To read this content please select one of the options below:

An exploratory study of safety communication networks of ethnic minority crews in the Hong Kong construction industry

Sainan Lyu (School of Property, Construction and Project Management, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)
Carol K.H. Hon (School of Built Environment, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia)
Albert P.C. Chan (Department of Building and Real Estate, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Kowloon, Hong Kong)
Arshad Ali Javed (School of Economics and Finance, Massey University - Manawatu Campus, Palmerston North, New Zealand)
Rita Peihua Zhang (School of Property, Construction and Project Management, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)
Francis K.W. Wong (Hong Kong Institute of Construction, The Construction Industry Council, Kowloon, Hong Kong)

Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management

ISSN: 0969-9988

Article publication date: 3 August 2020

Issue publication date: 28 April 2021




Previous studies have highlighted that communication barrier was one of the major safety problems faced by ethnic minority (EM) workers. This study aims to model the predominant safety communication networks of EM crews and explore the relationships among safety communication networks, individual attributes, safety climate, near misses and injuries of EM crews.


Case studies were conducted with EM crews in the Hong Kong construction industry. Demographic attribute, network, safety climate and accidents data were collected through questionnaires and analyzed by a combination of social network analysis (SNA), cross-case comparison and nonparametric tests.


The results revealed that language proficiency, network density and level of reciprocity were contributing factors of distinguishing high and low safety performing EM crews. EM management received more safety information from EM workers than local management. The centrality of EM workers was significantly related to their age, the perceived priority of safety and language ability.

Practical implications

The research findings regarding the impact of safety communication network characteristics on the safety performance of EM crews provides insights to employers on how to cultivate effective safety communication patterns within EM crews that can lead to better safety performance. The connections between personal attributes and their positions in safety communication networks could help the employers identify the EM workers who are positioned on edges of networks and need more attention.


This study contributes to knowledge by enriching the limited research on analyzing safety communication of small construction crews using SNA and expanding the research object to EM construction crews in the literature, who are more vulnerable to construction accidents. This research also extends the existing body of knowledge from studies mainly carried out in Western culture to Eastern culture. Although safety communication has been regarded as important for EM workers, there is a lack of quantitative analysis on this at a crew level. The present study provides empirical research to reveal authentic safety communication networks and their connections with safety performance and personal attributes.



The work described in this paper is jointly supported by grants from the Hong Kong Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Unit formerly Central Policy Unit and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. The paper forms part of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University funded project entitled “Managing construction safety for ethnic minorities in Hong Kong” (Project No. 1-ZV9E), and Public Policy Research project entitled “Improving safety communication of ethnic minority workers” (Project No. K-QZ1F), from which other deliverables are produced with different objectives/scope but sharing a common background and methodology. The authors acknowledge and thank all the respondents who participated in this research and remain nameless, but without whom this research would have been impossible.


Lyu, S., Hon, C.K.H., Chan, A.P.C., Javed, A.A., Zhang, R.P. and Wong, F.K.W. (2021), "An exploratory study of safety communication networks of ethnic minority crews in the Hong Kong construction industry", Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Vol. 28 No. 4, pp. 1156-1175.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles