The construction industry is one of the most dangerous and hazardous industries. In UK, the construction industry is progressively increasing with the continuous acceleration of the technological and industrial development. The scope of this industry composes largely of projects that include bridges, houses, roads, drainage systems, canal works, and many more. The role of the construction industry is vital because they contribute to the prosperity and competitiveness of the nation’s economy.
There are many safety issues related to the construction industry. The list of injuries and accidents in the construction sites is directly proportional to the demand of employment to the construction sites. The government has implemented safety rules and laws to alleviate the safety related accidents. One of the most innovative approaches for safety nowadays is the implementation of Behavior-based safety practices. This safety program is different from the traditional programs in many ways. Many companies have already instituted this safety approach and start to establish a safety culture with the involvement of the management. With the continuous rise of the construction industry in the UK, the safety approaches is deemed part of their growing as an organization.
The UK construction industry is inevitably growing. There is a direct proportionality of the construction operations to safety and health. It is imperative that safety awareness and behavioral safety implementations should be included in every construction company’s overall strategic plan. Expectedly, the pursuit for optimum safety of construction companies leads to increase in cost affecting company profit. However, the lack of safety in the organization might result to higher costs due to medical treatment for personnel and high insurance premiums due to possible lawsuits that the company may encounter (Abdul-Rashid, et al, 2007).
Safety is the set of procedural and technical regulations for compliance by the entire organization. It is part of the business management that extends effort and time for accident prevention. Accidents are partly unavoidable but preventable. To acquire safety in construction industry, it requires cooperation from the managerial level down to the front line employees. It is the entire organization to take effort in proactive measure to prevent accidents and promote a healthy lifestyle. The company core value includes the prevention of harm and injuries for all the employees (Fleming, 2001, p5-6). The root of accidents in a construction industry is the combination of the unsafe working conditions and unsafe acts of workers. There is a relationship between human behavior and the working conditions related risk factors (Chi et al, 2013 p828). By addressing these two root causes of accidents, managements need to look into the behavioral safety practices. Improvement in the safety of an organization is best achieved through behavioral safety concepts. Safety programs incorporated with behavioral based safety approaches are slowly replacing the traditional “policing’ role for safety. There is need for change for construction companies to be armed with knowledge and recognize the need for change and achieve an optimal safety culture for the organization. A positive safety culture is indicated by the extent of involvement and active participation relating to safety on a daily basis (Cooper).
The objective of this paper is to identify major factors that affect safety performance in the UK construction companies, show current trends in safety programs implementation and present the impact of behavioral safety to the organization. Improvement in the implementation of safety programs in the construction industries can be attained through increase in safety awareness and the change of behavior of every concerned personnel and maintain a culture of safety in the organization.
This research strives to present behavioral safety approaches that would create an impact to the management finance and effectiveness of safety management. It strategically promotes safety behavioral based techniques that can contribute greatly to the management. These techniques can be embedded in the management’s setting of goals, human resource management, and implementation of safety culture in the entire organization. Mitigation with risk taking behaviors guarantees improvement in the overall safety performance for the entire organization. Specifically, this can be achieved through engagement of the whole workforce and promote behavioral safety in each of them to prevent loss in the company.
Hypothesis: Behavioral based safety management creates a big impact to the UK construction
companies effecting benefits that include cost efficiency and improved management techniques.
Aim: The general objective of this study is to present the benefits of improved safety
performance of construction industry through implementation of behavioral safety and establishment of safety culture in construction industries.
Objectives: To achieve the aim of this paper, these are the specific objectives.
- Identify root causes of safety related problems that are prevalent in most construction industries in UK.
- Develop assessment and evaluation tools to compare the current practices of safety through the data taken from actual construction sites with the standards set by the HSE.
- Provide comparative analysis of actual practices for safety and the theoretical applications of safety culture through behavioral safety approaches.
- Present behavioral safety practices that can be used for construction sites for the establishment of a safety culture.
- Present advantages of safety culture in the cost analysis of the company through prevention of loss, high insurance premiums, potential lawsuits, and project failures.
