Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Critical success factors influencing safety program performance in Thai construction projects

Thanet Aksorn *, B.H.W. Hadikusumo

Construction Engineering and Infrastructure Management, School of Civil Engineering,
Asian Institute of Technology, Pathumthani, Thailand

Introduction

In recent years, Thailand’s economy and infrastructure development have significantly and rapidly risen. The construction industry continues to play a major role in this development as many construction activities have been carried out to meet the high demands of the expansive market. However, the construction industry has faced a wide range of challenges, one of which is the frequent occurrences of accidents at the workplace. The risk of a fatal accident in the construction industry is five times more likely than in other industries (Sorock et al., 1993; Sawacha et al., 1999). Safety programs, a proactive approach, are one of best ways in improving site safety performance (Hislop, 1991; Tam et al., 2004). An effective safety program can substantially reduce accidents because it can help management to build up safer means of operations and create safe working environments for the workers (Anton, 1989; Abdelhamid and Everett, 2000; Rowlinson, 2003). Furthermore, by having an effective safety programs, good safety culture can be embedded in organization because it can encourage mutual cooperation between management and workers in the operations of the programs and decisions that affect their safety and health. The challenge of how to successfully put written safety programs into actual actions has gained considerable attention in the modern workplace. More than preventing injury to workers, successful safety programs can minimize damage to equipment and tools, loss of market competition, project delays, and damage to company image or reputation (Top, 1991; Michaud, 1995; Findley et al., 2004).

Although the linkage between safety programs and the actual state of safety has been studied extensively, minimal effort has been made to investigate factors contributing to successful implementation of such safety programs at construction sites (Meridian Research, 1994; Tam et al., 2001; Sawacha et al., 1999; Findley et al., 2004). In this regard, it is crucial to discover specific factors that are significantly important towards building successful safety programs leading to satisfactory outcomes. Some studies (e.g. Stranks, 2000; Rue and Byars, 2001; Rowlinson, 2003; Tam et al., 2004, Abudayyeh et al., 2006) have identified several factors contributing to successful safety programs such as worker involvement, management commitment, sufficient resource allocation and teamwork. However, most of them are descriptive reviews which focused on describing success stories of such factors on safety performance (Findley et al., 2004). These studies lacked detailed quantitative analysis and failed to prioritize the importance of those success factors. In addition, many factors needed to be grouped so that few and essential CSFs representing a wide variety of issues can be revealed. Therefore, this paper aims at identifying and quantitatively prioritizing the factors contributing to the successful implementation of construction safety programs based upon the respondents’ perceptions and grouping the factors into lesser dimensions by using factor analysis.

Construction site safety in Thailand

Following the financial crisis of 1997, Thailand has been making significant steps towards economic and infrastructure development and has thus become one of the newly industrialized countries. The vast domestic and foreign direct investments have been channeled towards construction works. Conversely, construction has been labeled by the general public as the most hazardous industry. International Labour Organization (2000) and Social Security Office (2005) pointed out that the expansion of Thailand’s construction activities has caused continuing increase in the reported number of accidents. In Thailand, the labour force is defined by the Labour Act B.E. 2541 as persons whose age lies between 15 and 59 years. Approximately, the total employed workforce is 34.5 million persons. The construction industry’s share of the total workforce is about 1.4 million workers or 8% of the total. According to the statistics of deaths and injuries in all industries recorded by Ministry of Labour (International Labour Organization, 2005), the rate of accidents and fatalities in Thai construction is reported as the highest. In 2003, the construction industry accounted for 14% of the total number of 787 deaths at work, and 24% of the total 17 cases of permanent disability. Additionally, Ministry of Labour revealed that construction workers are five times more likely to suffer permanent disability than workers in other industries.

Safety programs are now a key to eliminating work-related accidents and injuries. The Thai Government has taken significant steps in improving safety in the construction industry by promoting the establishment of safety programs at the enterprise level. Consequently, the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare launched the sustainable promotion plan through the facilitation of training and guidance for construction organizations, and enforcement of the basic elements of safety programs as stated by legislation. Yet, the accident occurrence rate in the construction industry still remains at unacceptable levels. Siriruttanapruk and Anuntakulnathi (2004) pointed out that the poor levels of safety in the Thai construction industry are primarily due to inadequate implementation of safety programs and weak enforcement of legislation. Therefore, it is worthwhile to conduct a research focused on investigating the key factors influencing the success of safety programs. The findings therefore can be used as a guideline by construction sites to achieve successful outcomes.

