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The relationship between pre-construction decision-making and the effectiveness of risk control: Testing the time-safety influence curve

Helen Lingard (Centre for Construction Work Health and Safety, RMIT University, Melbourne, Victoria Australia.)
Lance Saunders (Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia United States.)
Payam Pirzadeh (Centre for Construction Work Health and Safety, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia.)
Nick Blismas (Centre for Construction Work Health and Safety, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia.)
Brian Kleiner (Myers-Lawson School of Construction Blacksburg, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia, United States.)
Ron Wakefield (Centre for Construction Work Health and Safety, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia.)

Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management

ISSN: 0969-9988

Article publication date: 19 January 2015

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the relationship between the timing with which decisions are made about how to control work health and safety (WHS) risks in construction project (i.e. either pre- or post-construction) and the quality of risk control outcomes.

Design/methodology/approach

Data were collected from 23 construction projects in Australia and the USA. Totally, 43 features of work were identified for analysis and decision making in relation to these features of work was mapped across the life of the projects. The quality of risk control outcomes was assessed using a classification system based on the “hierarchy of control”. Within this hierarchy, technological forms of control are preferable to behavioural forms of controls.

Findings

The results indicate that risk control outcomes were significantly better in the Australian compared with the US cases. The results also reveal a significant relationship between the quality of risk controls and the timing of risk control selection decisions. The greater the proportion of risk controls selected during the pre-construction stages of a project, the better the risk control outcomes.

Research limitations/implications

The results provide preliminary evidence that technological risk controls are more likely to be implemented if WHS risks are considered and controls are selected in the planning and design stages of construction projects.

Practical implications

The research highlights the need for WHS risk to be integrated into decision making early in the life of construction projects.

Originality/value

Previous research has linked accidents to design. However, the retrospective nature of these studies has not permitted an analysis of the effectiveness of integrating WHS into pre-construction decision making. Prospective studies have been lacking. This research provides empirical evidence in support of the relationship between early consideration of WHS and risk control effectiveness.

Keywords

Citation

Lingard, H., Saunders, L., Pirzadeh, P., Blismas, N., Kleiner, B. and Wakefield, R. (2015), "The relationship between pre-construction decision-making and the effectiveness of risk control: Testing the time-safety influence curve", Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Vol. 22 No. 1, pp. 108-124. https://doi.org/10.1108/ECAM-08-2013-0074

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited