Construction industry in both developed and emerging economies form the foundation for the socio-economic development of the respective nations. Industry experts all over the world have acknowledged the need for the evolution of a safety culture in the construction industry. The current approach in most of the settings is that the safety interventions occur only in response to specific accidents or injury caused to the workers in the industry. It is observed while the industry adopts a proactive approach in respect of other aspects of the industry like quality, productivity and the like there exists only a reactive management approach towards the safety of the workers involved. This study examines the presence of safety culture in the Hong Kong construction industry based on structured interviews conducted with the managers, supervisors and workers in various construction sites in Hong Kong and report that there is only a weak presence of safety culture in the construction industry in Hong Kong. The study further reports that the construction workers are barely aware of safety programs and a majority of them have not experienced any safety training.
The construction industry is characterized as one that experiences a number of accidents and is therefore regarded as one of the most hazardous industries (Carter & Smith, 2001). Despite the vulnerability of being prone to accidents and other hazards, the industry has a poor safety record as compared to other industries. The occurrences of non-fatal injuries and illness are too many in the construction industry that makes the study of safety culture in the industry a necessity to find the scope for immediate and significant improvements. The objective of this paper is to study the extent of the development of a safety culture in the construction industry in Hong Kong and to assess whether the industry has instituted adequate safety standards and procedures.
Construction Industry in Hong Kong – a Background
Construction of high-rise buildings and other large and continued construction activities, enlarge the scope of the economic advancement of Hong Kong. With the continuously increasing trend in demand for buildings, the construction industry in Hong Kong has been undergoing tremendous changes. The industry is under constant pressure to raise productivity and improve upon the quality of buildings that are constructed and the facilities provided in the buildings. Though there was a high demand for the construction workers like masons and plumbers during the mid-1990s when the construction activity was in the boom the workers became a surplus lot in 1997-98 when the industry experienced a recession. However, recently the employment rate in the industry has gone up due to enhanced construction activities and an increase in interior decoration, repair, and maintenance, and construction works in minor sites.
According to Hong Kong Trade Development Committee, (HKTDC), the construction companies in Hong Kong have earned a high reputation for their specialized construction techniques and the speed with which they could complete complex construction projects with high quality. Hong Kong’s construction industry has developed as an industry leader in the areas of reclamation and design and build methods. Asian region contributes to a major share of the construction activities in Hong Kong with mainland China having a larger proportion of the activity. Project management, contracting works, and engineering consulting are some of the areas, in which the construction industry in Hong Kong has acquired specialty. As far as the monetary contribution of the industry, it accounted for 2.7% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at factor cost for the year 2006. There were more than 50,000 workers employed by the Hong Kong construction industry at the end of December 2007. The building construction and associated sector including real estate development provided employment opportunities for 245,423 people at the end of the year 2006. Various professionals like architects, surveyors, structural engineers, building service engineers, and civil engineers serve the industry in Hong Kong. “The gross value of construction work performed by main contractors reached HK$92.7 billion in 2007, up 2.7% year-on-year (YOY). Public sector work accounted for 15.5% of that gross construction work value in 2007, compared to 19% in 2006. In the housing sector, the actual completion of private residential units in 2007 was 10,471, down from 16,579 in 2006. On the public housing front, industry sources estimated a drop in the annual production from 19,600 for 2007/08 to 19,000 for 2010/11” (HKTDC, 2008).
The following table presents the level of construction activities carried out in Hong Kong and the number of people employed by the industry.
Table: Number of Establishments in Construction Industry With Number of People Employed
|No of Establishments 2006||No of People Employed 2006|
|Building and Civil Engineering||19,057||135,337|
|Architectural, surveying, and project Engineering||1,250||16,123|
|Real Estate Development, Leasing, Brokerage and Maintenance Management||4,886||93,963|
The construction industry is one among the several industries that were modernized and were sophisticated over the period. This has enabled the construction industry to broaden its horizons and to apply innovative technologies to increase the rapidity of its growth. The construction industry is wide in its operations to involve several big, medium, and small players engaged as constructors or otherwise involved in the construction industry. Despite the technological advancements and the large number of people employed, the industry does not seem to be equipped fully to meet the safety requirements of the workers. The workers are prone to many dangers incidental to the construction activities and the awareness of the safety procedures among the workers appear to be limited and very weak. The development of a safety culture in the Hong Kong construction industry remains in the infant stage. This study based on primary and secondary research attempts to present an overview of the systematic safety culture of the construction industry in Hong Kong. This introductory chapter discusses the background of the study, objective, significance of the study, questions the research seeks to find the answers for, and the objectives of the research along with the limitations of the study.
Background of the Study
The construction industry is the cornerstone for any economy and it serves as the fuel to the success of the economy for a country. The construction industry is associated with many industries and the growth of such industries is largely dependent upon the growth of the construction industry. For instance, the development of housing, commercial complexes, colleges and universities, airports, roads and bridges, and the like are dependent largely on the construction industry. The construction industry changes the face and condition of a country in a number of ways. The development in the construction industry enables the country to plan and achieve economic advancement, more innovations in the technology sectors, and new horizons in the marketplace, improvement in the environmental impacts, and increase the number of job vacancies, working and business opportunities for the public.
According to Fong & Shen, (2000), while the construction industry plays the role of being the backbone for the development and stabilization of the economic status of a country, there is the need for implementation of safety culture and safety environment for the construction industry. The construction industry is not only beneficial but also vulnerable and dangerous for the people involved in the industry due to the high rate of risk and danger encompassed in the construction activities. The construction projects are of various kinds, comprising of high-rise or multiple stories buildings or smaller constructions. Irrespective of the size or nature, all of them need specific safety procedures to be incorporated. The safety culture implements an atmosphere of safety and a healthy environment for the people working in the construction business in all spheres. Despite the fact that ensuring the safety of the workers in the construction industry may at times pose a challenge to the management, it is a critically essential element in ensuring the betterment of the construction workers. Since the health and safety of employees and workers are of paramount importance and are the greatest asset for the management of the construction companies as well as the government there is an absolute necessity to take inculcate a safety culture and to institute steps to protect the safety of the workers.
Necessity for Safety Procedures in the Construction Industry
There are a number of reasons necessitating the following of safety procedures in the construction industry. Some of which are:
- to reduce the number of accidents,
- to ensure health and safety of employees while working,
- to meet up the deadlines of projects on time,
- to avoid delays in work,
- to maintain the motivation level of the workers,
- to retain the reputation of the construction company,
- to ensure great teamwork and coordination among workers,
- to survive among the other competitors in the marketplace
Safety culture in the construction industry all over the world has undergone several changes due to the development of good communication skills, motivating leadership strategies, and collation of the workforce of the firms operating in the industry. In the case of Hong Kong, the construction industry also there has been changed in the safety culture though not up to the required levels. The construction industry in Hong Kong is one of the largest industries operating in the country providing employment to more than 300000 workers and professionals. Being a dominant industry in the entire region of Hong Kong among other industries contributing around 23.5% directly to the annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Hong Kong, there is an immense need to safeguard the interests of the people working in the industry. Workers are often apprehended about the future of their families in case some accidents happen to them. In order to make the construction workers more efficient, it becomes critically important that the fear of accidents and the after-effects be removed from their minds. For this purpose, a strong safety culture needs to be evolved in the Hong Kong construction industry.
