Safety management in construction is complicated due to the complex “nature” of the construction industry. The aim of this research was to identify safety management factors (e.g., risk management and site management), contextual factors (e.g., organisational complexity) and combinations of such factors connected to safety performance. Method: Twelve construction projects were selected to compare their safety management and safety performance. An analytical framework was developed based on previous research, regulations, and standards where each management factor was defined. We employed qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) to produce case knowledge, compare the cases, and identify connections between the factors and safety performance. The material collected and analyzed included, for example, construction planning documents, reports from OHS-inspections, safety indicators, and interviews with project leaders and OHS experts. Results and conclusions: The research showed that: (a) the average score on 12 safety management factors was higher among projects with high safety performance compared to projects with low safety performance; (b) high safety performance can be achieved with both high and low construction complexity and organizational complexity, but these factors complicate coordination of actors and operations; (c) it is possible to achieve high safety performance despite relatively poor performance on many safety management factors; (d) eight safety management factors were found to be “necessary” for high safety performance, namely roles and responsibilities, project management, OHS management and integration, safety climate, learning, site management, staff management, and operative risk management. Site management, operative risk management, and staff management were the three factors most strongly connected to safety performance. Practical implications: Construction stakeholders should understand that the ability to achieve high safety performance in construction projects is connected to key safety management factors, contextual factors, and combinations of such factors.
The construction industry in Europe (EU-28) had the highest share of fatal occupational accidents in 2015, with more than one in five accidents (Eurostat, 2018). Safety management in construction is demanding, since construction projects are technologically and organizationally complex (Lingard, 2013).
Previous research on the effectiveness of occupational health and safety management (OHSM) on safety performance is ambiguous, and the importance of different factors are debated (Zwetsloot, 2013). There is little research on the effect of safety management systems and programs on safety performance in construction. There is, however, some research that has identified factors potentially connected to safety performance in construction, for example management commitment (Loushine, Hoonakker, Carayon, & Smith, 2006), subcontractor selection and management (Hallowell & Gambatese, 2009), worker involvement (Chen & Jin, 2012), interrelations between various project partners (Terwel & Jansen, 2014), site-specific safety plans (Hallowell & Calhoun, 2011), and safety culture (Choudhry, Fang, & Mohamed, 2007).
The aim of this research is to identify how safety management factors, contextual factors, and combinations of such factors influence safety performance. To do that, we (a) developed an analytical framework iteratively based on relevant literature and empirical results; (b) analyzed documents (e.g., health and safety plans, inspection reports), safety indicators, and interviewed project leaders and OHS inspectors from 12 construction projects; and (c) assessed factors and combinations of factors connected to safety performance employing Qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) (Ragin, 1987, Ragin, 2008, 2008). The study was performed in cooperation with Statsbygg, a Norwegian government client organization who build and rehabilitate public buildings.
Construction contractors have traditionally been held responsible for OHS on construction sites (Lingard & Rowlinson, 2005). In 1992, the EU Construction Sites Directive (92/57/EEC) (European European Commission, 1992, European Commission, 2011) put heavy responsibility for OHS on the client. The motivation for the directive was the recognition that many occupational accidents had been attributed to unsatisfactory architectural and/or organizational options, poor planning, and inadequate co-ordination (Berger, 2000). Clients can play a positive role in safety management during construction projects (Huang and Hinze, 2006, Lingard et al., 2018, Spangenberg, 2010). This paper focuses on safety management in construction projects primarily from a client’s perspective.
Literature on safety management
Safety management can be defined as “the process to realize certain safety functions,” and a safety management system (SMS) is commonly defined as “… the management procedures, elements and activities that aim to improve the safety performance of and within an organization” (Li & Guldenmund, 2018, p. 96). An occupational health and safety management system (OHSMS) is defined as “A set of interrelated or interacting elements to establish OSH policy and objectives, and to achieve those
In qualitative comparative analysis (QCA), explanatory models are developed in an iterative manner to facilitate a dialogue between theory and evidence as described by Ragin (2014). The analytical framework (Table 1) was therefore developed in an iterative manner and employed for measuring and comparing safety performance and safety management in 12 construction projects.
A preliminary framework was developed based on previous research, regulations, and standards. Important sources were: (1) The
General characteristics of the projects
We do not present detailed information about the cases, and the projects are anonymized for reasons of sensitivity regarding the companies and persons involved. The buildings were museums and university buildings, mostly new buildings and rehabilitations of old buildings. Some projects also included groundworks and demolition. The number of working hours varied from some 17,000 to 1,150,000, with an average of 305,000.
Employing qualitative comparative analysis (QCA)
The results of the calibration of the outcome and the conditions (factors)
Discussion and conclusion
The aim of this research was to identify how safety management factors, contextual factors, and combinations of factors influence safety performance.
Declaration of Competing Interest
The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.
This study is a part of a research project about construction safety funded by the Research Council of Norway and the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority. The funding sources had no involvement in study design, in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data, in the writing of the report, and in the decision to submit the article for publication. Study’s content, conclusions, and the opinions expressed are those of the authors alone. The authors are grateful to Statsbygg and Tanja
Stig Winge is a PhD-student in safety management at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. He is involved in research on accidents and safety management. He also works for the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority.