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The use and abuse of safety indicators in construction

David Oswald (School of Property, Construction and Project Management, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)
Rita Peihua Zhang (School of Property, Construction and Project Management, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)
Helen Lingard (School of Property, Construction and Project Management, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)
Payam Pirzadeh (School of Property, Construction and Project Management, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)
Tiendung Le (School of Property, Construction and Project Management, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)

Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management

ISSN: 0969-9988

Article publication date: 24 August 2018

Issue publication date: 20 September 2018

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to present a critical review of the use of safety performance indicators in the construction industry. The authors consider the strengths, limitations and managerial consequences associated with commonly used indicators.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors combine two separate data sets in this critical review. These include 32 semi-structured interviews with construction industry representatives involved in the collection and reporting of safety indicators, as well as a multi-level safety climate survey that was conducted at 12 construction sites across Australia.

Findings

The analysis provides new evidence that, in their current use, commonly used H&S indicators are subject to manipulation and misinterpretation. Their usefulness as tools to support safety management activities in construction projects and organisations needs to be understood in the context of their limitations. In particular, safety indicators do not reflect the full set of factors that affect workplace safety and there will always be disagreement about what should be counted and how.

Originality/value

As a result of the substantial shortcomings of safety indicators, great care needs to be taken when using them to determine or evaluate organisational safety policy and practices.

Keywords

Citation

Oswald, D., Zhang, R.P., Lingard, H., Pirzadeh, P. and Le, T. (2018), "The use and abuse of safety indicators in construction", Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Vol. 25 No. 9, pp. 1188-1209. https://doi.org/10.1108/ECAM-07-2017-0121

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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