Significance of the Study
The implementation of a safety culture in the construction industry is an extremely important step for the protection of the safety and health of the employees and workers involved in the construction projects. It not only ensures a safe and healthy environment for the workers but also minimizes the risk of related accidents. Safety environment in the construction industry also ensures a controlled environment, humanistic values, teamwork, participation, empowerment, proper monitoring, and training. The safety culture helps in creating motivation, spirit, enthusiasm, and a sense of responsibility among other workers. In the growing construction industry of Hong Kong that provides for the economic growth of the country and employment to thousands of people, the implementation of a safety culture is of paramount importance. In this context, this study relating to the development of safety culture in the Hong Kong construction industry is of great significance and value as the study attempts to improve the existing knowledge in this area. The study of safety culture followed in the construction industry of Hong Kong is very essential because it is a vast and tremendously growing industry in which hundreds and thousands of people are getting involved every day (Wamuziri, 2006).
This dissertation presents an evaluation, analysis, research, and in-depth knowledge of the safety culture of the construction industry in Hong Kong. Safety culture is an important part of the structure of any organization operating within the construction industry. The safety culture takes into account several mutual organizational behaviors existing within the industry as well. It encompasses the important rules and regulations in force at any point in time, which the firms in the construction industry have to follow with respect to the safety of the workers. The safety culture in the construction industry is just like any other organizational culture, which consists of risk assessment, organizational structure, information sharing, coordination, training, communication, and control aspects. Safety culture helps in reducing the risks involved to the employees’ health and life; and in addition, it increases the safety awareness among all the workers with the help of positive leadership and strategic planning from the management of the organization. Safety precautions and a safer environment are mandatory to be implemented because it helps in minimizing not only the risks involves, but also decreases the delays and absence of the workers in the workforce who get sick or injured in accidents or on-site while doing work on the project sites. Poorly planned safety culture in the construction industry leads to financial, ethical, and legal predicaments along with a bad reputation for the organization.
The main aim of this research is to evaluate and build up a model known as the Safety Culture Leadership Model and to carry out certain hypotheses to assess and test this model. This model would help in the evaluation of the main framework followed by the construction companies that could contribute to the implementation of safety culture in the construction industry of Hong Kong. This model would also eventually maintain the standards and increase the morale of productivity of safety culture in the construction industry.
In order to achieve the aim of the study the following objectives are evolved:
- To study the growth and development of the construction industry in Hong Kong in general and its contribution to the economic development of Hong Kong
- To study the growth and development of safety culture in the Hong Kong construction industry
- To analyze the adequacy and efficiency of the present safety culture in the Hong Kong construction industry
- To present a model for an effective safety culture for the Hong Kong construction industry
- To assess the chances for the development of a conceptual safety culture in the Hong Kong construction industry
- To make an analytical report on the role of the Safety Culture Maturity Model in improving the working conditions in the construction industry of Hong Kong.
The current study attempts to find plausible answers for the following research questions:
- What are the usual framework and current state of safety culture in the construction industry of Hong Kong and the ways in which it can be improved further?
- How do the measures and framework of health and safety contribute towards the safety culture in the construction industry in Hong Kong?
- What are the roles of the workers, supervisors, managers, companies, and government in promoting the safety culture in the construction sector?
Overview of Chapters
In order to make a comprehensive presentation, this dissertation has been structured to have different chapters. The first chapter introduces the topic of study and discusses the aims and objectives, scope, and limitations of the study. In addition, the research questions are also framed in this chapter. The second chapter on literature review provides the reader with detailed information and insight into the main concept of the dissertation by presenting a detailed review of the available literature. It would provide the reader with the definitions, concepts, elements, people involved, working, and safeguard of the safety culture in the construction industry.
Chapter three on research methodology discusses the research methods used and the validity and reliability of the dissertation. The findings of the research and the analysis of the findings are discussed in chapter four. This chapter also highlights the main key points and results of the descriptive statistics found with regard to the main concept and research of the dissertation. Chapter five is the concluding chapter and it contains a few remarks on the issues discussed within the text and some recommendations on improving the safety culture in the construction industry.
Scope of the Study
This dissertation is centering around the safety culture in the construction industry of Hong Kong. Hong Kong is known, as the Hong Kong Administrative region, situated in the south coastal region of China, is one of the two special administrative regions of the People’s Republic of China. It was under the control of the United Kingdom until the date when its sovereignty power was handed over to China in the year 1997. Hong Kong holds the world’s most number of skyscrapers numbering around 6382, which is more than the skyscrapers present in New York City. It is said that among the 18 greatest skyscrapers of the world, 4 are present in Hong Kong. Some of the well-known buildings in Hong Kong are; Two International Finance Centre, I.M. Pei’s Bank of China Tower, International Commerce Centre, Hong Kong International Airport, and there are so many others to be mentioned (Wamuziri, 2006).
The construction industry has become one of the main pillars in restoring the economic state of Hong Kong since the last decade. The government of Hong Kong is working in collaboration with other construction companies to make Hong Kong the “Pearl of the World”. The construction companies have also developed with the help of advanced technologies and have made use of the methods such as reclamation and design-and-build customized methods. The construction industry of Hong Kong has availed the services of so many professionals and workers, which includes hundreds and thousands of surveyors, architects, building service engineers, civil engineers, normal workers, and structural engineers (Chiang et al, 2001). The scope of the current study extends to the study of safety culture in the expanded organizational base of the construction industry in Hong Kong.
This chapter presented the basic understanding and main issues connected with the dissertation. While the chapter introduced the topic of study, it also presented the research objectives and the research questions for the study to work on.
The objective of reviewing the previous literature is to get a deep insight into the main concepts, definitions, ideas, elements related to the safety culture in the construction industry in general. While this section deals with the salient aspects of the safety culture in the construction global industry in general, it also provides in-depth knowledge on the construction industry in Hong Kong and the nature and extent of safety culture present in the industry. This review discusses the general trend of the Hong Kong construction industry, presence and adequacy of safety culture in the Hong Kong construction industry, overall approach and contribution made by the Safety Culture Maturity Model in the Hong Kong construction industry, leadership manner and skills, Chinese construction culture, workers’ culture, and the Safety Culture Leadership model. A study of these concepts and theories would help in evaluating the main research of the dissertation and analyzing the information gathered through the research.
Contribution of Construction Culture
The construction industry in a country can act as the source of energy or fuel for the nation’s economy because it adds directly to the benefit of the economic stabilization of the country (Lange & Mills, 1979). The construction industry normally covers the companies and multinational organizations involved in building projects and buildings in a country. These organizations develop new designs, repair the old constructions, develop and maintain structures for other organizations. It is one of the vastest, vibrant and dynamic segments for the prevention of the country’s image, economy, and reputation among other countries.
The construction industry encompasses the building of schools, housing schemes, houses, hospitals, roads, bridges, apartments, factories, offices, shopping malls, hotels, tunnels, highways, sewers, nuclear power stations, greenhouses, and so many buildings of other types (Ashworth, 2006). The construction business has enlarged over time and has increased to a large extent in the last 15 years. Normally, individuals, organizations, and governments are associated with the industry. It is not limited to a certain group of people but in fact, is a very versatile and dynamic field in which almost everyone could gain their experiences and put effort. The construction industry plays the role of being the industry where it provides shelter, job vacancies, industrial development, production, and services to the people and opens ways for investors to put their money and invest for financial stability and development. Construction companies are also engaged in mechanical, electrical, and carpeting tasks besides the main construction business known to others (Lange & Mills, 1979).