Construction safety programs

Several meanings of safety programs were defined by various researchers and most of them have similar inferences. Anton (1989) defined a safety program as ‘‘the control of the working environment, equipment, processes, and the workers for the purpose of reducing accidental injuries and losses in the workplace.’’ Similarly, Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (2002) described a ‘‘workplace safety and health program’’ as ‘‘a term that describes what people (business owners, managers, and employees) do to control injuries and illnesses at their workplace.’’ Rowlinson (2003) identified the objectives of creating a safety program at construction sites as a means to prevent improper behavior that may lead to accidents, to ensure that problems are detected and reported, and to ensure that accidents are reported and handled accordingly. Based on previous studies (Tam and Fung, 1998; Poon et al., 2000; Goldenhar et al., 2001; Hinze and Gambatese, 2003; Findley et al., 2004), some effective safety programs were identified as follows: comprehensive safety policies, safety committees, safety inductions, safety trainings, jobsite inspections, accident investigations, first aid programs, in-house safety rules, safety incentives schemes, control of subcontractors, selection of employees, personal protection programs, emergency preparedness planning, safety related promotions, safety auditing, safety record keeping, and job hazard analysis.

Factors affecting safety program implementation

Within the business context, the idea of identifying factors affecting the success of business- related activities and projects, often called critical success factors (CSFs), has existed for considerable time since initially popularized by Rockart (1979). The CSFs can be defined as ‘‘areas in which results, if they are satisfactory, will ensure success within and of the organization’’ (Rockart, 1979). According to Rungasamy et al. (2002), CSFs are essential to the success of any program, in the sense that, if objectives associated with the factors are not achieved, the program will perhaps fail catastrophically. In general, the success of safety programs arises from desired events or activities that are required to be happen. According to Top (1991) and Michaud (1995), a successful safety program can be measured in terms of no injury to people, no damage to equipment, machines and tools, no damage to environment, no loss of market competition, no damage to company image or brand-name, and increased productivities. Based on previous safety researches, 16 factors were commonly proposed as essential to favorable outcomes of safety program implementation. Table 1 summarizes and discusses the potential factors affecting the success of safety programs as sourced from safety literature.

Conclusions

This research identified and ranked 16 CSFs of safety program implementation based on their degree of influence. It revealed that ‘‘management support’’ was the most influential factor for safety program implementation in the Thai construction industry. The results of the 16 CSFs in the order of the degree of influence were: (1) management support, (2) appropriate safety education and training, (3) teamwork, (4) clear and realistic goals, (5) effective enforcement scheme, (6) personal attitude, (7) program evaluation,
(8) personal motivation, (9) delegation of authority and responsibility, (10) appropriate supervision, (11) safety equipment acquisition and maintenance, (12) positive group norms, (13) sufficient resource allocation, (14) continuing participation of employees, (15) good communication, and (16) personal competency. Additionally, there was a strong consensus on the rankings of these 16 factors between the two different groups of respondents. By using a Factor Analysis technique, the identified CSFs were grouped into four major dimensions namely, (1) worker involvement, (2) safety prevention and control system, (3) safety arrangement, and (4) management commitment. ‘‘Worker involvement’’ referred to creating favourable safety attitudes and motivation of workers which largely depended on constructive norms of the workgroup and their degree of their participation in safety activities. ‘‘Safety prevention and control system’’ required an effective enforcement scheme, appropriate supervision, equipment acquisition and maintenance, appropriate safety education and training, program evaluation and staffing qualified persons in order to successfully implement a safety program. ‘‘Safety arrangement’’ involved setting up proper mechanisms to disseminate information to all people concerned, assigning clear authorities and responsibilities to everyone at all levels as well as allocating adequate resources to safely carry out activities. ‘‘Management commitment’’ consolidated the safety program implementation through visible support of the top management which also included encouraging all employees to achieve success through team-spirit and setting realistic and achievable safety goals which could be accomplished. To ensure the contribution of the CSFs to the safety standards were realistic, three case studies were conducted. The results proved that the construction project, wherein all CSFs, and not just one or a few, are given proper attention, there is a higher standard of safety performance.

This journal is available online at www.sciencedirect.com.

The abstract is copied and posted.

Abstract

It is well known that construction projects have many work-related accidents and injuries. In recent year, to overcome such safety problems, safety program implementation has been given significant consideration as one of the effective methods. In order to effectively gain from safety programs, factors that affect its implementation need to be studied. This paper identified 16 critical success factors (CSFs) of safety programs from safety literature and previous research and these were thereafter validated by construction safety professionals. The study was conducted through questionnaire surveys with 80 respondents from medium and large-scale construction projects taking part. The survey intended to assess and prioritize the degree of influence of those success factors have on the safety programs as perceived by the respondents. The result showed that the most influential factor is management support. Furthermore, using factor analysis, the 16 CSFs could be grouped into four dimensions: worker involvement, safety prevention and control system, safety arrangement, and management commitment. In order to validate the findings, three case studies were further conducted to test the effect of those success factors on construction safety performance.

© 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Critical success factor; Safety programs; Occupational safety and health; Construction; Employee involvement; Management commitment

* Corresponding author.E-mail address: st100549@ait.ac.th (T. Aksorn).

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