The how and why of plant‐related fatalities in the Australian construction industry

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

Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management

ISSN: 0969-9988

Publication date: 28 June 2013

Abstract

Purpose

Drawing on the findings of coronial investigations, this research aimed to investigate the circumstances and causes of fatal incidents involving plant in the Australian construction industry. The analysis sought to provide greater insight into how and why fatal incidents occur and to inform recommendations for the prevention of fatal incidents involving plant.

Design/methodology/approach

Fatal incidents involving plant were identified from the National Coronial Information System. In each case, the decedent was a construction worker and the incident occurred at a construction worksite. A systemic incident causation model developed by Loughborough University informed the identification of originating influences, shaping factors and immediate circumstances in each incident.

Findings

Most of the incidents involved excavators, trucks and cranes, and different classifications of plant were associated with different types of incident. The most common incident types involved people being run over by moving plant or struck by a moving object. Site layout and unsafe actions were the most commonly identified immediate circumstances. Shaping factors included site constraints and the design of plant, particularly visibility issues relating to “blind spots”. Originating influences included the design of the permanent work and construction process.

Research limitations/implications

The research highlights the usefulness of systemic incident causation models, such as the “Loughborough Model”, in the analysis of the causes of fatal incidents involving plant in the construction industry.

Practical implications

The results indicate that plant‐related fatalities occur as a result of a complex interplay of different causes, some of which are “upstream” of the construction work. The use of innovative new site planning methods and active monitoring technologies to reduce the risk of collisions between people and plant should be considered.

Originality/value

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

Keywords

Citation

Lingard, H., Cooke, T. and Gharaie, E. (2013), "The how and why of plant‐related fatalities in the Australian construction industry", Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Vol. 20 No. 4, pp. 365-380. https://doi.org/10.1108/ECAM-09-2011-0085

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Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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