The scope of the construction industry has changed over the last decade and has grabbed the attention and interest of many people. It has increased not only the size but also has become a bit complex for the people dealing in it because the structures and designs of normal construction have been exposed to innovations and developments with the passage of time. The construction industry has a global reputation factor within itself, which also possesses the versatility and dynamic nature for the quality of the work it provides to the people. Despite the glorious dimensions, it remains one of the most dangerous fields in the world because of the high risks and dangers involved with it (Ashworth, 2006).
Contribution Made by the Safety Culture in Construction Industry
The number of injuries, accidents, and deaths has increased tremendously in the construction industry due to the unhealthy environment and unsafe culture. The proliferation of injuries in the construction industry caused not only the monetary loss to the construction companies but also resulted in a bad reputation to the companies and the counties for not following the proper guidelines and safety procedures which should be adopted normally for a safer and healthy working environment (Rowlinson, 2004). This created many problems and hurdles for the companies in respect of time delays, financial loss, lack of workforce, lack of motivation among workers, and a bad reputation for the company. To overcome these problems, the practice of safety culture has become imminent in the construction industry. This would help the companies to wrap up the work and handle their reputation with the help of good safety management systems along with workers’ motivation and business sustainability.
Due to the problems, the lack of safety measures creates, maintaining sustainable safety culture is one of the most mandatory and essential needs of the present age in the construction industry (Berne, 1992). Safety culture in the construction industry describes the required norms, values, beliefs, rules, attitudes, and standards, which are gathered and held in connection with the promotion of safety within an organization. The safety culture of an organization includes the capabilities, attitudes, commitment, management skills, leadership, and communication abilities of the management of the company, while it also contains the proficiency, experience, behavior, training, motivation, and participation of the employees of the company. The management is solely responsible for incorporating, supervising, communicating, committing, and managing the tasks and employees while taking care of the risk, safety, competence, and healthy environment for other employees (Berne, 1992).
Construction companies have to provide safety plans along with the medical facilities on-site with the fire control and rescue teams available, which could take care of any type of emergencies on time. Safety culture incorporation is very much necessary in any construction company because the safety culture in any organization influences its overall performance. With proper safety practices in place, the overall performance of the organization also goes up. The practice of safety in a construction company reveals the actual values, competencies, attitudes, perceptions, and way of thinking of behaviors which helps in determining the working style, proficiency, and commitment of the company for its clients (Berne, 1992).
In spite of the benefits accruing from the construction industry, it is characterized as dirty and hardworking, dangerous, vulnerable, risky, and unreliable because of the lack of safety procedures. This has necessitated the safety culture to become a predominant feature in the construction industry for the companies because it involves the methods to be adopted on work, productivity, loyalty, quality, commitment, satisfaction, motivation, and absenteeism of the employees as well as of the management. Safety culture need in the construction industry underpins the security, social, economic, humanitarian, environmental, and technical interests of the employees, which ensures a sense of security among the workers. It also helps in promoting a safe and healthy environment in the organization (Rowlinson, 2004).
Salient Features of the Safety Culture in Construction Industry
Rahman et al. (2003) identify the salient features of the safety culture in a construction company. While the adoption of a safety culture helps in getting the long-term review of the company’s business strategy, it also provides the new policy development that gives priority to the safety environment prospects in the company. The genuine and committed safety leadership of senior management wisely determines the resources allocation for better safety precautions and promotion and it spreads the sense of hopefulness and confidence among the employees. Safety culture in any organization conveys the communication and safety procedures more frequently to the target audience of the company while promoting safety procedures among all levels of management and employees for their own benefits. The objective of safety culture is to set up realistic, attainable, practical targets along with the performance standards, which provide current information for correct evaluation and promote supportively, democratize, participative, civilized management thinking style, which helps in leading to a sustainable level of management for all the working force involved. Safety culture involves the provision of good safety integrated training that could help in getting better skills, perceptions, and procedural ways adoption for providing better employee relations Rahman et al. (2003).
Positive Influences of Safety Culture on Construction Industry
The positive influences that are directly related to the safety culture in the construction industry for any organization are explained with the help of the following diagram. The diagram shows that almost all facets of an organization are influenced by the safety culture in an organization and this makes the adoption of safety culture vitally important to the industry. The performance of any firm in the construction industry is largely dependent on the effectiveness of the safety culture and procedures existing in the organization. Safety culture boosts the morale of the workforce resulting in increased efficiency contributing to the organizational growth and improvement in profitability. With a proper safety system prevalent, the organization would be able to thrive better in the socio-economic and business environment of the construction industry, which is complex in nature due to the human factor involved. Safety culture makes the workers involved in their work without the fear of him or his family getting affected by any potential danger of accidents or injury resulting from his occupation. This is one of the greatest advantages resulting to the construction firm as this enhances the employee performance.
Safety Culture Maturity Model in Construction Industry
There are certain safety procedures, which are followed by companies in order to follow a safe environment in the organizational structure. These models are made to help the organization to progress and develop with a high revenue generation ratio and better performance shown by the workers and professionals involved. Safety Culture Maturity Model helps the organization in progressing ahead with a high rate of development while taking preventive measures to stop accidents in the working environment by ensuring a safety culture in the employees and workers. The Psychologists based at the Keil Centre in Edinburgh have designed the Safety Culture Maturity Model. The main theme lies in helping the companies in developing their present safety culture environment and in recognizing the actions through which the safety and security environment could be improved. The model also supplies a structured safety culture improvement process to the working environment of the organizational structure.
There are totally five stages of the Safety Culture Maturity Model as depicted in the diagram below:
- Level 1 – Emerging: In this level, safety has been expressed as procedural and technical solutions and regulations agreement. Safety could not be taken as any other fragment of business risk or accidents, which are avoided previously.
- Level 2 – Managing: At this level, safety has been taken as a major risk present in the business commodity. Here, safety is defined with respect to its devotion and loyalty to rules, regulations, and procedures; and accidents are seen as preventive occurrences
- Level 3 – Involving: In this level, accidents are considered to be minimized and are relatively low where the management assumes its frontline workers and professionals are of very importance to be improved. The safety performance is evaluated and monitored effectively
- Level 4 – Proactive: At this level, the managers and employees working in the company identify many reasons and ways, which cause accidents and are the source of any illness or sickness. In this way, organizations are able to carry out proactive measures for implementing proper and effective safety culture
- Level 5 – Continuous Improving: In this level, there is no recorded occurred accident because of the high preventive safety culture adoption. The company enjoys a safe environment for its workers, while the management continuously emphasizes applying the ways through which the safety culture adopted by the company could be improved further.
Elements of Safety Culture Maturity Model
Various elements are present in the Safety Culture Maturity Model. These elements are:
- Rules and procedures,
- Visible commitment of supervisor,
- Organizational learning,
- Visible commitment of management,
- Production pressures,
- Workforce involvement,
- Training and (x) Level of trust.
Safety Culture Maturity Model in the Construction Industry of Hong Kong
The best practice as laid down by the Safety Culture Maturity Model proposes to form certain groups of people and then set the training schedules for the employees. In these training sessions, the participants should be taught specific and important situations where accidents could happen and how they should react to these situations. After completing the training sessions, the trained employees are given cards individually where certain situations are stated inside the cards. The participants must read the situation and then answer appropriately what safety measures should be taken in what kind of situations. This way, every employee could be provided a chance to speak and express himself and could use his mental capabilities better than before.
