The Construction Industry In The Economy Construction Essay

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Past researches has shown that the high number of construction site accidents is a universal problem of much concern. Though notable improvements in construction worker safety at sites have been achieved, the industry continues to lag behind most other industries with regard to safety (National Safety Council, 1999). According to Davies and Tomasin (1996), there are a number of reasons why accident records within the construction industry compare poorly with those of the manufacturing industry. In factories, there is normally a controlled working environment, with little change in the working procedures and equipment over long periods; additionally, the labour force usually remains fairly constant. Thus once identified, hazards can be remedied with relative ease, and the danger mitigated. However the case is quite different in the construction industry as the working environment is constantly changing.

The construction industry is a mixture of different organisations, which directly and indirectly influence the construction process. These organisations include property developers, architects, engineers, quantity surveyors, accountants, lawyers, civil engineering contractors, engineering contractors, management contractors, labourers, subcontractors and specialist trades. The same complexity can be found with construction workplaces. Within the workplace Construction processes involve hazardous activities, such as working at height, manual handling, exposure to hazardous materials, demolition, frame erection, lifting operations, scaffolding and ground works, bulk materials and heavy equipment handling, as well as the varying jobsite personnel and the regularly changing worksites. A further characteristic of the industry, that makes management of this sector more troublesome, is the unfavourably high supervisor-worker ratio. Supervisors who have more a personal and positive relationship with workers have more favourable safety performance records (Hinze, 1997; Levitt & Samelson, 1993). This relationship is harder to develop if the ratio is too high, which is generally the case within the construction industry (Smallwood, 2000). Rowlinson and Lingard (1996) have attributed the prototype nature of construction projects, the transient nature of work, low education levels of the workforce and high levels of subcontracting, as major contributing factors to poor safety records within the construction industry worldwide.

There is a wide variation in economic structures, occupational structures, working conditions, work environment, and the health status of workers in different regions of the world, in different countries and in different sectors of the economy. Therefore the mechanisation of the construction industry is not uniform throughout the world. However, as stated earlier, the construction industry plays a vital role in boosting the economy of any country, especially a developing country. It provides the infrastructure required for other sectors of the economy to flourish. Many studies, such as Coble and Haupt (1999) have shown that construction industry reflects the level of economic development within the country. The construction sector everywhere faces problems and challenges. However, in developing countries, these difficulties and challenges are present alongside a general level of socio-economic stress and a lower productivity rate when compared to developed countries (Ofori, 2000). Nevertheless it is generally believed that the industry is a good source of employment at various levels of skills, from a general labour to semi-skilled, skilled and specialist workforce. Other major areas that impacts on this sector are lack of research and development, lack of trade and safety training, client dissatisfaction, and the continuously increasing construction costs (all of which result in less profitability).

A lot of analyst found that, in most developing countries, for example like India, there are: no training programs for staff and workers therefore, no orientation for new staff or workers is conducted, hazards are not pointed out and no safety meetings are held. Employees are expected to learn from their own mistakes and experience.

It is widely accepted that unsafe behaviour is intrinsically linked to workplace accidents. A positive correlation exists between workers' safe behaviour and the safety climate within construction site environments. Construction workers' attitudes towards safety are influenced by their perceptions of risk, management, safety rules and procedures. A variety of studies, including Niskanen (1994), Glendon and Litherland (2001) and Mohamed (2002) have investigated the construction safety climate within developed countries. In the majority of these studies, researchers have either developed a new model or replicated an already tested model with a view to improving its adequacy. However, there is a lack of research in this area in the context of developing countries.

Pakistan is a developing country that is currently enjoying relatively strong growth in construction activities. Unfortunately, the enforcement of safety regulations is not widespread within Pakistan. Some may even argue that the framework of existing occupational and health conditions of Pakistan's construction industry is fragmented and inadequately enforced. Likewise in any industry, good health and safety conditions form good and safe business practice. Therefore, it is believed the integration of safety and health measures into a total management system, within the construction sector in Pakistan, could contribute significantly to the cost efficiency, quality assurance and environmental protection of the company and its employees.

