Construction managers' perceptions of construction safety practices in small and large firms: a qualitative investigation

Marion Gillen, Susan Kools, Cade McCall, Juliann Sum, Kelli Moulden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND AND GOALS: Despite the institution of explicit safety practices in construction, there continue to be exceedingly high rates of morbidity and mortality from work-related injury. This study's purpose was to identify, compare and contrast views of construction managers from large and small firms regarding construction safety practices. A complementary analysis was conducted with construction workers.

METHODS: A semi-structured interview guide was used to elicit information from construction managers (n = 22) in a series of focus groups. Questions were designed to obtain information on direct safety practices and indirect practices such as communication style, attitude, expectations, and unspoken messages. Data were analyzed using thematic content analysis.

RESULTS: Managers identified a broad commitment to safety, worker training, a changing workplace culture, and uniform enforcement as key constructs in maintaining safe worksites. Findings indicate that successful managers need to be involved, principled, flexible, and innovative. Best practices, as well as unsuccessful injury prevention programs, were discussed in detail. Obstacles to consistent safety practice include poor training, production schedules and financial constraints.

CONCLUSIONS: Construction managers play a pivotal role in the definition and implementation of safety practices in the workplace. In order to succeed in this role, they require a wide variety of management skills, upper management support, and tools that will help them instill and maintain a positive safety culture. Developing and expanding management skills of construction managers may assist them in dealing with the complexity of the construction work environment, as well as providing them with the tools necessary to decrease work-related injuries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-43
Number of pages11
JournalWork: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment and Rehabilitation
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • Administrative Personnel
  • Adult
  • Facility Design and Construction
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Labor Unions
  • Occupational Health
  • Qualitative Research
  • Safety Management
  • Workplace

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