However, humans still make mistakes as “to err is human”. At times, the employees could neglect the safety precautions while working which cause accidents, sickness, or even serious injuries but it could be handled properly if appropriate measures are taken onsite immediately for the employees. It is because a certain system could only help the person to learn and evaluate what to do in what situations but the system itself cannot fight for the treatment of any type of accident and people should take care of it in practical real life. Safety Culture Maturity Model helps the companies to analyze and evaluate their current state of maturity where the company would recognize the measures to be adopted to enhance performance.
Improving Safety Culture Maturity Model
The Safety Culture Maturity Model helps companies in improving their operations, health, and safe environment by evaluating their current state of safety maturity and helps them improve their safety culture and environment for the betterment of the employees. The cycle through which the safety culture of a company could be improved is shown as under:
This model helps the company to use the different kinds of behavioral tools and safety culture that are developed for the company. The model of Safety Culture Maturity Model is not a new technique for the construction industry in Hong Kong and it helps in linking the current tools and programs together. It also helps in increasing the level of productivity and efficiency among the employees, which raises the level of profit for the company eventually.
Importance of the Contribution of Safety Culture in the Construction Industry
Safety culture in the construction industry has always been a topic that is discussed regularly because of various reasons and its significant importance for the workers, management, and the organizational environment. Implementation of a safe environment in a construction company is the ideal self-regulation and procedural way of adopting proper health and safety ways, which should be present in the company for better outputs and results (Rahman et al, 2003).
Construction companies are always prone to facing accidents and different kinds of troubles all the time. By applying a safety culture in the company, the organization could pay back the investment made by the company in the best and most crucial manner with maximum output and encouraging results. The management should consider the benefits that can be derived from the adoption of a safety culture against the cost of implementation of the safety procedures.
Apart from that, a safety culture also helps in motivating the employees because it makes them believe and understand that the company does care for its workers and they should work with maximum productivity and capacity for the betterment of the company business as well. Moreover, a safety culture helps retain employees’ trust in the company’s management and allows them to work with a free spirit and without any fear (Ashworth, 2006).
Benefits of adopting Safety Culture in the Construction Industry
An organization in the construction industry derives major advantages through the implementation of a safety culture (Ashworth, 2006). The organization gains the confidence and trust level of the workforce and workers can work with efficiency and confidence that they are well protected from accidents or other mishaps. The construction company can maintain a good reputation among other competitors in the marketplace with fewer accidents, sickness, and absenteeism ratios. Adequate facilities would be present for the workers and the construction company can complete its project and given task within the deadline given. The company would know how to work with good leadership, communication, and controlling skills and can acquire know-how of the modern technologies related to the construction field.
Indicators of Good Safety Culture in the Construction Industry
Hughes & Ferrett, (2007) have identified significant indicators, which ensure the presence of a good level of health and safety culture implemented by the construction company and evaluate whether such safety measures are good and encouraging for the management and the employees. These indicators help the company to ensure a positive implementation of the safety procedures in the organizational environment and the presentation of effective and efficient health and safety management system in the company. There will be proper supervision and maintenance of the procedures for effective health and safety management system. Availability of on-time and real-time accident reporting, evaluation, and solution providing system and active monitoring of the set standards for proper safety process and procedure are other indicators of the presence of a good safety culture in the firm. Personal learning from the accidents can take place and proper and strong leadership skills adopted by the management indicate the availability of good safety culture. Proper communication, cooperation, control, and effective staff hierarchy of all the staff levels indicate the practice of good safety culture by the organization (Hughes & Ferrett, 2007).
Problems in Adopting Safety Culture in the Construction Industry
Hughes & Ferrett, (2007) point out the problems associated while adopting the safety culture in construction-oriented companies. Data accuracy gets highly affected because of the less or under-reporting of accidents in the company and the measures are undertaken by the company are affected if they do not differentiate between the ratio of minor and major accidents. The distinction in the performance could be sensed between part-time and full-time employees because of the nature of engagement of the workers. Noteworthy changes and differentiation could happen to the work activities while the durations and periods of work are compared (Hughes & Ferrett, 2007).
Indicators of Poor Contributors of Safety Culture in the Construction Industry
Hughes & Ferrett, (2007) have also identified some significant indicators pointing to the poor safety culture practiced in the construction companies. There will be a high rate of absenteeism, illness, and low profile to health caused by a feeble structure of the safety management of the company. Lack of match between the normal health and safety procedures set by the government board with that of the safety practices practiced by the company and lack of resources for proper implementation of safety culture in the construction company characterize a poor safety culture. Poor management of resources and procedures from the contractor’s side, lack of communication, leadership, cooperation and control from the company side, and high ratio of insurance quality and payment are some other indicators of the existence of poor safety culture in the organization (Hughes & Ferrett, 2007).
Reasons of Failure in the Safety Culture in the Construction Industry
There are several significant reasons that cause failure in the construction industry. These reasons or causes are: (i) Lack of safety management system adopted by the company, (ii) Lack of prevention measures taken for the accidents that already happened in the past, (iii) Poor planning skills and management procedures applied by the company, (iv) Lack of proper communications and leadership skills from the management side and (v) Poor health and safety culture implementation.
Establishing Safety Culture in Construction Industry
Davies and Tomasin (1990) indicate that the risk of fatality in the construction industry is five times more than in any manufacturing industry. Considering this fact the safety performance of the construction industry has seen many improvements. There is increased recognition of health and safety as an important business performance aspect (Myers, 2003; Wilson and Koehn, 2000). Many researchers have addressed the factors causing accidents in construction sites. According to Toole (2002) lack of proper training, deficiency in the enforcement of safety aspects, lack of proper safety equipment, poor attitude towards safety requirements and regulations, and sudden deviation from the prescribed standards are some of the causes for accidents in the construction sites. Researches also point out that falls, struck-by incidents, caught-in-between incidents, and electrocutions are some of the main causes of fatalities. Unsafe behavior is the most significant factor in causing construction site accidents (Dester & Blockley, 1995; Sawacha et al, 1999). Accidents in construction sites cause great economic loss to the organization. Everett and Frank (1996) identified the costs of accidents to be between 7.9% to 15% f the total cost of non-residential new constructions.
Coble & Hinze, (2000) the cost of insurance for compensating the workers involved in accidents amounts to 3.5% of the total project costs. Kartam, (1997) points out accidents in construction sites, cause loss of productivity and reputation of the firms besides the tragedy and economic losses. De-motivated construction workers, delay in the progress of the project, costs and time involved in training the workforce for replacement of lost workers, and damages to equipment are some of the examples of losses due to lack of safety culture. Hinze et al, (2006) out of the study of worker injuries found that accidents in the worksites cause serious bodily injuries to the workforce.
There are new technological improvements in the safety aspects of the construction industry. For instance, Oloufa et al, (2003) have developed and implemented new technologies for vehicle tracking and collision detection. Many researchers have addressed the importance of training in improving safety aspects in the construction industry (Huang & Hinze, 2006; Asokan & Hadikusumo, 2008). Effective training of the workers ensures improvement in site safety performance (Hislop, 1991; Tam et al, 2004). Zeng et al, (2008) have observed that some of the accidents like falling from heights and being hit by falling materials could be prevented easily by imparting the necessary training to the employees. Dingsdag et al, (2008) identified training as an essential requirement for safety performance. Studies have identified a close association between individual safety behavior and safety performance (Tarrants, 1980; Sawacha et al 1999). Effective training will lead to a considerable reduction in the unsafe behavior of the employees. Fang et al, (2006) state workers with good knowledge on safety have a more positive climate as compared to people having poor safety knowledge.
