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A case study analysis of fatal incidents involving excavators in the Australian construction industry

Helen Lingard (School of Property, Construction and Project Management, RMIT University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia)
Tracy Cooke (School of Property, Construction and Project Management, RMIT University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia)
Ehsan Gharaie (Sustainable Built Environment National Research Centre, Swinburne University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia)

Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management

ISSN: 0969-9988

Article publication date: 2 September 2013

Abstract

Purpose

The paper analyses the nature and causes of fatal incidents involving excavators occurring in the Australian construction industry. A three-level incident causation model developed by researchers at Loughborough University forms the theoretical framework for this analysis, which seeks to identify immediate circumstances, shaping factors and originating influences in selected incidents.

Design/methodology/approach

Case study incidents were identified from the National Coronial Information System database. These incidents were subjected to content analysis to identify causal factors.

Findings

Ten cases were analysed in total. In all of these cases immediate circumstances could be identified. These included the use of unsafe work methods and the condition, suitability or useability of plant. In several cases shaping factors, such as communication between work-team members and the design of work processes, were identified as likely contributors to the incidents. In none of the cases could originating influences be identified.

Research limitations/implications

The research was limited by the relatively small number of cases for which detailed investigation reports were available and the fact that, for the most part, the reports focused on the immediate circumstances surrounding the incidents.

Practical implications

The circumstances of the fatal incidents in Australia are similar to those reported in the UK and the USA and the identified causes have known safety solutions. The persistence of these incidents in the Australian construction industry suggests that there may be underlying reasons why known safety solutions are not implemented. Further in-depth analysis of incident causes may help to identify organisational and/or cultural causes of incidents involving excavators.

Originality/value

The analysis provides a more detailed qualitative analysis of the causes of fatal incidents involving excavators than would is possible using national compensation data, which restricts analysis to a classification of the mechanism and agency of injury.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This research was part funded by an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (ID number FT0990337). The authors are grateful to staff at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine for their assistance.

Citation

Lingard, H., Cooke, T. and Gharaie, E. (2013), "A case study analysis of fatal incidents involving excavators in the Australian construction industry", Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Vol. 20 No. 5, pp. 488-504. https://doi.org/10.1108/ECAM-08-2011-0073

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited