The vision of zero risk tolerance in craft workers and operatives: an unattainable goal?

Rawlinson, Fred and Farrell, Peter (2009) The vision of zero risk tolerance in craft workers and operatives: an unattainable goal? In: 25th Annual ARCOM Conference, 7-9 September 2009, Nottingham, UK.

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Taking health and safety risks is no longer tolerated on construction sites. Behavioural based safety model programmes often seek to change risk-taking behaviours and eliminate accidents. Risk is a cultural construct. Site work can be seen as inherently risky. Construction operatives take many risks that nonconstruction workers would not want to take; for example working on high scaffolds or roofs, climbing tower cranes, working below ground. This is in part why some people work in construction; they like taking those risks. Safety programmes impose a risk limit of zero on people. This would seem to be in conflict with an argument that some workers need to have, by the very nature of their work, a higher risk tolerance than most. Programmes often fail to manage personal risk-taking and therefore accidents still occur. A literature review was undertaken, drawing from authoritative sources in construction and psychology. Six qualitative interviews were undertaken with craft workers / operatives who had either been disciplined for risktaking on sites or who admitted to taking risks in their work. Condensed into vignettes, a narrative describes the actions and feelings of these workers. A high tolerance for risk was found, and given the nature of the work, this may indeed be necessary. There was no desire for reckless behaviour. The traditional industry drivers of production and speed are thought to be influential. High risk tolerance amongst workers may indicate that a vision of zero accidents may be unrealistic. To reduce levels of risk tolerance may be very difficult. More work is required to investigate how behavioural based programmes can be modified to take account of this aspect of construction site culture.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Keywords: craft worker, culture, health, risk, safety
Faculty: ARCHIVED Faculty of Science & Technology (until September 2018)
Depositing User: Mohammed Gohrabian
Date Deposited: 18 Jul 2016 15:46
Last Modified: 06 Apr 2022 15:21

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