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Question:
Discuss about the Occupational Health and Safety Risk Control in Construction Projects among Construction Workers in Melbourne.
 
 
Answer:
Introduction

Construction industry plays a significant role in the Australian. The industry accounts for 9.8 percent of the working population and 13.5 percent of all industry revenue (Bankwest, 2017). The main drivers of the industry include loan rates, housing affordability, commercial space, dwelling approvals, and retail turnover. Construction sites are usually busy places, where most contractors work side by side and close to moving trucks. This kind of environment presents health risks to workers and therefore necessitates cooperation, consultation, and coordination to ensure health and safety of those working on the site. This paper explores the risk associated with construction sites in terms accidents and health hazards. The paper emphasizes on the role of the management commitment, workers’ attitude, and effectiveness of safety policies in ensuring the health and safety of workers at the construction sites.

Problem Statement

Occupational health and safety is vital aspect in construction sites. OHS ensures that workers are not exposed to accidents or chronic health condition. There is need to explore strategic approaches to reducing the number of deaths, injuries, and chronic conditions that are caused by accidents and exposure to hazardous chemicals at the construction sites. Organizational commitment, workers’ attitude, expertise, and OHS designs are some of the factors that have been linked to the occurrence of health hazards and deaths (Zou, 2015). Most of the recent studies focus on the financial, health, and legal implications of organizational health and safety policies. There is limited study on the relationship between OHS with the management commitment, workers’ attitude, and the effectiveness of OHS.

Aims and Objectives of the study

The aim of this study is to explore occupational health and safety risks that construction workers in Melbourne are exposed to by focusing on issues of management safety standards and commitment, workers’ awareness on safety issues, and their attitudes. The study also aims at exploring effective measures that construction project managers should adopt to reinforce OHS standards and mitigate health hazards and accidents that occurs due to deficiency or incognisance of the safety policies.

Objectives

  1. To explore how management commitment on the welfare of workers affects the occupational health and safety in construction site
  2. To examine the impact of the workers’ attitude towards the safety policy and standards on the OHS in construction sites
  3. To find the role of occupational health and safety on the performance and productivity of workers at the construction site
 
Research questions
  1. Does management commitment on the welfare of workers affect the occupational health and safety in construction sites?
  2. What is the impact of the workers’ attitude towards the safety policy and standards on the OHS in construction sites?
  3. What is the role of occupational health and safety on the performance and productivity of workers at the construction site?
Justification of the study

There has been increasing cases of injuries, chronic health conditions— for example lung cancer and respiratory diseases— and deaths due to exposure to hazardous chemicals and accidents at the construction sites. The recent studies on OHS, however, have not adequately collected experts’ opinions on their experiences on accidents that occur at the construction sites. In addition, the recent studies only focus on the financial, health, and legal implications of organizational health and safety policies. This paper explores the relationship between OHS and management commitment, workers’ attitude, and effectiveness of OHS. The leading principle is that by the results of this study will help contractors to review their relationship, commitment, strategies to ensure that the OHS policies they have adopted are effective. Adopting effective OHS policies and re-examining approaches to implement them will be able to reduce accidents and deaths from the construction site.

Conceptual Framework

According to McBurney and White (2013), reviewing literature enables the researcher to map and explore “relevant intellectual territory” and accentuate a research question that will develop the knowledge base. The literature review highlights all underpinning concepts that are relevant to the research and can establish conceptualization of the identified gap.

Construction Injuries and deaths in Australia

Safe Work Australia (2018) defines construction work as “any work carried out in connection with the construction, alteration, conversion, fitting-out, commissioning, renovation, repair, maintenance, refurbishment, demolition, decommissioning or dismantling of a structure, or preparation of a building site.” The most experienced work-related injuries reported from the construction sites, according to the industrial profile include cuts and open wounds (31%), chronic joints muscle conditions (16%), and strains and sprains (21%). In most instances, these injuries emanated from being hit by construction materials (31%), pulling, pushing, or lifting objects (30%), and falling from height (15%). Safe Work Australia documents the fatality rate in Australian construction sites. Empirical evidence shows that between 2003 and 2013, “401 died in construction in Australia” (Safe Work Australia, 2018) Most of the victims were felled from height, which involved stairways, mobile ramps, scaffoldings, ladders, fall from a roof, and buildings under demolitions. Other causes of deaths were vehicle collision, being trapped by an object, and electrocution.