Reviewing Leadership in Hong Kong Construction Industry
Leadership is very crucial and of great importance in the construction industry of Hong Kong. It includes the people, the supervisors, the management, and the tactics through which the management and the managers take control of their working staff successfully. Good leadership in the construction industry not only manages the entire staff but also enhances the productivity of the company by providing the projects on time. Well-managed leadership not only provides the company with on-time complete projects, but it also improves the overall performance, and productivity of the company by making it competitive enough against other construction companies present in the Hong Kong marketplace. It also helps the leaders to understand the needs of the workers while managing them with a friendly gesture.
Chinese Culture of Construction Industry
The Chinese culture of the construction industry has a great influence on the construction industry of Hong Kong. In recent years, the Chinese people have made larger development in almost all the areas of expertise, which includes construction as well. This has made the construction industry culture of China tremendously grow to achieve a competitive edge among other construction companies in the world. The Chinese government has taken a lot of effort by helping the construction industry and designing new regulations for their ease. It is estimated that the Chinese construction industry would grow by 9.7% annually by the end of the year 2010 because of its diversity and determination. This would not only improve the economic conditions of China but would also improve the living standards of the people involved in the industry. Therefore, the Chinese culture of the construction industry has a great influence on the construction industry of Hong Kong.
Workers’ Culture of Hong Kong Construction Industry
The working culture in the Hong Kong construction industry is quite different from other countries’ construction industries to some extent. Workers in the Hong Kong construction industry take the role of either an outsourced worker or subcontracted employee. The workers of the Hong Kong construction industry usually have huge families to support and each worker works day and night to support his family with food, education, normal living standards.
However, this proves that each employee working in the construction industry of Hong Kong might be the sole head of his family. Therefore, it eventually becomes very important for him to follow the safety culture on site while working. Nonetheless, the workers’ culture of the Hong Kong construction industry is not so overwhelming because apart from all the developments made by Hong Kong in the construction sector, there is still enough room for safety culture rules and regulations to be implemented for the more secure and sound working environment of the employees.
However, implementation of safety culture is of extreme importance for the construction industry of Hong Kong, but there is another conceptual approach available, which could help the construction industry to grow with immense development and productivity. This conceptual approach is known as the Safety Culture Leadership Model, which is derived from a combination of the construction industry culture, leadership capabilities, workers culture, managerial grid, and finally the safety culture being followed by the entire system. This approach is said to be more beneficial and suitable for the construction industries to adopt and implement.
All these concepts get together to form a perfect blend to form the Safety Culture Leadership Model. This model makes use of the finest qualities possessed by the managers, supervisors, and management of the construction company where they are united and are giving the best of their services not only to the client companies but also to the workers by following the managerial grid and implementing the safety culture maturity model in the organizational structure.
The leadership capabilities used in this model comprise characteristics used in the Black Mouton Managerial Grid, such as; the Parish Leadership, Country Club Safety Leadership, Impoverished Leadership, Middle-of-the-Road Leadership, and Team Leadership. All these leadership styles help the construction managers to apply the best suitable style needed on the spot and use it on all possible occasions. This model helps the managers of the construction company to improve their leadership knowledge and skills by utilizing the best possible leadership style and providing the workers with the requirements of works with respect to a safe environment for onsite projects. The workers who are involved in this model with the construction companies are of different nature and classes, such as; site agent, technician, foreman, or general worker.
Good use of the Safety Culture Leadership model helps the company not only to provide their projects on time to the client companies but also improves the overall performance, productivity, and motivation in the workers’ community.
The Safety Culture Leadership Model can be expressed in pictorial form as under:
Comparison of Safety Culture Maturity Model and Safety Culture Leadership Model
Both the Safety culture maturity model and the Safety culture leadership model have some similarities. Still, there are some differences in their working environment, working tactics, and resultant outcomes.
Safety Culture Maturity Model improves the overall performance of any organization that is directly related and influenced by its culture. Proper safety and security practices also enhance the overall organizational performance. The practice of safety in a construction company reveals the actual values, competencies, attitudes, perceptions, and way of thinking of behaviors which helps in determining the working style, proficiency, and commitment of the company for its clients. It also helps in promoting a safe and healthy environment in the organization (Rowlinson, 2004). Safety Culture Maturity Model is one such example of those models, which help the company in progressing ahead with the high rate of development while taking measures to prevent accidents in the working environment by ensuring safety culture for the employees and workers. However, there are certain limitations faced by this safety model due to the lack of resources, the interest of the management, lack of knowledge possessed by the employees, and lack of safety culture practiced by many companies in Hong Kong.
Safety culture practice and implementation are of crucial importance in the Hong Kong construction industry, where the safety of a large number of workers is involved. Safety Culture Leadership Model is another safety model derived from a combination of the construction industry culture, leadership capabilities, workers culture, managerial grid, and finally the safety culture being followed by the entire system. This conceptual model is a perfect blend of all the safety culture environments, which includes the management skills, leadership skills, Chinese culture, construction companies culture, workers’ culture, and their association along with the supervising techniques followed by the Black Mouton Managerial Grid.
Strengths and Weaknesses of Safety Culture Maturity Model
There is some strength identified to be possessed by the safety culture maturity model. This model is supportive and useful for the construction industry of Hong Kong. The Safety Culture Maturity Model helps the companies in improving the overall performance of the construction companies. It also emphasizes incorporating, supervising, communicating, committing, and managing the tasks and employees while taking care of the risk, safety, competence, and healthy environment for other employees. The safety culture maturity model helps the construction companies in foreseeing the future development and position of the company in the marketplace.
However, the weaknesses involved with the safety culture maturity model is that it does not emphasize very much the leadership capabilities of the management and supervisors of the construction company which as a result, creates a communication gap among the working staff and the upper management of the company. Apart from that, the safety culture implementation is not practiced in its complete form in the construction environment, which creates unsafe, vulnerability, and risks for the workers on site.
Strengths and Weaknesses of Safety Culture Leadership Model
Safety Culture Leadership Model has its own strengths. According to the working of this model, it helps in determining the long-term review of the company’s standing in the marketplace. It also helps the construction companies in proper management of the workers through perfect leadership skills, which ultimately helps in better work development and workers’ communication. The safety culture leadership model is stronger than the safety culture maturity model because it highlights the points, which are left and neglected before.
The genuine and committed safety leadership of senior management enables the management to determine the resources allocation wisely for better safety precautions and promotion. It also promotes safety procedures among all levels of management and employees for their own benefit. The safety culture leadership model promotes a supportive, democratized, participative, civilized management thinking style, which helps in leading to a sustainable level of management for all the working force.
The weaknesses attached to this model are few, such as; high level of costs involved in the implementation of the entire safety implementation procedure.
The safety culture in the construction industry is the utmost important aspect, which is very crucial to be applied in every construction company because it helps in working more efficiently, retains the reputation of the company while giving employees their space to work with freedom and motivation gesture. This section has outlined and discussed the main concepts, principles, definitions, benefits, and all the other information, which should be known for ensuring proper health and safety culture in the construction companies.
