31 July 2014

Construction safety through international collaboration and benchmarking

Dr Rita Zhang and Payam Pirzadeh recently visited Virginia Tech, USA, as part of the Centre’s five year collaborative research project with the VT Occupational Safety and Health Research Center.


The project is reaching its conclusion and the team is currently producing reports to enable industry to implement the findings in the workplace.

Dr Zhang presented with Dr Brian Kleiner (Professor of Industrial & Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech) to representatives at the Myers Lawson School of Construction a paper entitled ’Construction safety through international collaboration and benchmarking: Australia and the United States‘. Globally, the US has the largest per annum construction spend (over 5 times that of Australia which is currently ranked 9th), so it makes good sense to benchmark key industry safety approaches of the two countries.

The research is organised into the following three aims:

Aim 1: To model the roles, interactions and flow of information that occurs during the construction project lifecycle in order to look at the impact of collaborative decision making in achieving effective safety risk outcomes during the construction phase. The research utilised a social network modelling approach to measure relative strengths of interactions of key project team participants from client, design and construction groups. This part of the research has provided clear empirical evidence to support the practise of early integration of WHS risk assessment into the project planning stages as well as integration of specific knowledge and expertise from a wide range of sources to support each assessment. Download our ‘Safety in Design’ Summary Report (PDF 205 KB)

Aim 2: To measure the degree of congruency of attitudes toward WHS across four traditionally fragmented construction role categories with the purpose of building more effective approaches to integration. Using an innovative photo-sorting survey method, researchers sought to gain a better understanding of perceived barriers as well as differences in perspective of various construction professionals. Both Australian and US construction professionals were surveyed within four broad categories of architects, design engineers, constructors and safety professionals. Download our ‘WHS Risk Perceptions’ Information sheet (PDF 160 KB)

Aim 3: To evaluate the impact of collaborative project delivery methods and procurement strategies on safety performance. This aim concentrated on the presence of shared mental models of safety and a unity of purpose in safety outcomes.

Research into practice: The Centre is currently developing a set of practice reports which will translate the findings of this research into practical tips for managers and WHS professionals working in all areas of construction. The aim is to build a shared safety approach to support the development of effective safety processes and culture within the construction industry.