Safety Behaviour in the Construction Industry

| |
Health and Safety Authority

Summary Statement

A multifaceted study of occupational safety culture and habits in the Irish construction industry.


    Objectives and design
    Compliance with safety requirements
    Perception of risk
    Safety management
    Role of inspections
    Factors associated with safety compliance
    Safety Representatives
    Training and certification
    The safety management system
    The Construction Safety Partnership Plan
    Construction Fatality Rates in Europe
    Construction-related fatalities in the UK
    Construction Related Fatalities in Northern Ireland
    Construction Related Fatalities in Ireland
    International Construction Related Fatalities due to Falls from heights
    The Republic of Ireland
    Planned Regulatory Activity in 2001
    Noncompliance versus accidents as measure of safety performance
    Safety consequences of noncompliance with procedures
    Interventions to improve safety
    Functional effectiveness of safety management systems
    Site Sampling
    Build Type

    The Observational Study
    The Operative Survey
    Safety Management Interviews
    Analysis of Safety Documentation
    HSA/HSE Interviews
    The Prevention of Falls from Heights
    Prevention of Falls Performance by site
    General conclusions on Prevention from Falls from Heights
    Compliance with other items observed
    Background information
    Safety Training
    Safety Plan
    Suggestions for improvement
    Safety plan
    Risk assessments
    Site specific risk assessments
    Accident logbook
    Safety Meetings
    Safety Audits
    Overall assessment
    Overall Document Evaluation
    Site Selection
    Site Inspection
    Safety on sites Suggestions for improvement
    Overall conclusions
    HSA Construction Group Organization
    Site Selection Procedures
    Site Inspection Practices
    Site Safety Standards Summary
    Improvement of Site Safety
    Compliance with safety requirements
    Perception of risk
    Safety management
    Role of inspectors
List of figures:

Figure 1: Incidence of openings found unguarded
Figure 2: Incidence of guardrails or edge protection missing
Figure 3: Incidence of ladders found incorrectly tied
Figure 4: Incidence of rubbish on access routes
Figure 5: Incidence of rubbish on scaffold lifts
Figure 6: Incidence of trapped scaffold boards
Figure 7: Incidence of missing toe boards
Figure 8: Incidence of internal hard hat use
Figure 9: Incidence of external hard hat use
Figure 10: Incidence of viz vest wearing
Figure 11: Safety training received from the main contractor
Figure 12: Safety training received from subcontractor
Figure 13: Perceived level of risk and frequencies of risky situations for the nine situations of the research
Figure 14: Preferred behavior in the face of danger reported by workers
Figure 15: Safety attitudes' factors
Figure 16: Management commitment with safety
Figure 17: Perception of sources of risk influencing safety in site
Figure 18: Perceived level of risk in site and industry
Figure 19: A model of bivariate significant relationships in this research

List of tables:

Table 1: Fatality rates for selected European Member States
Table 2: Comparison of Rate of Fatalities for NI & UK during 1997-2000 per 100,000 workers
Table 3: Construction activity resulting in fatalities in Northern Ireland during 1980-1998
Table 4: Number of fatalities in the construction Industry 1991-1999. Republic of Ireland
Table 5: Recommendations by the HSA following 11,143 inspections carried out during 1995-1999.
Table 6: Breakdown of sites by type and size
Table 7: Description of the characteristics of the sites in the sample.
Table 8: The 18 safety items that were observed for that research
Table 9: Breakdown of managers and safety officials interviewed
Table 10: Incidence of sites with unguarded openings
Table 11: Incidence of sites with missing guardrails or edge protection
Table 12: Incidence of sites with incorrectly tied ladders
Table 13: Ranking of sites by prevention of falls performance
Table 14: Unguarded openings and missing guardrails/edge protection on general contractor sites
Table 15: Unguarded openings and missing guardrails /edge protection on housing sites
Table 16: Factors and items measuring safety attitudes
Table 17: Factors and items measuring safety climate
Table 18: HSA/HSE role in construction safety on site
Table 19: Safety documentation in site
Table 20: Factors of compliance.
Table 21: Correlation between factors of noncompliance
Table 22: Factors related to the management system
Table 23: Correlations between Non-compliance and other variables in this research

Foreword by the Health and Safety Authority

This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Authority and the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland. Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect HSA or HSENI policy.