The objective of this chapter is to present a detailed description of the salient aspects of different social research methods more commonly employed and their relative merits and demerits. This chapter also presents a discussion on the justification for the research methods used to complete this study.
In general, social science uses a number of different research methods for improving the knowledge, theory, and practice in different areas of social science. It can be observed that the different types of quantitative and qualitative research methods are linked to epistemological and theoretical frameworks. The research methods can be grouped under five common categories. They are; (i) experimental, (ii) correlation, (iii) natural observation, (iv) survey and (v) case study. The conducting of any research relating to social sciences has to find a suitable research method to accomplish the research objectives. The choice of the particular research method depends on the topic under study and the aims and objectives of the research. Although there are many ways of classifying the research methods the most popularly used distinction is between qualitative and quantitative research methods.
Quantitative Research Methods
Quantitative research methods find their origin in natural sciences where they are used to diagnose and analyze natural phenomena. Certain commonly adopted quantitative methods include survey methods, laboratory experiments, econometrics, and mathematical modeling. According to White, (2000) the quantitative research method consists of an investigative process that leads to research conclusions expressed in numerical values. The numerical values represent the findings of the study and the values are subjected to statistical analysis for presenting the results of the study.
Qualitative Research Methods
The main objective of developing qualitative research methods is to enable the researchers to make an in-depth study into the social and cultural phenomena. Action research, case study, ethnography are some of the techniques employed for conducting qualitative research. Creswel, (1994) defines qualitative research as a process of inquiry that involves understanding any problem connected with social or human behavior. The qualitative research process according to Creswell (1994) is based on the views and perceptions of various informants being the participants to the study that are expressed in a natural setting. The data sources for supplementing qualitative research methods include observation and participant observation (fieldwork), structured and semi-structured interviews, focus groups and questionnaires, documents, and texts. The data may also be provided by the impressions and reactions of the researcher himself/herself.
Rationale to Use Qualitative Research Methods
The motivation for engaging qualitative methods in preference to quantitative methods stems from the fact that human beings possess the special quality of talking which distinguishes mankind. It is the qualitative research methods, which enable the researchers to understand the people from the social and cultural contexts within which they are expected to, act. According to Kaplan & Maxwell, (1994) when an attempt is made to quantify the textual data collected, it distracts the goal of understanding the phenomenon under study from the perspectives of the participants and its social and institutional setting.
Although most researchers use qualitative or quantitative methods, authors like, Gable (1994), Kaplan & Duchon, (1988), Lee, (1991) Mingers, (2001) and Ragin, (1987) suggest the use of a mixed-method. The term ‘triangulation’ implies combining one or more research methods in one study. For the purpose of the current study, a mixed-method has been used where the quantitative and qualitative research methods have been employed to get the advantages of both the research methods.
Techniques for Data Collection
Each of the research methods adopted uses one or more techniques for the collection of the required empirical data. The word ‘empirical materials’ is considered more appropriate by qualitative researchers as most of the qualitative data is non-numeric. The techniques adopted for the collection of empirical materials range from interviews, focus groups, observational techniques including participant observation and fieldwork. The written data is collected from published and unpublished documents, reports, newspaper articles, publications in professional journals, and so on.
It is observed as a common practice in anthropology and sociology to distinguish between sources of data as primary and secondary sources. In general, primary sources comprise of those data, which the researcher has collected originally from the people or organizations directly and which remain unpublished, while secondary sources of data are represented by any print materials like books, articles, etc which have been published previously. (Walliman, (2005) defines primary sources as the ones that are usually direct and detached wherefrom the information and data are gathered. Saunders et al, (2003) feel that the secondary data possess greater value since a number of sources are being used for the collection of data. However, Walliman (2005) considers the secondary data as having a shortcoming in which the reliability of such data is always questionable. He further states that since the secondary data are passed on through several hands there is the possibility that such data might contain errors that can vitiate the results of the study and disturb the focus and direction of the research. Authors like (Denzin & Lincoln, (2005), Miles & Huberman, (1994) Rubin & Rubin, (1995) have contributed a great deal to the qualitative techniques of data collection. Silverman, (1993) and Myers & Newmann, (2007) have evolved definite guidelines for conducting qualitative interviews based on a dramaturgical model.
Choice of Research Methods for Current Study
Considering the nature of the topic under study, it is proposed to use a mixed research method for achieving the objectives of this research. The research employed a combination of quantitative research methods of survey and face-to-face interviews and secondary research methods to draw the necessary information and data from various secondary sources like journal articles and other professional publications. The research was carried out among 40 construction workers in Hong Kong by conducting face-to-face interviews and handing out the survey questionnaire at the time of the interview. The survey questionnaire (see Appendix 1) was structured to contain open-ended questions. The questionnaire was divided into two parts with part 1 covering the demographic details of the worker and part 2 with the safety practices in the construction projects, factors causing accidents in worksites, workers’ knowledge about the safety procedures. The interviews lasted for about one hour with each of the participants. There were no set criteria for selecting the worker for the survey. The companies they have been working for were located in the Kowloon area and in Hong Kong.
The survey method is deemed as non-experimental and descriptive in conducting social researches. This method is being employed by the researchers for the collection of information and data on issues where the researchers cannot involve themselves directly. The survey method employs the use of a questionnaire for the collection of the required information. This method is criticized, as it is often being designed and administered in a disorderly manner that results in the collection of data, which are inaccurate. Meyer, (1998) observes a careful selection of representative sampling and a proper design of the questionnaire are two important elements of the survey method. A poorly designed questionnaire may generate meaningless information. Thus, the information and data collected from the samples represent the views of the total population and therefore the information needs to be gathered through intelligent questions addressed to the chosen samples (Cresswell 1994; Neumann 2002; Fink 1995)
A semi-structured interview is the most common form of interviewing technique in which the interviewer has determined the set of questions he/she intends to ask in advance but still allows the interview to flow more conversationally. In order to have the flow of conversation, the interviewer can change the order of the questions or the particular wording of the questions. The main objective of the semi-structured interview is to get the interviewee to talk freely and openly so that the researcher would be able to obtain in-depth information on the topic under study.
By employing the survey method and secondary research this study has reported on the practices of safety culture in the Hong Kong construction industry. The findings of the study and a detailed analysis of the findings are presented in the next chapter.
Findings and Analysis
The objective of this section is to present the findings from the research and an analysis of the findings of the research. The findings out of the secondary research also form part of this chapter. The questions presented to the workers also covered the importance of training and the kind of training programs they received for maintaining safety in the construction sites. The questions also covered the precautions to be taken in the sites for health and safety aspects. The details of the finding are presented below:
Findings out of Secondary Research
The major findings out of the secondary research conducted have been discussed in the review of the related literature in chapter two. As pointed out by advanced research and many of the case studies, safety culture has contributed to a number of developments in the construction industry of Hong Kong. These developments include such as the implementation of safety culture or safety training for workers reduces the risk of accidents, sickness, and deaths because it spreads the awareness and techniques to keep one away from such disastrous events and happenings. Moreover, the proper implementation of health and safety culture in the construction industry of Hong Kong helps a lot to build a good relationship of employees with the management. Creation of motivation among the employees due to the care taken by their management on their safety, helping in leading good leadership management, and developing the trust of employees towards the company’s top management are some of the other benefits out of the implementation of safety procedures (Mak, 2000).