 
Risk Perception

Chauncey Starr was the first to develop risk perception on his study on “Social benefits versus technological risk” (Carriço et al., 2015, p.1848). The study discussed in detail the concept of risk, and in particular, how society accommodates risks in order to reap benefits associated with it. The study was significant in helping scientists conceptualize the how individuals perceive and tolerate risk. As the social scientists continue to develop the concept of risk perception, other concepts like Risk analysis or Risk assessment emerged as approaches to evaluate subjective situations. The main factors that influence risk perception are individual valuation on the situation, work experience, and susceptibility of risk, and the environment. The most relevant aspect of the concept in this study is the environment. Organizational environment encompasses factors like management commitment to employees’ welfare, expectations, safety standards, and training of workers, which directly affect the health and safety of workers (Carriço et al., 2015).

Definition of Health and Safety

The main significance of defining occupational health and safety issues before initiating discussion and debate is to provide clarity of the specific nature of working condition in the construction industry. In essence, health is concerned with processes that are employed to protect from potential injuries that might occur in the construction site (Cooney, 2016). On the other hand, safety refers to how workers are protected from physical injury in the course of delivering their duties. Ideally, the difference between health and safety is fuzzy, and in most instances, the two words are used interchangeably. Environmental protection deals with specific functions undertaken within the work place that affects biodiversity (Cooney, 2016). Environmental protection also encompasses the health and safety of workers.  

Occupational Health and Safety

International Labour Organization (ILO) and World Health Organization (WHO) have been sharing a common definition of OHS since the beginning of the 20th century (Cooney, 2016). Based on the definition, the fundamental aim of OHS is to promote and maintain “the highest degree of physical, mental and the social well-being of employees in all occupations” (Cooney, 2016). OHS are organizational practices that are focused on mitigating health hazards. Carriço et al (2015) argue that the management support to OHS practices is not just about guaranteeing their commitment to OHS; rather, it is about demonstrating their commitment by giving priority to OHS issues. In essence, management support on OHS issues is manifest on the value they attach to them, for instance, how they respond to hazards.

Health hazards and risks

Ngatiwa and Zungu (2017, p.63) define a hazard as “a potential source of harm or an adverse health effect on persons.” Risk refers to “the likelihood that a person may be harmed or suffered from adverse health effect if exposed to hazard” (Cooney, 2016). Ngatiwa and Zungu (2017 identify two main hazards that are that are frequent in the construction sites. The first one is “physical injury hazards,” which are commonly caused by ladders, power access equipment, excavation machines, roof work, roof work, and manual handling. In practice, these types of hazards can cause direct injury to those working at the construction sites, or, sometimes, death. Other causes of physical injury hazards include mechanical energy like extreme temperatures, radiation, vibration, and excess noise. Generally, noise is ubiquitous in all constructions sites because of the nature of construction equipment. Sen (2018) observe that noise and vibration are the major causes of hearing loss to construction workers. The second form of hazard in construction sites include chemical hazards, which are contained in construction materials like welding fumes, asbestos, spray paints, hexavalent chromium, spray paints, and cutting oil mists (Ngatiwa and Zungu, 2017). These chemicals are inimical to health since they can affect individual’s respiratory system.

In Emuze and In Smallwood (2018) observe that health hazards are quintessentially chronic and acute. Chronic conditions develop slowly and can result to sickness or death after some time. For instance, a worker that inhales asbestos fibres may not realize since the effects are not acute. Continual breathing of asbestos fibres over a certain period may cause lung cancer to the worker. In Arezes (2014) observes that most workers ignore or are not aware that health hazards can lead to chromic conditions. Other chronic health hazards include exposure to irritants, skin sanitizers, and corrosive substances. Additionally, workers that are exposed to noise and vibrations also face chronic health conditions, though they unaware. Some of these effects include work-related dermatitis, work-related back pain, radiation diseases, work-related upper arm disorder, skin sanitizers, stress, decompression illness, and heat stress. Health hazards with acute effects usually emanate from “workers fall from height” and electrocution. Fire and emergency excavation, lethal chemicals, roof work, and heavy tools have also been identified as cute effects causations (Habibnezhad et al., 2016).

According to Carriço et al (2015), workers in high-level construction sites like principle construction are more exposed to health hazards. For instance, scaffold can cause an accident cause an accident in the construction site, which may cause injury three levels: “near miss, incident, and accident” (Carriço et al., 2015). When the scaffold fells at the construction site, it causes an incident. If no damages or injuries reported during the incident, then it is near miss. However, if the incident is concomitant with injury of workers, it is referred as an accident.