Review of Related Literature:
Construction Industry in UK:
Construction industry is one of the most economically rising business in UK. According to the statistic and policy of Parliament.uk, in the year 2012, the contribution of the construction industry in UK economy output is about £83.0 Billion, giving 2.15 million jobs to the people. The peak output of the industry was in 2007 with £102.5 Billion and 2.29 million jobs. Although there is a decline in the economic output of the construction industry in the years 2008 to 2009, but, the sector is recovering through 2013 until this year (Rhodes, p3-5). The construction industry is the largest industry in UK. Regardless of the dangerous nature of the industry, people still choose these jobs for work and employment. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) figure, for the last 25 years, around 2,800 people have been killed due to accidents and injuries happening in their workplace. Although the stringent regulations and legislative interventions in the health and safety practices and the number of construction related accidents have declined marginally for the last few years, it still remains one of the most dangerous occupations (Bean, S).
Safety Practice in UK Construction Industries:
The nature of work in the construction industry is very dynamic. Changes are always prevalent and the sites are always temporary. The majority of the manual workers in the construction industry have low education and little skill, the type of business is mostly subcontracting and the nature of work is most often transient. There is a very poor image of construction workers due to the nature of work which is synonymous to difficult, dirty and dangerous (International Labour Organization). These inherent characteristics of the nature of work of construction industries contribute to the poor safety records of the industry. Hazards are sometimes unavoidable and accidents are repetitive. According to HSC (Health and Safety Commission) and the HSE (Health and Safety Executive), the common risks and accidents encountered in construction industry include (HSG150):
- Falls – In the construction business, the accidents due to falling are common. The operation includes rook works, formworks, steel erection, demolition and reinforced concrete works. Falls have the highest percentage in occurrence in the construction industries of Great Britain which account for about 45% in the overall fatalities in the years 2013/14p (HSE).
- Collapse and Falling Debris – Falling debris and collapse are common accidents encountered in the construction industry. Accidents happens when people are struck with falling materials from the items lifted, shaken platforms, and collapsing structures. The structures under construction are prone to collapsing and falling since the steel frames and the bases are all temporary and hanging. People struck by these falling materials are likely to get injured, or worse, die. In the statistics of Great Britain’s construction industries, this accident accounts for 2% in the years 2013/2014p (HSE).
- Electrical accidents – Construction works involve use of electricity for their various equipment and machines. Accidents occur due to electrical shocks, burns, and stepping on exposed cables. In the statistics of Great Britain’s construction industries, this accident accounts for7% in the years 2013/2014p (HSE).
- Mobile Plant – The mobility of the equipment, machineries, and materials is common in the construction industry. People incur accidents through the use of moving heavy equipment, machines, and vehicles travelling on grounds.
- Trips – Trips occur frequently in construction sites, with around 1000 major cases annually. Trips occur due to lose stairways, makeshift corridors and platforms, and unsafe access routes. In the statistics of Great Britain’s construction industries, this accident accounts for 2% in the years 2013/2014p (HSE).
Aside from direct loss of lives and accidents that happen in construction industries, there are occupational health issues that are prevalent in the construction industries. Some of these sicknesses include (System Concepts):
- Noise related sickness such as hearing loss
- Disorders in musculoskeletal system such as back pains , vibration in hands and arms from labor and use of hand held machines and power tools
- Skin diseases due to exposure to construction materials such as paints, cements, asphalt, bitumen, and other chemicals used in constructions.
- Breathing and respiratory problems like asthma due to exposure to dust, asbestos, silica, cement and other hazardous substances.
- Work related stress due to work loads, job instability and insecurity, and the various risks in the workplace.
Safety is very crucial in the construction industry. During the spot check of HSE last September of 2013, in the various construction sites in UK, inspectors found out that many of the basic safety standards are mostly not met in almost 50% of the visited sites. The HSE inspected 2, 607 sites, 1,105 of which had poor implementation of the basic safety standards, 644 sites have poor practices for worker protection, 539 were served with prohibition notices for immediate notice to stop operation and 414 received improvement notices (Construction News).
In UK, the rate of fatality from 1993 to 1998 is only 1 for every 11,000 personnel annually. The introduction of the Construction Design and Maintenance Regulations in 1994 in UK, the rate of fatality started to decrease by around 10%. However, on the years onwards, the downward slope of injuries and fatalities is gradually slowing. From the records of the Electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety and Health, the 70 to 80% accidents and fatalities of construction sites in UK that happens each year are caused by falling. Accidents due to falling includes falling from one level to another, falling on the same level, structures falling burying people, and many more (Elcosh).
The number of fatal injuries incurred in construction industry for the last 20 years is declining. This decline is attributed to the safety awareness programs and occupational health and safety programs required by government. Despite this reducing numbers, still, the construction is one of the most hazardous and risky industries with fatalities and injuries incurring in their workforce (HSE).
