This paper aims to present an analysis of some aspects of a research project that explored attitudes to occupational health and safety (OHS) held by subcontractors in the domestic building industry in New South Wales in Australia.
An ethnographic study involving the collection of data through a combination of a short oral survey of 158 subcontractors, participant observation, in depth semi structured interviews with 11 subcontractors from six different trades, document analysis, discussions in hundreds of OHS induction courses, course evaluations, informal conversations with subcontractors over a nine year period and investigator diaries was conducted. The study was conducted because a large amount of anecdotal evidence gathered by the researcher strongly suggested that there was a growing culture of resistance to modern OHS legislation among subcontractors in that industry.
A complex picture emerged of the subcontractors' workplace culture, and in particular, their safety culture. Three macro themes were evident: the subcontractors' need for independence and autonomy, their need and desire for personal safety, and their opinions of the enforcement agency's strategies. Recommendations are made to engage sub‐contractors with health and safety.
This investigation goes to the heart of the health and safety issue in construction. It is only when site operatives (most of whom are sub‐contractors) are engaged with the issue that a positive cultural change is likely to occur.
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