Causes of Poor Health and Safety Practices

Scholars classify causes of poor healthy practices into safety management, safety equipment, safety attitude of workers, and safety training (In Emuze and In Smallwood, 2018). Unwillingness to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which is considered as poor safety practice, is usually recognized as safety equipment. In addition, incognisance of the significance of wearing PPE leads to poor safety practices. This is because most workers at the construction sites that are victims of the accidents are unskilled workers that have low educational levels. Another cause of poor safety standard is lack of PPE. Habibnezhad et al. (2016) observe that in most construction sites, workers are only provided with hardhats, without safety boots. Similarly, most workers at the construction sites do not have Hi-Viz jackets, safety glasses, safety gloves, and earplugs.

Habibnezhad et al. (2016) identified safety attitude and lack of safety training as causes of poor safety practices. Another nuanced study on the role of workers towards their safety in construction sites finds that some workers are usually under the influence of drugs and alcohol even when they are working on construction sites (Cooney, 2016). Bavafa et al (2018) attest that in the workers in construction, industry has high mobility, and as such, they tend to move from one organization to another. The nature of construction workforce is quintessentially ephemeral and therefore training workers is difficult. Training construction workers not only improves the quality of construction work but also enhances the group safety. Cooney (2016) acknowledges that availability of adequate training facilities is the key to retaining skilled workers in the construction site. According to Bavafa et al (2018), most contactors only provide occasional training on safety to first line workers while ignoring occasional and systematic training.

 
Possible methods of improving construction sites

According to Bavafa et al (2018), successful management of a project is not just about execution in accordance to specifications of the underlying budget and time, but also with maximum safety. Most scholars suggest safety management as the best way of improving construction safety. The first step of safety management in construction site is hazard identification, “since most unimaginable risks are from unidentified hazard” (Carriço et al., 2015). In addition, the contractors should ensure that there is adequate organizational safety policy to ensure there is site safety and support training of workers on matters of safety. Besides, contractors should conduct formal safety meetings and safety inspection once in a week, provide their workers with PPE, and reward workers for observing construction safety standards (Li et al., 2013). McCaig (2013) suggests usage of coercive enforcement methods, for instance, imposing fines on workers that contravene safety practices as one of the most effective strategies to enhance safety performance.

The aim of improving safety performance and reducing risk is to help identify the main causes of accidents and construction hazards and manipulate precautionary tools that are used in the construction sites (Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 2012). After identification of hazard and adopting safety regulations, the next steps include assessment and evaluation of risks, deciding on precaution, and recording findings on work conditions. McCaig (2013) emphasize on safety inspection as the most fundamental aspect in the construction sites. The health and safety standards should be discussed during management meeting, after which incentive programs should be developed.

Molen (2018) asserts that contractors should offer proper orientation to the new employees at the site. Furthermore, construction workers have the obligation of identifying unsafe and unhealthy conditions at the construction sites and try to ameliorate them. Sen (2018) argue Total Quality Management (TQM) is euphemism of good practices at the construction sites. Effective communication and organizational commitment on matters of accident reporting and high line management also promotes good safety practices. Molen (2018) observes that active personal role to health and safety practices have the efficacy of influencing fellow workers to observe safety standards.

Hypothesis Development

Hypothesis 1

Ho; Occupational Health and Safety Risk Control affects Construction Projects among Construction

Ha; Occupational Health and Safety Risk Control has not effect on Construction Projects among Construction

Hypothesis 2

Ho; there is a strong relationship between Occupational Health and Safety Risk Control in Construction Projects among Construction

Ha; there is not strong relationship between Occupational Health and Safety Risk Control in Construction Projects among Construction

Methodology: Research methods and Data collection

The study will adopt both quantitative and qualitative research methods. According to Punch (2014), the most effective and accurate quantitative approaches are survey methods. The researcher will use interview and questionnaire methods. On interviews, the researcher will hold face-to-dace interview with workers and contractors on the sites. Prior to the interview, the researcher will seek participants’ permission and guarantee them that their feedback will be kept confidential: not revealing their identity after the study. Telephone calls will be made to health practitioners and construction project managers to collect data. The researcher will record the telephone conversation using smart pen. Thereafter, the researcher will transcribe and then delete the records in order to ensure anonymity and underscore ethical standards (Nix and Hall, 2016). Before preparing questionnaire, the researcher will conduct a pilot study by consulting with the professor in order to ascertain the practicality of the study. After preparing the questionnaire, the researcher will distribute them to the selected respondents’ through email. Prior to dissemination of the questionnaire, the researcher will seek permission of the selected respondents and guarantee them anonymity. The study will also rely case studies as a qualitative research method

 
Population

The target population will be workers and contractors at the construction sites in Melbourne. Other targets include medical practitioners and construction project managers in Melbourne

Sampling

The study will employ both probabilistic and non-probabilistic sampling method. According to Edmonds and Kennedy (2017), nonprobability sampling generate hypothesis while probability sampling tests hypothesis. The researcher will use stratified sampling and convenience sampling methods since they are suitable for the study.