Over the years from 2004 to 2013, it can be seen that there is a decline of the number of injuries related to constuction industries. The most common injuries comprise of around falling 28%, handling related accidents of 8%, struck by falling and moving objects of about 15%, and 28% caused by slipping, tripping and on the level falling (HSE).
The accidents and injuries in the construction industries are related to the these factors: the nature of the the construction industries, poor management safety, challenges in the work sites, and the humn behvior (HSE). It is important to note that the safety culture in different settings of construction sites plays a vital role in the occupational health and safety implementation. The set of values and the relative consciousness of the organization contributes to the overall organization’s safety culture. Unless the management of the construction employers provide adequate resources in ensuring that the work in the construction sites are carried wout without risk to safety and health, then behavioral safety management techniques would be found effective (Lingard and Rowlinson).
The law requires for the implementation of occupaional health and safety in the various industries and organizations. The regulations pertaining to construction operations are stipulted under the health and Safety in construction legislation. Occupational Health and Safety in construction industries must undergo planning, organizing, monitoring and reviewing.
In a construction industry, health and safety must be a priority. The management needs to gather information relating to health and safety with regards to their proposed working sites. It is important to identify the history of the site location, looking into particular the factors that may affect health and safety of the people that will work in the site. The HSE guide can be used as reference to identify possible hazards such as:
- Previous chemical contaminations such as asbestos
- Ground conditions
- Overhead and underground power lines and services
- Nearby constructions and institutions
In planning the health and safety management in proposed construction sites, the cost estimates should include identified hazards that may pose threat to the health and safety of the workers. Identification of hazards is very important so that harmful substances can be eliminated prior to operation, trainings can be provided in handling hazards, set control measures that are applicable to the site, and plan emergency procedures ahead of time (HSE).
Before the construction operation, the management must organize the work. There should be a trained and experienced supervisor that would oversee the safety of the site. It is important to ask every individual part of the workforce about the trainings that they had in the past. Firms and subcontractors that would work in the site must have their own supervisor to see the welfare of their constituents. It is vital that the work specification must be discussed to everyone giving emphasis to their contribution to safety. The management must confirm to HSE providing them with notice and details for the construction operation.
The legislation of Health and Safety Commission governs the safety management practices in various industries. It originally aims to promote safety management that are self-regulatory which influences behaviors and attitudes of the organization’s constituents to contribute to the organization’s optimal framework for health and safety. Due to limitations in thorough inspection of sites, the legislative body right now focuses to the proactive safety management measures. HSC regulations require organizations with specific standards to following which management has to implement. Safety measures are integrated in their management system which is assessed by the law from time to time (Cooper).
Behavioral Safety in Construction Industries:
Behavioral Safety is an essential aspect of safety with focus and emphasis on the behaviors of the human beings in a certain environment. Whereas the traditional safety focuses on the equipment, hardware, machinery guarding and others. Behavioral system is more than the human behavior and the safety in workplace. Rather, it is the behavioral research application on the performance of human in dealing with the problems of safety in the work environment. It is part of the safety programn applying the behavior analytics research in certain workplaces. Behavioral analysis is also considered as the science of behavior change. The science of behavior change is applied thorugh the behavior analysis to deal with the real problems relating to safety. This application emphasis performance. Sound behavior programs for this science includes:
- Identification of the desirable behavioral performance
- Measurement of the safety performance
- Shaping of the safe performance via feedback system
The overall application of the science of behavioral safety offers a solution to the Challenges in the construction industry. With the proper implementation of behavioral safety, it would result to significant improvements in the safe performance thereby reducing accidents, illnesses and injuries incurred in workplaces. It is also economically effective reducing financial cost and human suffering (Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies).
In the context of construction industry, the two major roots of accidents are the unsafe behaviors of the workers and the unsafe working conditions. There is a relationship between the working condition and the worker behaviors in relation to the accidents incurred in construction sites. Some of the determined factors that contribute to the unsafe behaviors of construction workers include attitudes toward safety, following of simple procedures, wearing of personal protective equipment, lack of safety knowledge, lack of safety skill training, and the worker’s failure in the identification of unsafe conditions at the work environment. Similarly, the human errors due to the worker’s mental and physical conditions, are potential causes of accidents in the workplace. It is equally important to note the worker’s perception towards scaffolding safety, the inappropriate inspections, inadequate PPEs, uncomfortable workplaces, and the failure to proper safety planning and control contribute to the occurrence of accidents (Chi et al).