The following graphs indicate the gravity of the situation of the necessity to implement the safety culture in the construction industry in Hong Kong. The number of occupational injuries faced by Hong Kong from 1997 until 2007 has been showing as under:
In Hong Kong, the industrial accidents statistics is shown as under from 1997-2007:
The construction accidents statistics in Hong Kong from 1997 until 2007 is shown as:
Findings on Safety Behavior and Safety Training
As the study centered around the safety culture of the organizations in the Hong Kong construction industry the secondary research was extended to the aspects of safety behavior and safety training among the construction workers. Secondary research in this area led to some interesting findings. Langford et al, (2000) have identified the critical factors that have an impact on the attitudes of construction workers towards safety behavior in the construction locations. The study concluded the necessity for the training of the operatives and the supervisors for inculcating the safety awareness among the workers, and for improving upon their performance. It has also been observed that an increase in safety knowledge and competence level of the employees increases their performance in the area of construction safety. In order to maintain the safety standards, it is imperative that the organizations maintain and update the skills and knowledge of the workers by imparting necessary training to them and they should maintain effective onsite communication with the employees (Langford et al 2000).
Findley et al, (2004) have observed apart from reducing construction site accidents, employee training may also help in minimizing the project delays and damage to the reputation of the organization. Lack of triaging on safety aspects has been considered one of the major causes of construction site accidents (Gervais, 2003). Therefore, it is the finding of this study that safety training and knowledge on safety aspects of the construction workers are some of the critical issues for improving the performance of the firms in the construction industry in Hong Kong. This study, therefore, aims to contribute to the existing knowledge on the safety culture of the construction industry in Hong Kong by investigating the safety and health practices of the firms in the Hong Kong construction industry. The opinions and views of the construction workers about the health and safety practices in the Hong Kong construction industry have also been studied through the survey/interview with the chosen construction industry workers.
Findings and Analysis of the Survey/Interview
There were 40 workers from different construction companies who participated in the survey/interview that included twelve unskilled (30%) and twenty-eight skilled workers (70%). Six of the forty workers surveyed did not have any educational background, twelve of them had completed primary school education, nine of them had education up to middle school level and 13 of the respondents completed the school degree. A majority of 82% of the workers who participated in the survey had experience ranging from six to eight years in the construction industry and 3out of the 40 people had experience of less than one year in the construction industry.
Since the research has the central objective of finding out the safety culture in the Hong Kong construction industry the participants were asked to mention the kind of safety training they have received in the past. According to the responses received 31 out of 40 workers representing 77.5% never received any training in the safety aspects of the construction industry. The remaining nine workers responded that they had participated in safety training programs conducted by their respective organizations and some outside specialized agencies. The survey revealed that only 4 out of 40 people could get professional safety training provided by their companies. Three of the participants informed the researcher that though there were no formal training programs conducted by the respective companies they were given informal briefings on the safety standards and practices to be followed while working onsite. Therefore, it became known out of the survey that there is a complete lack of safety training that can lead to better safety culture in the construction firms in Hong Kong.
Workers who participated in the survey were asked to express their opinions about the precautions taken in the construction sites regarding the safety aspects relating to various kinds of construction works. 27out of 40 workers surveyed were of the opinion that the safety and health practices have improved over the period and in their opinion are found to be sufficient to meet the exigencies in the construction sites. However, 20 workers interviewed felt that without proper training in the safety measures the precautions advised by the companies would become meaningless. Such a situation would definitely lead to unsafe behavior of workers onsite and would lead to major accidents.
More than 60% of the participants have experienced accidents of some kind or other in the construction sites while they work. The experiences and the causes of the accidents are presented in the following table. The research has identified falls as the main cause of accidents in the construction sites as experienced by the respondents. Seven of the participants informed the accidents they witnessed have resulted in serious injuries and loss of jobs for the people involved in the accidents. Some other interviewees informed that although the accidents they witnessed resulted in minor accidents, they could observe a significant reduction in employee motivation and efficiency immediately after the accidents.
Table: Cause of Accidents in Construction Sites
|Cause of Accidents as observed by the Respondents||Percentage|
|Fall of employee from high rise construction||24%|
|Fall of employee from support structures||36%|
|Injuries due to falling objects||12%|
|Lacerations by sharp objects||16%|
|Electrical accidents and shocks||8%|
|Use of faulty and defective machineries and equipments||4%|
As observed by the respondents, the majority of the accidents witnessed by them or their colleagues were due to falls either from higher constructions or from the supporting structures. The other causes were also identified as reported by each one of them.
One other objective of the current study is to find out the views of the construction workers about the factors responsible for causing accidents in the construction sites. Workers who participated in the survey have identified five major causes of accidents at the sites. The following table exhibits the factors as observed by the respondents. This study observes that the factors identified by the respondents to the survey are similar to those found out of the research conducted by Abdelhamid & Everett, (2000) and Toole (2000). Lack of proper attitude towards safety was found to be the major factor that causes accidents in the construction sites and this result can be correlated with the finding of Sawacha et al (1999) who reported that unsafe behavior is the most important factor that causes accidents in the construction industry. Poor safety conditions and lack of training on safety aspects to the workers are the next important factors found by the survey to be responsible for causing accidents in the construction sites. Defective materials and equipment, and lack of safety devices also contribute to the happening of construction site accidents. The respondents to the survey expressed the opinion that Workers indulge in unsafe acts due to a lack of proper attitude to the safety requirements in the construction sites.
Factors Responsible for Construction Site Accidents
|Factors as observed by the Respondents||Percentage|
|Lack of proper attitude towards safety requirements||32%|
|Unsafe working conditions at the site||25%|
|Lack of knowledge and training on safety aspects||21%|
|Use of defective and substandard materials and equipments||16%|
|Lack of safety provisions and equipments||6%|
Another objective of this study is to assess whether having proper and adequate knowledge about safety procedures will provide the chances for preventing a number of accidents in construction sites. This question was presented to respondents to express their knowledge of the safety practices being followed by their respective companies. 60% of the respondents (24 out of 40 respondents) expressed that they do not have adequate knowledge about safety practices. The respondents also indicated there is a need for educating the workers about the safety aspects in the construction sites. The respondents also suggested that the training should encompass the professional aspects of the jobs the workers are handling.
Research Questions Answered
What are the usual framework and current state of safety culture in the construction industry of Hong Kong and how it can be improved further?
The present status of safety culture in Hong Kong though shows improvements over the period, is in a state where more developments are still possible. As revealed by the survey results knowledge and awareness of the safety procedures at the worker level about the safety hazards at the construction site and ways to improve personal safety is lacking now. This indicates that the education and training of the workers are vitally important from the safety point of view. It is the view of the respondents that the training should cover the key aspects of professional knowledge on the health and safety procedures associated with the respective occupations of the workers concerned.
How do the measures and framework of health and safety contribute towards the safety culture in the construction industry in Hong Kong?
The measures and framework cover the provision of adequate training to the workers of the construction industry so that the workers become knowledgeable on the safety requirements and regulations to ensure their personal safety at the construction sites. These measures ensure the safety and health of the construction workers by enabling them to make proper use of safety-related equipment and procedures. The workers get the awareness of the benefits of carrying out safe behavior. The managers and supervisors are made aware of the group social norms for safe behavior among the workers and they can insist on the workers practicing the safety procedures.