Variables and Analysis

The researcher will uses STSS analysis method to conduct quantitative analysis between dependent and independent variables

Organization of the study

Chapter 1 is the introduction of the study. It includes brief overview of the research topic, statement of problem, research objectives, research questions, and justification of the study

Chapter 2 captures literature review. The segment captures different concepts on OHS based on the recent studies.

Chapter 3 is methodology. This section highlights methods and techniques of data collection, including sampling method, validity, and reliability of data, and ethical issues

Chapter 4 will discuss findings and analysis of the data

Chapter 5 will provide recommendation and conclusion of the study.

 
References

Bankwest. (2017, February 6). Construction Industry Report 2017. Retrieved from https://www.bankwest.com.au/Blob/pdf/1292551628871/construction.pdf?pdf-link

Bavafa, A., Mahdiyar, A., & Marsono, A. K. (2018). Identifying and assessing the critical factors for effective implementation of safety programs in construction projects. Safety Science, 106, 47-56. doi:10.1016/j.ssci.2018.02.025

Carriço, A., Gomes, A. R., & Gonçalves, A. P. (2015). Quantitative Analysis of the Construction Industry Workers’ Perception of Risk in Municipalities Surrounding Salvador. Procedia Manufacturing, 3, 1846-1853. doi:10.1016/j.promfg.2015.07.225

Cooney, J. P. (2016). Health and Safety in the Construction Industry : A Review of Procurement, Monitoring, Cost Effectiveness and Strategy (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Salford, Salford.

Edmonds, W. A., & Kennedy, T. D. (2017). An applied guide to research designs: Quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods (2nd ed.). SAGE Publication.

Habibnezhad, M., Fardhosseini, S., Vahed, A. M., Esmaeili, B., & Dodd, M. D. (2016). The Relationship between Construction Workers’ Risk Perception and Eye Movement in Hazard Identification. Construction Research Congress 2016. doi:10.1061/9780784479827.297

In Emuze, F., & In Smallwood, J. J. (2018). Valuing people in construction (1st ed.). Routledge.

In Arezes, P. M. (2014). Occupational safety and hygiene II (1st ed.). CRC Press.

Lingard, H. (2013). Occupational health and safety in the construction industry. Construction Management Economics, 31(6), 505-514. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/ab

Li, R. Y., Poon, S. W., & In Proske, D. (2013). Construction safety (3rd ed.). CRC Press.

McBurney, D., & White, T. L. (2013). Research methods. Belmont, CA: Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

McCaig, R. (2013). Preventing Mental Ill-Health: Informing Public Health Planning and Mental Health Practice. Occupational Medicine, 63(4), 308-308. doi:10.1093/occmed/kqt042

Molen, H. F. (2018). 1597 Participatory approach improving safety and health in construction industry. Construction Occupational Safety and Health, 75(2). doi:10.1136/oemed-2018-icohabstracts.233

Nghitanwa, E. M., & Zungu, L. I. (2017). Occupational health and safety provision awareness among construction workers on the construction industry of Windhoek, Namibia. International Journal of Health, 5(1), 60. doi:10.14419/ijh.v5i1.7294

Nix, I., & Hall, M. (2016). Collecting questionnaire and interview data: Evaluating approaches to developing digital literacy skills. London: SAGE Publications.

Occupational and Environmental Medicine. (2012). Preventing occupational ill health in the construction industry. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 64(12), 789-790. Retrieved from https://oem.bmj.com/content/64/12/789.long?

Punch, K. (2014). Introduction to social research: Quantitative & qualitative approaches. Los Angeles, California: SAGE.

Safe Work Australia. (2018, February 6). Construction. Retrieved from https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/construction

Sen, K. N. (2018). 1657c Reliable risk perception for promoting prevention at construction sites. Construction Occupational Safety and Health, 75(2). doi:10.1136/oemed-2018-icohabstracts.230

Zou, P., & Sunindijo, R. Y. (2015). Strategic safety management in construction and engineering (1st ed.). Wiley-Blackwel.

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