Almost two years ago, against the background of widespread concern over the level of fatal and serious accidents in the Irish Construction Industry, it was recognized that the culture in the industry generally was not conducive to health and safety. In an effort to develop a better understanding of this culture and devise practical and targeted initiatives to positively affect behavior in the construction sector, the Health and Safety Authority and the Health and Safety Executive, Northern Ireland jointly commissioned a research project, and this document is the culmination of that research process. The research is a landmark piece of work as it is the first completed research report from the Occupational Safety and Health Institute of Ireland (OSHII), and the Authority welcomes its publication.

The Authority wishes to express its gratitude to the construction companies who participated in this study and also to the researchers, Dr Nick McDonald and Mr Victor Hrymak, the authors of this report.

The next phase

The publication of this research does not represent the completion of the task however. This work, which has been reviewed by the Board of the Authority and its Legislation and Guidance subcommittee raises many issues for discussion, consideration and future action and will be referred to both the Construction Safety Advisory Committee and the Construction Safety Partnership (CSP). The Authority particularly welcomes the fact that the report affirms a number of initiatives already underway in the Construction Safety Partnership and indeed, incorporated as legal requirements in the recent Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations, 2001 which impose significant new legal responsibilities on project supervisors in important areas such as safety training, welfare and safety consultation. We also note the reported external perceptions of the Authority held by some of our stakeholders and recognize the challenge we face to develop a greater understanding of the complexities of the Authority's role in this sector.

The Research Process

ASCII was invited to carry out the research and a number of tenders were submitted from its constituent members which were peer reviewed by external academics and safety practitioners. The research was awarded to a joint proposal from Trinity College Dublin / Dublin Institute of Technology. Work on the project commenced in 2000 with site work being carried out from November 2000 to February 2001. A number of meetings were held between the researchers and a joint HSA / HSENI steering group at intervals in the duration of the project and a substantive draft report was made available in June 2001. This then underwent a peer review process which was completed in December 2002. Following consultation between both clients and OSHII in January 2002, a final report was issued in March 2002.

Objectives and Design

The primary goal of this research was to investigate the factors that influence safety behavior and compliance with safety requirements on construction sites. This goal was realized through the following objectives:
  • The first objective was to examine compliance with safety requirements in the construction industry.
  • The second was to investigate the behavior, perceptions and attitudes associated with safety in construction.
  • The third was to investigate management practices and associated documentation relating to safety.
  • The final objective was to seek to establish what factors are significantly associated with safe behavior or safety compliance.
The high incidence of falling from heights in construction accident statistics led to a focus, particularly in the site observations and operatives' questionnaire, on factors associated with falling from heights .

The design adopted was a cross-sectional one based on a comparison of a representative sample of 18 sites in Ireland. The sample included large and smaller sites, housing and general contracting, and metropolitan and regional areas in the Republic and Northern Ireland. An eighteen-item safety audit checklist was used to as a protocol for measuring safety compliance. A survey of construction operatives addressed the perception of risk, behavior in risk situations, attitudes and safety climate. A total of 244 site operatives were surveyed. 59 site management and others (including safety representatives) who have a role in safety management were interviewed concerning a range of safety management functions and effectiveness. Safety documentation on ten sites was examined. A sample of ten inspectors was interviewed.

Dissemination of Report

The full text of this report will be displayed on the websites of the HSA and the Irish Focal Point website of the European Safety Agency. Furthermore, the HSA urges all of the stakeholders in the construction sector to consider the research findings and take on board those recommendations applicable to their particular roles which will help create safer working conditions on Irish construction sites.

Relevant Information on the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations, 2001

These Regulations impose significant new legal responsibilities on project supervisors in important areas such as safety training, welfare and safety consultation.

The requirement for safety training is being introduced on a phased basis beginning with all employees newly recruited into the sector, who were required to have attended the FáS SAFE PASS training course with effect from January 2002. The requirement applies to all new sites from 1st May 2002 and will apply to all remaining workers in the sector by 1st June 2003. The existing Construction Skills Certification Scheme has also been strengthened by the Regulations. From 1st January 2002, all scaffolders are required to carry a card displaying their skills details, and all Project Supervisors Construction Stage (PSCS) are required to make arrangements to ensure that only CSCS cardholders are recruited for scaffolding work. This requirement will be extended to crane drivers, banksmen, advanced scaffolders and operators of certain mechanical plant from 1st July 2002 and to a range of other trades from 1st June 2003.

Regarding safety consultation, from 1st January 2002, all sites with more than 20 workers were required to actively facilitate the appointment of a safety representative to facilitate effective consultation.

The Regulations also provide for more effective arrangements for ensuring that adequate welfare facilities are available, by requiring the Project Supervisor Construction Stage (PSCS) to coordinate the provision of these facilities on site.