Cultural differences have a significant impact upon industrial safety culture and help in understanding the different approaches to accident prevention and safety management. Knowledge of cultural differences cannot be acquired without first understanding what culture is. Although "culture" is used widely to describe variations among people from different nations or of different ethnicities, there is no single, accepted definition. There is, however, a commonly-used set of characteristics that helps to identify culture: 1) culture includes systems of values 2) Culture is learned, not innate 3) culture distinguishes one group from another and 4) culture influences beliefs, attitudes, perceptions and behaviour in a somewhat uniform and predictable way (Bird, 2003). As safety climate is often portrayed as a temporal measure of culture (Cheyne et al., 1998) this last characteristic of culture is most important, as it relates the national culture to the safety climate. Safety climate also refers to the shared perceptions, beliefs, attitudes and behaviour of the worker, regarding safety in their workplace. Ngowi and Mothibi (1996), in a study of 30 construction sites in Botswana, found cultural differences were a major reason for viewing safety procedures differently. Site managers in that study stated that the safety gear provided to employees from impoverished backgrounds were often sold. The managers also referred to the cultural habits of drinking alcohol or taking herbal drugs. They identified a tendency for workers to travel to work in smart clothes and to leave the construction site to spend their money as soon as they received their wages. Experience with traditional construction techniques, such as the use of mud mixed by hand, proved to be obstacles in getting workers to appreciate the need to wear gloves when working with concrete. Further, some local cultures were considered more emotional or more dominant, thus causing certain difficulties with effective safety management.

The literature review revealed a lack of research work undertaken on the influence (direct or indirect) of national culture on local safety conditions in the construction industry. This deficiency is a major contributor to the development of this current research rationale which focuses on workers' and management characteristics, and how these characteristics in turn, can influence the safety climate of the workplace.

This research study is broadly concerned with the safety climate and its determinants in Pakistan's construction industry. More specifically, the study investigates the safety perceptions, attitudes, and behaviour of construction workers and management safety practices in Pakistan. It seeks to establish whether statistically significant relationships exist between the factors of a worker's perception, attitudes and safe work behaviour and management practices.

Coble, R.J. and Haupt, T.C. (1999) "Construction Safety in Developing Countries: Implementation of Safety and Health on Construction Sites". Proceedings of the 2nd International. Conference of International Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction (CIB) Working Commission W99. Honolulu, pp. 903-908.

Hinze, J.W. (1997) Construction Safety. Prentice Hall Publications, New Jersey.

Kartam, N.A. and Bouz, R.G. (1998) "Fatalities and Injuries in Kuwait Construction Industry". Accident Analysis and Prevention, 30 (6), pp. 805-814.

National Safety Council (1999) "Accident Facts (1052-1997)". National Safety Council, Itasca, IL.

Davies, V.J. and Tomasin, K. (1996) Construction Safety Handbook, (2nd edition). Thomas Telford Publishing,London

Levitt, R.E. and Samelson, N.M. (1993) Construction Safety Management. John Wiley and Sons, Inc. New York.

Smallwood, J.J. (2000) Safety and Health Team Building. Construction Safety and Health Management. Edited by Coble.R.J., Hinze, J. and Haupt, T. Prentice Hall Publications.

Rowlinson, S. and Lingard, H. (1996) "Behavioural Safety Management in Hong Kong's Construction Industry; Success and Limitations, In Implementation of Safety and Health on Construction Sites". Alvez Dias L.M and Coble R.J. (eds), CIB W99 Lisbon. Balkema, Rotterdam, pp. 281-289.

Coble, R.J. and Haupt, T.C. (1999) "Construction Safety in Developing Countries: Implementation of Safety and Health on Construction Sites". Proceedings of the 2nd International. Conference of International Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction (CIB) Working Commission W99. Honolulu, pp. 903-908.