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Advance People Safety Assessment (PHSA) to improve behavioral aspects of safety climate in the construction industry
Received: 15 February 2019 / Revised: 12 March 2019 / Accepted: 13 March 2019 / Published: 18 March 2019
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Occupational safety in the construction industry is still a topical issue at the global level. In fact, the complexity of work activities in this sector requires a comprehensive approach that goes beyond regulatory compliance to ensure safer working conditions. In particular, empirical research on the factors influencing workers’ unsafe behavior needs to be expanded. Thus, the relationship between human factors and safety management issues was investigated, following a bottom-up approach. In particular, an easy-to-use procedure was developed that can be used to better meet the safety needs of workers by improving the company’s safety climate and supporting safety management issues. Such an approach based on the evaluation of human reliability factors was verified in a real case study on concrete mixer truck users. The results showed that the majority of human failures are action and retrieval errors, emphasizing the importance of theoretical and practical training programs as a means of improving safety behavior. In such a context, information and communication activities also led to a beneficial effect for increasing the safety climate in the company. The proposed approach, despite its qualitative nature, allows a clearer understanding of workers’ perceptions of hazards and their risk-taking behavior, providing practical guidelines for monitoring and improving the behavioral aspects of the safety climate. Therefore, these first results can contribute to the increase of safety knowledge in the construction industry, providing a basis for further research on the causal relationships related to human actions, which are considered a key element in the prevention of accidents.
Construction safety; safe climate; safety management; human reliability analysis; human behavior; construction safety risk assessment; safe climate; safety management; human reliability analysis; human behavior; Risk Assessment
The construction industry is considered a very risky sector  as the accident rate is consistently high globally . Such a phenomenon also has a significant economic and social impact . The determining factors for this situation can be found in the peculiarities of the construction sector . In fact, the combination of the following aspects, such as frequent turnover of employees, subcontractors and tight contract terms, working outdoors in all weather conditions, lack of highly skilled workers, use of outdated work equipment, frequent change of jobs, as well as the presence of different companies in the same place simultaneously contributes to the high rate of accidents and injuries . Therefore, the analysis of the causality of the accident and the definition of the related safety management measures represent a complex task .
To deal with such complexity, Mitropoulos et al.  emphasizes the need to analyze the characteristics of work tasks, given that normative approaches hardly account for the characteristics of work processes in a correct way. In fact, the improvement of human safety depends on the reduction of risks for workers when performing specific work activities in view of the human factor . Accordingly, specific work situations must be considered more carefully, since ensuring the safety of the various tasks is a prerequisite for ensuring a higher level of safety from both a design and an operational point of view . This means that more attention should be paid to the analysis of human behavior  and the factors that can influence it, such as stress, training, experience, etc. . In fact, according to Llory , a human-centered approach is needed because “safety is above all behavioral and individual”. In particular, the analysis of the perception of dangerous conditions and actions plays an important role in the implementation of a safety system in construction projects , while increasing safety behaviors can directly affect the safety climate and worker safety  . 14]. Safety climate can be considered as workers’ perception of safety management issues implemented by the company , and multiple factors contribute to its improvement . Among them, the human factor certainly plays a consistent role, because despite the increasingly strict problem of safety rules and procedures, workers still fail to perform their activities . Therefore, improving human factors safety performance can positively influence workers’ concern about safety issues in a work environment . Accordingly, Liao et al. , analyzing several construction case studies at project level, exposes the close relationship between safety climate and the human factor. This aspect was also highlighted by Glendon and Stanton , who advised safety managers to consider human error analysis to better understand human interaction with work tasks, improving the safety climate through a bottom-up approach. However, although a positive perception of safety allows for safer worker behavior and therefore possibly a reduction in accidents, further research into these relationships is needed to better understand the impact of human factors on safety management and issues of safety behavior . In particular, empirical research on the factors influencing hazardous behavior on construction sites should be increased .
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Following these research clues, our study is focused on developing an easy-to-use procedure for understanding worker behavior through bottom-up analysis that can be used to better meet workers’ safety needs, enhancing the company’s safety climate and maintaining safety management issues.
In more detail, the proposed framework is based on the analysis of work activities, integrating information about worker behavior and reliability through human error prediction techniques  and investigating how human interaction with work equipment and other personnel working in the same location can affect of the potential risks.
The rest of the paper is structured as follows: the next section discusses the background of the study. Section 3 depicts the research approach and Section 4 describes its application in a practical context (i.e. two small companies specializing in concrete distribution). Section 5 discusses the results achieved in terms of further research work, while Section 6 concludes the paper.
Traditionally, human factors have been viewed as the analysis of interactions between humans and work equipment, as well as the work environment . Estimating human error is a proven way to improve performance and reduce the risk of accidents . Several tools aimed at this goal can be found in the literature, also called Human Reliability Analysis (HRA) . Human factors analysis has been largely adopted in safety-critical industries in sectors such as nuclear power plants , marine systems , railway and aviation industries , as well as chemical plants, etc. Conversely, the use of these tools in other work contexts is not common, mainly due to their complexity in terms of both computational effort and resource commitment .
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In the construction industry, most studies deal with the analysis of worker behavior from the perspective of ergonomics , especially those that focus on the characteristics of work equipment . For example, Choudhry  reviewed numerous case studies of companies and workers who have successfully applied the behavior-based safety (BBS) approach to accident prevention. Accordingly, Li et al.  proposed an extended version of the BBS model, which resulted in an effective improvement of safety management performance. Behavior-based safety has also been analyzed through the system dynamics approach to highlight the feedback effects of such a model . Wu et al.  developed a stress scale for construction workers, establishing a relationship between dimensions of workplace stress and those of safe behavior. However, these types of analyzes can be time-consuming as they require sufficient monitoring