Developing a proactive safety performance measurement tool (SPMT) for construction sites
'Safety pays' is a phrase commonly used but when it comes to putting the concept into practice, very few are actually successful at it. Excuses made include that it is costly or it is a waste of time or it is not the main cause of failure. However, the real problem is that there is not enough guidance on how to improve safety performance on site. Traditional measurement approaches include accident investigations, inspections and job safety analyses. The question often posed is do these statistics reflect the actual safety effectiveness on site? Almost always they do not. These numbers often just tell how lucky or unlucky the site has been and do not reflect the level of effectiveness of safety performance on site. The key question is if this reactive, backward looking approach does not portray the true picture, what is the best approach? What the industry needs is a new paradigm for measuring safety performance on construction sites i.e. a proactive approach rather than just depending on the reactive data. Studies by many researchers have suggested moving away from these post- accident scenarios towards a proactive approach that measures site activities and safe behaviour rather than unsafe behaviour. The proactive approach is able to provide essential feedback on performance before incidents occur. These on-going measures are able to monitor the safety performance on site. Various in-house systems exist but the industry lacks a comprehensive tool that can be used on any site. The safety performance measurement tool (SPMT) has been designed as an interactive assessment tool using MS Access and MS Excel to measure safety performance for construction sites. SPMT uses available knowledge to generate a solution to an industry safety problem. This tool concentrates on proactive measures of culture and behaviour. It is applied on site using questionnaire, observations and document checks, which are entered into a measurement database. SPMT has been designed to include the participation of head office management, site management, site supervisors, site operatives and specialist-contractor's management. The tool has been developed from an extensive literature review and three incremental surveys using expert opinion and a broader verificationirom a large industry sample. SPMT has been validated through field tests on four construction projects, with two projects including a further application after responding to feedback from the first test. SPMT enables real-time feedback on safety performance, identifies substandard performance, allows focussed remedial action and evaluates the progress or regress of safety performance on construction sites. The future potential of SPMT as a generic safety performance measurement tool has been demonstrated. SPMT aims to move the industry away from a purely reactive response and towards a more proactive approach to the improvement of safety performance. This approach will contribute to changing the working culture in the construction industry.