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Safety leaders' perceptions of safety culture in a large Australian construction organisation

Biggs, Sarah E., Davey, Jeremy D., & Freeman, James E. (2012) Safety leaders' perceptions of safety culture in a large Australian construction organisation. In Boustras, G. & Boukas, N. (Eds.) Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Safety and Crisis Management in the Construction, Tourism and SMEs Sectors, Brown Walker Press, EUC Cultural Center, Nicosia, Cyprus, pp. 23-37.

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Abstract

Safety culture in the construction industry is a growing research area. The unique nature of construction industry works – being project-based, varying in size and focus, and relying on a highly transient subcontractor workforce – means that safety culture initiatives cannot be easily translated from other industries. This paper reports on the first study in a three year collaborative industry and university research project focusing on safety culture practices and development in one of Australia’s largest global construction organisations. The first round of a modified Delphi method is reported, and describes the insights gained from 41 safety leaders’ perceptions and understandings of safety culture within the organisation. In-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted, and will be followed by a quantitative perception survey with the same sample. Participants included Senior Executives, Corporate Managers, Project Managers, Safety Managers and Site Supervisors. Leaders’ definitions and descriptions of safety culture were primarily action-oriented and some confusion was evident due to the sometimes implicit nature of culture in organisations. Leadership was identified as a key factor for positive safety culture in the organisation, and there was an emphasis on leaders demonstrating commitment to safety, and being visible to the project-based workforce. Barriers to safety culture improvement were also identified, with managers raising diverse issues such as the transient subcontractor workforce and the challenge of maintaining safety as a priority in the absence of safety incidents, under high production pressures. This research is unique in that it derived safety culture descriptions from key stakeholders within the organisation, as opposed to imposing traditional conceptualisations of safety culture that are not customised for the organisation or the construction industry more broadly. This study forms the foundation for integrating safety culture theory and practice in the construction industry, and will be extended upon in future studies within the research program.

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ID Code: 43441
Item Type: Conference Paper
Keywords: safety culture, qualitative research, interviews, leaders' perceptions, construction industry, modified Delphi method
ISBN: 978-1-61233-557-5
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > COMMERCE MANAGEMENT TOURISM AND SERVICES (150000) > TRANSPORTATION AND FREIGHT SERVICES (150700) > Road Transportation and Freight Services (150703)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety - Qld (CARRS-Q)
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Psychology & Counselling
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2011 The Authors
Deposited On: 21 Jul 2011 09:36
Last Modified: 17 May 2013 05:07

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