30 August 2013

Construction WHS eNews – Issue 2 – Sep 2013

Welcome to the second issue of the RMIT Centre for Construction WHS e-newsletter.

These newsletters provide updates about the Centre’s activities and research projects – including new findings and practical outcomes.

There have been some exciting new developments in the Centre in the past few months. Between 15 and 23 July 2013, Dr Lance Saunders (Research Fellow, Centre for Innovation in Construction Safety in Health at Virginia Tech.) visited RMIT. The purpose of Lance’s visit was to work with RMIT researchers to combine a large body of data collected in the USA and Australian construction industries. The case study data included detailed analysis of the way in which WHS is considered in early project decision-making. The research forms part of an international benchmarking study of WHS practice in the US and Australian construction projects. The visit was very successful and preliminary results have been submitted to the prestigious peer-reviewed journal “Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management”.

WHS continues to be integrated into the teaching programs within the School of Property, Construction and Project Management and it is exciting to note that an increasing number of students are opting to investigate WHS-related topics in their individual and group project assignments. These projects are undertaken with an industry mentor who guides the students in defining their objectives and understanding the issues from an industry perspective. Students gain an excellent insight into industry WHS practices and are able to work with their mentors to extend their knowledge and explore new ideas relating to their chosen topic. Both mentors and students find this experience very stimulating.

The Centre continues to extend its activity in terms of research funding and the development of industry and international research partnerships.

Most notably in the past month, Centre members Helen Lingard, Ron Wakefield and Nick Blismas have been working on a bid for research funding in collaboration with Virginia Tech. (USA) and Loughborough University (UK). If successful, the research funding would support cross national evaluation of WHS interventions in the construction industries of three countries (the USA, the UK and Australia). This collaboration is significant because a great deal of WHS activity is not subject to robust evaluation, with the result that it is not possible to determine which interventions are more effective and which are less so. Consequently, the return on investment associated with the implementation of WHS initiatives is difficult to gauge. Even when rigorous evaluation methods are deployed, research is usually restricted to a specific location, and the opportunity for WHS best practices to be adopted beyond national boundaries is limited.
The challenge to developing cross-nationally valid best practices and internationally disseminating these practices is exacerbated by difficulty in engaging in research collaboration across large geographical distances. The proposed research responds to these challenges by developing, implementing and evaluating a robust protocol for the cross-national evaluation of WHS interventions. It is envisaged that, if this bid for funding is successful, the research will produce tangible benefits in supporting evidence-informed WHS practice. But also, it is expected that the evaluation model will become a useful tool for future intervention research in construction WHS.
Further updates on the progress of this application will be provided in future newsletters.

More news from the Centre for Construction Work Health and Safety