Date of Award
Edith Cowan University
Doctor of Philosophy (Integrated)
School of Medical and Health Sciences
Workplace fatalities continue to occur within the Australian construction industry at an unacceptably high rate. Most fatalities can be attributed to worker exposure to fatal energies while conducting high risk tasks in a dynamic work environment. Construction fatalities are usually single fatality events related to occupational safety hazards which are either not recognised by workers or not consistently controlled through existing safety practices. By comparison other resources industries have lower fatality rates because of their focus on identifying the controls and verification activities needed to address Major Accident Events (MAEs) and Principal Hazards in a manner that prevents fatalities.
The primary aim of this thesis research was to investigate and validate an alternative fatal risk management strategy to reduce construction single fatal events. The research developed a novel Critical Control Risk Management (CCRM) program which addressed the dynamic and variable factors which impact construction projects and compared CCRM safety performance together with safety climate data to identify organisational, leadership and supervisory attributes which impacted safety outcomes.
The research involved 5 studies to identify an alternative construction risk control strategy (1st study), validate the reliability and effectiveness of CCs (2nd study), develop a novel CCRM methodology) to address the dynamic construction environment (3rd study), investigate cultural and leadership effects on construction risk management practices (4th study) and finally (5th study) explore effect of CCRM on construction project safety and safety climate performance.
The design and validation of a CCRM program was developed to address the dynamic construction project life cycle, factors affecting critical control reliability together with behaviour elements affecting project critical risk and safety performance. The process of defining CCs for each MAE hazard, together with the specificity of CCs, reduced the overall number and complexity of controls front line leaders needed to focus their attention on. The analysis identified multiple MAE incidents were due to an erosion of control integrity or changes in barrier functionality tolerated by the work team and supervision. CCRM directly improved construction safety performance by increasing the frequency of hazard reporting by 8% (p=0.05) and in safety mature organisations it reduced high potential incidents by 80% (p=0.005). CCRM applied on a construction project consistently improves hazard reporting frequency through CC verification and assurance processes or indirectly from improved critical risk awareness and competency.
The studies expanded CCRM as a methodology to manage construction projects by applying dynamic risk profiling to support CCRM, but also quantified CC reliability for major hazards and determined factors affecting CC reliability. The longitudinal study of CCRM established the inter-relatedness of leading risk management activities, safety climate factors, risk maturity of organisations and lagging measures of incident performance. The studies highlighted the benefits of CCRM are optimised when senior leaders fully support project management and workers in the effective implementation of CCs. Construction organisations would benefit from a deeper understanding of how to improve CC reliability, the barriers which prevent ‘stop - work’ decisions being supported and factors which impact critical risk maturity within the organisation and across project stakeholder organisations.
Selleck, R. J. (2023). A critical control approach to preventing fatalities in construction. Edith Cowan University. http://dx.doi.org/10.25958/6X9M-BZ74