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Title: Achieving safer behaviours of frontline construction workers : the role of supervisors
Author: Talabi, Babajide O.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7971 0629
Awarding Body: Loughborough University
Current Institution: Loughborough University
Date of Award: 2016
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The construction industry in the UK is one of the largest sectors of its economy. It creates about 10% of its employment. It is also one of its high-risk industries in terms of occupation safety and health (OSH), and accounts for about 25% of all occupational fatalities in the UK. Over the years, attempts made to reduce the number of accidents in construction have yielded some success. However, the last five years has seen such progressive improvement plateau, with the industry averaging 53 worker fatalities per annum, which is unacceptably high for an advanced economy. Such a high level of persistence in occupational accidents (and incidents) would suggest that the required approach for attaining further improvements in safety performance might lie outside the current practice. Research indicates that human behaviours account for about 80% of all accidents and presents an opportunity for improvement. Within construction, studies show that there is a direct relationship between unsafe behaviours by frontline workers and accidents. The behaviour of the frontline workers is influenced by external stimuli such as the working environment, supervision, peer support and incentives. Manipulating these stimuli provides an alternative for potential increase in safety performance. With an aim of achieving safer behaviours of frontline workers, this study investigated the crucial role that supervisors, as project team members (PTMs), play to accomplish this goal. Supervisors were of particular interest as a result of their hierarchical position between management and frontline workers. This study had two data collection and analyses phases. The first phase involved a preliminary desk study of 400 UK and USA organisations to understand the current focus of behaviour-based safety in construction. The data analysis had both qualitative and quantitative aspects, which showed that contractors pay more attention to safety than their consultant counterparts. Also, there appeared to be a correlation between the turnovers of organisations and whether they had a behaviour-based safety programme. The second (main) phase, which was informed by the first, involved gathering quantitative data from organisations in high-risk industries to understand how supervisors, among other PTMs (such as site and project managers), influence the safety behaviours of frontline workers. A questionnaire was used to collect the data in this phase; 284 responses were obtained in total. From the analysis of the data, the following personal qualities of a supervisor in order of potential to increase safe behaviours of frontline workers emerged: integrity/trust, openness/transparency, genuine care, accountability, flexibility, respect, fairness, consistent high personal standards, ability to empower, and beliefs. Traditionally, the 'command and control' approach is heavily relied on to manage safety in construction. This study provides new insight that suggests inadequacy of that approach. An alternative solution to improve safety performance is presented, which was validated as efficacious for achieving safer behaviours of frontline workers. The proposed solution would require supervisors to improve their personal qualities in three progressive phases of T1, T2 and T3. T1 comprises of integrity/trust, openness/transparency, genuine care and accountability; T2 comprises of flexibility, respect, fairness, consistent high personal standards and ability to empower; and T3 comprises of beliefs. These findings provide a strong foundation for developing solutions that would transform safety regimes in the construction industry.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Built Environment and Design not elsewhere classified ; Behaviour ; Construction ; Frontline workers ; Safety ; Supervisors