Professor Matthew Hallowell and PhD student Wael Alruqi recently were selected as an Editor’s Choice by the American Society of Civil Engineers for their paper, Critical Success Factors for Construction Safety: Review and Meta-Analysis of Safety Leading Indicators.
Their research focused on what factors in construction correlated most strongly with site safety performance.Their research is a first step toward robust safety prediction and control.
Construction is a dangerous industry with one of the highest levels of fatalities. It has long been an industry-wide initiative to reduce incidents on construction sites. However, traditional measures of safety performance focus on injury outcomes, like historical injury rates. These lagging metrics are ineffective in predicting future performance and have limited use for injury prevention.
Hallowell and Alruqi focused on safety leading indicators, which are more effective at predicting potential hazards and future performance. These indicators, including quality and quantity of training, record keeping and inspections, provide more insight into future safety performance. They can be used to develop proactive responses to hazards, which can increase a project’s capacity for success. Leading indicators rely on empirical data rather than generalized perceptions in order to develop statistics that are useful for improving safety.
Hallowell and Alruqi utilized meta-analysis to develop statistics from all published studies on construction safety leading indicators. Their data showed that the relationship between different leading indicators and injury rates varied widely, with several more impactful than others. The factors that were significantly correlated with worksite injuries were safety record, safety resource, staffing for safety, owner involvement, safety training/orientation, personal protective equipment (PPE), safety incentives programs, safety inspections and pre-task safety meetings. These were found to be fairly universally valid indicators.
Hallowell and Alruqi hope their findings can be used by the construction industry to transition from reactive to proactive approaches that are based upon empirical evidence.
“We are excited to have this research featured since safety leading indicators has been a hot topic among researchers and practitioners in recent years,” Hallowell said. “We hope the work helps the industry to devise safety strategies that are based upon empirical evidence and robust statistics. Our long-term vision is for safety to become a more evidence-based discipline.”