findings showed an emphasis on processes and structures (i.e. lower organisational contexts), adaptations that correspond to medium degree of changes, and local stakeholders. Regarding the focus of the recommendations, non-technical barriers that rely mostly on employees’ interpretation were introduced by the vast majority of safety recommendations. Also, statistically significant differences were detected across investigation authorities and time periods. This study demonstrated how the application of the suggested design and classification frameworks could reveal valuable information about the quality, scope and focus of recommendations. Especially the design criteria could function as a starting point towards the introduction of a common standard to be used at local, national and international levels.