Improvement in the safety of an organization is best achieved through behavioral safety concepts. Behavioral safety can be measured objecively without the excessive use of supervisory resource through goal setting and performance feedback. These safety management techniques produces significant short term imprevments I the behavioral safety performance of their constituents. However, this technique requires commitment from the top management to enhance it effectiveness (Duff, et al). The behavioral safety leads to a safety culture. Safety culture is achieved when the dominating characteristics of an organization pertains to safety alluding from the individual to the whole organization. Having a safety culture has positive impacts to construction industries thereby improving the organization’s competitiveness, reliability, quality, and of course, the profitability (Cooper).
A behavioral-based management techiques leading to safety culture utilizes the processes of goal setting and providing performance feedback. According to the research of Duff, Robertson, Phillips and Cooper, the theory of goal setting provides guidance for the operation to achieve good effects through establishment of goals. These goals are immediate regulators of human action driving for better performance as the goal is being achieved. Through goal setting, the manangement directs personnel’s attention and their actions motivating them further to mobilize their efforts to achieve them. Likewise, performance feedbacks provides clear indications of performance effectiveness whch enhances one’s behavior. These two techniques can be used as a mangement powerul tool to influence the behavior of their constituents making their workforce more committed and motivated (Duff, et al).
Impact of Behavioral Safety and Safety Culture:
The achievement of a safe and healthy working environment requires every organization to plan, organize, control, monitor and review the related health and safety issues. It is important to note that everyone in the organization has a role to play in maintaining a safety culture. There are positive impacts to the whole organization when a safety culture through behavioral safety is present in the organization. Safety culture has a deep impact to the organizations, quality, competitiveness, reliability, and profitability (Cooper):
Quality: An organization with safety culture has better work methods, minimal absences, and improved organizational performance based on evaluations of various organizations. In a construction industry, studies reveal that construction projects with culture of safety are finished on schedule with accordance to the proposed budget. There is lesser accidents and losses that would hamper the operation thereby leading the project to be done on time. The increase in productivity is attributed to the positive attitudes of the constituents where quality and safety are emphasized.
Reliability: An organization with safety culture increases reliability via the human factor. Due to positive attitudes and reliability of the workforce and the interaction within the organization, chances are, their output quality which is dependent on the variability of the human error, is more likely to be positive. It must be noted somehow, that reliability of the technological systems, organizational structures, and processes, can be improved better with monitoring and performance feedback.
Competitiveness: A safety culture directly impacts the organization’s competitiveness in many ways. The line of thinking of the people within the organization leads to development and improvement of safety features for devices which can be used for marketing. Likewise, the safety culture create positive behaviors in the work force personnel making them more loyal to the company, committed to the work, reduce absenteeism, job satisfaction, and improved productivity. These results contribute to the organizations competiveness in the market.
Profitability: The issue of health and safety is requires added cost. However, as demanded by the law, every organization must adhere to safety management practices. Having a safety culture can contribute greatly to the profitability of the organization through minimizing losses. Behavioral safety programs instituted in construction industries decreases lost time accidents to about 82%. Cost of accidents may include the following cost which is considered as loss in profits:
- Production loss due to absence of people having accidents, possible downtime and delay of operations, possible damage to machines and equipmen.
- Cost for time and repair cost for machines and equipment
- Cost for insurance premiums
- Legal expenses
- Medical costs
- Cost for days absent for the one injured
- Lower the motivation of employee resulting to unsatisfactory relations and poor performance
Creating a safety culture through behavioral safety implementations is an effective management system that assures positive impact especially to construction industries. According to studies, 80 to 90% of accidents are due to the employee’s unsafe behaviors. However, these unsafe behaviors of the employees can be managed and controlled effectively through behavioral safety management systems. An organization with poor safety culture has a high profile accident and disaster rates (Oswald, et al). The application of the techniques for the behavioral safety management is proven effective in the construction industry of Hong Kong as based on the research done by Lingard and Rowlinson. Accordingly, the Hong Kong construction industry has a negative safety record for more than a decade. Upon the implementation of the Behavior-Based methods of Safety Management (BSM), with specific application of goal-setting and the interventions of feedback system to specific areas of safety, the synthesized results are identified as impediments for serious improvements. BSM application is deemed effective but with the cooperation and direct involvement of the management. The responsibilities of the management is vital in the success of the implemented BSB since they are the decision bodies for the cost associated and safety related programs needed for the organization (Lingard and Rowlinson).