Tuesday, 19 January 2010

A Study Of Safety Budgeting Process In Thai Construction Projects

Most incidents in the construction industry are caused by human act more than improper conditions. Heinrich (1920), who studied accidents in industrial, mentioned that there are three main causes of accidents. First, 88% are human causes, 10% are mechanical failures or improper conditions, and acts of God are 2%. In order to reduce the accident, construction companies have to emphasis on safety programs which relate to human act more than the working condition.

The Social Security Office in Thailand has classified the construction industry at the high risk of accident. In order to avoid accidents, construction companies have to allocate some budget to manage site safety. Since this safety budget will be a part of the total bidding price, contractors must be able to estimate the budget for a competitive bidding price. Otherwise, the contractor might not be able to get the project.

In the competitive construction environment, the essence of estimating safety budget is emphasized not only preventing accidents, but also minimizing the total cost and time of project. There are three exiting methods in order to estimate safety budget. Firstly, estimate by using optimal cost of safety, this method try to find the optimal cost between accident costs and investment costs of safety. According to Son et al. (2000) and Tang et al. (1997), the optimization of safety cost in construction is proposed. They collected accident costs and safety investment costs from the companies and studied the relationship in order to find the optimal cost of safety. Second method, estimating by manual calculation, the lists of all safety requirements in design state will be calculated into cost. Third method, estimate by using percentage of safety budget from the total budget. Unfortunately, each method of safety budget estimation has its own limitation and not applicable for all types of construction project. It is still skeptical and questionable why different project has a different safety budget.

In Thai construction industry, base on an interview with several construction companies, most of safety budget in local construction companies was estimated by two approaches: experience of estimator and requirement of owner. In case of estimating safety budget by the estimator’s experience, a problem mostly occurring was inadequacy of safety budget during construction stage. They had to use another cost item as a budget for safety work. For some of international construction companies, on the other hand, they estimate safety budget in percentage of total budget. Therefore, the project’s safety budget exceeds the actual cost can be happened. Both of methods are unreliable and not systematic. Clearly, there is currently no competency and reliable systems for estimating of safety budget.

Mr. Siwachon Limpakornkul made a study which main objective is to investigate the safety budgeting processes in building construction projects. In order to achieve the main objective, his study sub-objectives were to (1) identify the process of safety budgeting; (2) identify problems occurring in the existing safety budgeting practice; (3) identify the factors that affect safety budget; and (4) recommend a better safety budgeting mechanism.


Nowadays, Thai construction companies pay attention in safety construction more than the past. Because the development of construction industrial changes from developing to developed country, the contractor must improve their quality of work in order to qualify for ISO. The safety management system is one of the systems that need a number of improvements especially in the context of developing country like Thailand. Some of the companies lack of understanding the safety management and thus perceive safety cost as a necessary evil as well as a fortune. The way capable of changing their perception is to promote the knowledge of safety such as in term of costs. The safety cost is the main focus in this research. The purpose is to give an idea that the safety cost or the safety investment is not a useless cost when compared with the accident cost.

The weakness of the current bidding system is that a contractor who bids a project with minimum price will get the project. This system will have an impact to the safety budget and the safety program approach to be included in the project and thus generate the occurrence of an accident. This research aims to identify the safety items and study the estimating process of safety budget and to find out the factor affecting the safety budget by interviewing several respondents in Thai construction companies and making a summarization into four case studies.

The data collection requires a lot of cooperation from the companies and some of the companies did not wish to support or attend an interview or did not cooperate with the academic approach. Only the companies that realize the importance of academic research have paid attention in the study and thus allow for data collection. These included 8 companies and 20 respondents in data collection. The framework of this research was thus generated and concluded into safety budget life cycle including planning, budgeting, and monitoring state. In the addition, the estimation processing on safety budget, the development of safety budget and calculation, affecting factors on safety budget, problems of safety budget and monitoring safety budget would be explained.

The process of safety budget
Normally, most of the investigated companies divided their business operations into two parts; head office and site operation units. The major goal of the head office is to get the project from project’s bidding or direct hired. The major goal of site operation is to operate the project within time, cost, quality, and safety. The project manger is the person who has the highest authority in the project. The safety budget is one of duties that the project manager has to handle. The estimation of safety budget can be concluded into three methods; manually calculation safety items or unit price, using lump sum cost, and percentage. The arrangement of safety items were organized by each of the companies. Safety budget in views of most of the companies includes PPE, safety programs, safety items which used only for safety. However, there were still such safety items that were hidden in main construction items or direct cost.

The problems occur in the existing safety budgeting practice
According to the data analysis, most of the contractors had the same problems on safety budget. The main problem was safety budget overrun. It was evident that most of them estimated safety budget by using their experience with lack of a systematic calculation. In addition, they were not able to identify the safety items clearly in the safety budget which includes: cost of PPE, safety programs, and supportive items for safety.

The factors that affect safety budget
The factors affecting the safety budget of the company were divided into two groups. The first group of factors was identified by the contractors who has clearly separated safety budget from the total budget and has been monitoring safety budget during construction. These factors included type of project, safety programs approach, number of workers, subcontractors, worker’s experience, and type of owner. On the other hand, several factors were also identified by the contractors who were not clearly separate safety budget from the total budget and lacked of monitoring the safety budget including location of project, market condition, consultant, total budget, and project duration.

The four stages recommendation was given in order to improve the existing process of safety budget for Thai construction contractors.

First is a planning stage, the project manager must involve in every project in order to select the suitable safety items and prepare the safety programs to a particular project.

Second is a budgeting stage, this aims to group the safety items into one group of safety budget. There are six accounts related to safety items; small tools, safety materials, wage & OT, subcontractor, rent, and special items.

Third is a monitoring safety budget by reporting every month.

Final stage is recording the actual cost of safety budget into a database. The database can be such intelligent system when input the information. This system should be able to predict the future safety budget and current safety cost expended.

His thesis abstract is copied and posted.


The safety cost is one major element of the total cost that a construction company has to control as it can cause the construction organization to have a loss or accomplishment the goal of profit. Because of the problems on a lack of understanding of safety management as well as a lack of allocating safety budget management, Thai contractors have encountered with such accidents in the job site. To overcome these problems, studying the exiting safety budget process and the requirements for achieving such effective system were conducted. Besides, factors affecting safety budget, problem of safety budget, and monitoring of safety budget were also identified in this study. This study assessed four case studies from different contractors (i.e. foreigner international contractor, Thai international contractors, and local contractor). Data from Thai construction companies which have experience in high-rised building was collected by in-depth interview technique. It was found that each of the companies has different perception on factors affecting safety budget, depending on the company’s safety budget process. Most of the companies were struggling to the problems on inability to control their safety budget due to the ambiguous calculation of safety budget as well as the difficulty in predicting the safety items before construction. Moreover, Thai construction regulations were too weak to force the contractor to emphasize more on safety. This study, thus, recommended that a safety manager must be involved in establishing a safety budget as well as recognizing the safety items from both indirect and direct costs into one safety budget. After that, monitoring the safety budget from the beginning until the completion of the project must be performed. The actual cost of safety should be recorded into a database. By following these, the safety budget could be more predictable and controllable and the safety performance of the project was believed to be improved as a consequence.


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