Development of a client-driven health and safety model for measuring health and safety performance of construction projects in south africa.
Khoza, Joseph Dumizulu.
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The construction industry plays a vital role in the world economy. A labour-intensive sector creates the most employment opportunities for unskilled and semi-skilled workers from impoverished local communities. The activities of the construction industry affect all aspects of the economy and drive the economic growth of many countries; it makes use of materials procured from other industries – making it one of the sectors indirectly contributing to employment creation in other sectors. Despite its vital role and contribution to economic growth, the construction industry remains a hazardous sector where the most vulnerable (unskilled and semi-skilled) workers are continually involved in serious construction accidents. Although there have been interventions by various stakeholders to deal with this problem, the results remain unacceptable with accidents persisting in the industry. Notwithstanding significant effort by business associations, researchers, construction clients and contractors to deal with the unsatisfactory health and safety (H&S) performance in the construction industry, the situation has not improved. There is consensus amongst researchers that the involvement by clients throughout all of the project phases can lead to improvement in the health and safety performance of construction projects. Over the past few years various studies dealing with client influence in construction project health and safety performance have reported several methods in which construction clients can improve this aspect on project sites; however, very few studies have developed models to assist the industry in improving health and safety of these projects. Lack of effective involvement by clients has contributed to the construction industry’s extremely high number of accidents that occur on a daily basis, resulting in medical treatment cases, lost time incidents, fatalities and damage to property. The objective of this study was to develop a client-driven health and safety rating model (CHSRM) for the measurement of health and safety performance that can be used by construction clients to improve project health and safety performance. The relationship between involvement of clients in construction projects and health and safety performance was investigated and the extent to which South African construction clients are involved in projects was examined. Results from the literature reviewed identified the attitudes by clients towards health and safety overall, the communication attitudes by clients towards health and safety, the selection of contractors, the involvement of clients before and during construction, contractual health and safety arrangement and monitoring of health and safety performance by contractors, as critical factors associated with involvement of clients in construction projects and health and safety improvements. It was conceptualised that these critical factors can be used as building blocks for the CHSRM. Using the framework of factors from previous studies, a survey method was adopted for this study. A questionnaire was designed for respondents to assess the extent to which construction clients were involved in construction project health and safety in projects they had managed and to evaluate the health and safety performance of those projects. Results from data collected across 135 large-size construction projects in South Africa were analysed using descriptive statistics. The first results from the questionnaire relate to the degree to which construction clients are involved in the project health and safety. They show that the attitudes of clients and their communication attitudes towards health and safety, selection of contractors, contractual health and safety arrangement and the monitoring of health and safety performance of contractors were found to be satisfactory and common in the construction industry. However, involvement by clients before and during construction was found to be unsatisfactory. The second results relate to whether there is a relationship between client involvement and project health and safety performance. A survey was designed for respondents to assess the performance of projects they had participated in and to evaluate their performance by providing data using lagging indicators. The relationship between the six constructs with each of the project health and safety performance indicators was tested using correlation analysis. The results show that all of the constructs have a high significant positive correlation at p<0.001. Furthermore, they show that the first aid incident rate and all incident frequency rate indicators of project health and safety performance are not influenced by any of the research variables. The medical treatment incident frequency rate, lost time incident frequency rate and recordable case rate indicators of project performance are all influenced by selection of contractors and contractual health and safety arrangement. Based on the results of the study, the client-driven occupational health and safety measurement model seemed to be justifiable. The results from previous studies provided a theoretical basis to construct a model for this study using the critical health and safety factors. It was hypothesised that attitude of clients towards health and safety, their communication attitude towards health and safety, their involvement before and during construction, selection of contractors, contractual health and safety arrangement and the monitoring of health and safety performance of contractors, have a direct influence on project health and safety performance. These hypotheses were tested and verified using Covariance-Based Structural Equation Modelling (CB-SEM). Contrary to the findings of the previous studies, the final CB-SEM results suggested that the contractual health and safety arrangement is the only construct which has a direct effect on project health and safety performance. Mediation hypothesis was performed revealing that the attitude, communication and selection of contractors based on their historical health and safety performance have an indirect effect of project health and safety performance. The final model was validated by CHS experts who were asked to review the proposed model and to rate the extent to which they agree/disagree with the statements that described the model in terms of its applicability, effectiveness and adaptability in the construction industry. The key finding was that CHSRM was acceptable. The study has contributed to knowledge by deepening the understanding of the critical elements to health and safety beyond those considered in previous studies. The significance of the study was that construction clients could use CHSRM before and during the construction process. It has also highlighted the urgent need for construction clients to change the traditional mind-set that health and safety is only the responsibility of construction contractors. The results of the study have confirmed that involvement by clients throughout the phases of the project could lead to improvement in project health and safety. Future studies should be conducted using a larger sample size to improve the application of the model in the construction industry. The survey instrument indicator variables may be refined to suit specific project environments.