What are the roles of the workers, supervisors, managers, companies, and government in promoting the safety culture in the construction sector?
In the model proposed by this study training on skill and knowledge at all levels is prescribed to increase the awareness of safety and health aspects and therefore the workers, supervisors, managers, and companies have their individual roles to play to ensure the model works successfully. The workers should first develop a safe behavior attitude so that they will be able to look at the practice of safety culture with interest and devotion. They should realize after all, that their personal safety is of paramount importance. The supervisors have the responsibility to ensure that the workers follow the prescribed safety procedures without fail and according to the safety standards. The managers have a responsibility to identify the areas where training is required and should include the technical and professional aspects of safety included in the training. They have also to oversee that there are adequate and appropriate safety equipment and tools in place to protect the safety and health of the workers. The companies should ensure that it takes into account all the risks associated with construction-related accidents are assessed properly and necessary precautionary measures are taken to ensure that the safety procedures and safety culture is developed properly within the organization. On the part of the government, it should take into account the safety requirements of construction companies and formulate the required regulations to ensure that the organizations are made to adopt the safety culture with the maximum intensity.
Safety Culture Model
The current study prescribes a safety culture model that suggests the formation of a ‘Safety Committee’ for the implementation of a proper and appropriate safety culture within the construction organizations. This committee will consist of members of workers, foremen, supervisors, contractors, and senior executives of the company. The functions of this committee are:
- To ensure that adequate safety procedures are prescribed and followed by the workers at all levels and departments
- To study the training requirements with respect to the safety and health of workers in the company, and to suggest suitable training programs; the committee will recommend professional and technical requirements for the training programs.
- The committee will periodically check the construction sites and implement changes wherever required by informing the top management
- The committee will ensure that the company meets all the mandatory requirements according to the current regulations in practice
- The committee will make a peer review of the safety culture being adopted by other companies in the industry and improve the safety conditions in the company
The committee will meet periodically and make its report to the top management of the company with its recommendations for improving the safety culture within the organization.
This chapter outlined the findings of the research and made an analysis of the findings to indicate that knowledge and training on the safety aspects are vital for promoting safety in the construction industry. This chapter also presented a safety culture model for the consideration of the construction companies.
Conclusion and Recommendations
This chapter consists of some concluding remarks as a recap of the issues discussed within the text and a few recommendations for improving the safety culture in the construction industry in Hong Kong. This study strives to explain that safety culture measures can provide the industry players a large amount of information on the various elements of the safety system, which were previously un-measurable and beyond the comprehension of the people connected with the industry at all levels. With a possible partnership between the management and workers, there is the likelihood that positive safety culture can be established in the organizations.
This study observed that the safety culture of the organization could be explored by the questionnaire survey and interview with the workers of the construction industry. The study also revealed the human factors involved in the safety culture could be understood in a precise and understandable manner. The results of the research have made a clear observation that training of the workers about the safety aspects and adoption of proper and appropriate safety culture would result in positive improvements in the safety standards in the construction firms and would also prevent the occurrences of accidents in the construction sites. The findings gave invaluable information to the management of construction organizations and construction industry “safety practitioners” on the proper direction of cultivating a safety culture in the construction industry of Hong Kong.
The analysis of the results of the survey conducted under this study reveals that the construction workers have no professional training or knowledge in the safety aspects of the construction. The results of the study can be summarized as below:
- There is a clear lack of safety training programs in a majority of organizations in the Hong Kong construction industry and most of the organizations make use of informal briefings to workers to ensure the safety and health of the workers.
- Most of the construction workers have experienced some kind of onsite accidents in the past and it is observed that falls from high-rise construction or support structures are the main cause of accidents.
- Lack of proper attitude towards safety aspects and unsafe working conditions in construction sites is the main factor responsible for causing accidents in the construction industry.
- Inadequate knowledge and skills to prevent accidents and ensure safety standards are other important factors that lead to the occurrence of accidents in construction sites.
- A majority of the construction workers do not possess adequate knowledge about safety and health practices.
There were certain limitations faced by the researcher while conducting the research and compiling this report based on the results of the research. First, this study relied on secondary resources for the literature review part and the study may be biased to this extent. Secondly, the researcher had to spend considerable time explaining the purpose of the interview and getting proper presentable responses from the respondents to the survey. Due to their poor educational background, the participants were not in a position to understand the implications of the study and the use of the information they provided. This was a serious limitation to the study.
The research conducted by the study may not be considered an extensive one and with the number of samples studied, there is a chance that the results may be biased. However, a comparison of the results of the survey with the literature endorses the reliability and validity of the research.
Based on the results of the survey it seems that the companies in the construction industry of Hong Kong have to concentrate more on formal training of the employees to ensure the development of sound safety culture in their respective organizations. In order to minimize the number of occurrences of accidents in construction sites, the companies can interact with the workers and find out their opinions and views on the safety and health aspects from a practical perspective. This would also help the management to assess the safety behavior of the employees and enable the management to take corrective actions wherever necessary. This action from the management will ensure a drastic improvement in the employee attitude towards practicing the safety culture within the organization. Another important area that needs the attention of the management of the companies is to have a relook into their construction sites and control them regularly to prevent the happening of accidents in the sites. The companies may form safety committees comprising of members from workers, supervisors, and managers to periodically look into the areas of safety and health needs and suggest improvements to the existing procedures and practices.
The findings of the current study should be taken into account with caution as the study was conducted with a limited number of samples, which may not represent the bulk of the population. However, the results of the study have given a general direction of the safety culture in the Hong Kong construction industry. Further researches may be directed with more number samples and in specific areas of concern like the factors that are responsible for accidents or the cause of accidents.
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- Educational Qualification:_______________________
- Experience in the construction Industry (No of years):_____________________
Questions on Safety Aspects of Construction Industry
- What are the importance and benefits of the safety culture in the construction industry in Hong Kong
- What do you know about the advancements adapted by the construction industries
- How do you prefer their working
- What are the measures which should be taken in the construction industry through which the safety culture could be checked properly
- Do you have any experience of accidents in the construction sites? If yes, what was the cause of such accident/s?
- What factors, according to you will lead to accidents in the construction sites?
- Do you have necessary training in the safety aspects/procedures for working in the construction sites? Does your company provide you any formal training in this respect
- What are the measures which could contribute towards the safety culture in the construction industry in Hong Kong
- What is the check-up procedure through which safety culture in the construction industry of Hong Kong could be understood and critically analyzed
- How the frameworks of health and safety culture of construction industry in Hong Kong works effectively improve the safety conditions?
- How does behavioural aspects of employees working in a safe safety culture changes the state of work?
- Does high level of management involvement is seen being incorporated into safety of the construction industry.
- What according to you are the drawbacks of not letting incorporated the safety culture in the construction industry for the employees
- What do you know about the construction industry of Hong Kong
- What developments according to you has Hong Kong government made with respect to construction industry safety
- What do you know about the safety culture followed by the construction industries in Hong Kong
- What level of interest is shown by the companies and governments with respect to the safety culture n construction industry
- Why is safety culture important to be followed by the construction industries
- What response does the employees show in a well secured and safe construction environment
- What are the rules regulations and basic role of the government for the maintenance of safety culture in the construction industry
- How can the safety behaviour could be influenced by the supervisors and managers in the working environment
- How the safety behaviour and performance could be further improved