The influence of religious consciousness on construction health and safety practices and performance

Umeokafor, Nnedinma and Windapo, Abimbola (2019) The influence of religious consciousness on construction health and safety practices and performance. Journal of Construction in Developing Countries, 24(1), pp. 23-47. ISSN (print) 1823-6499


The potential of religiousness to influence health and safety (H&S) practices and attitudes, which will in turn determine H&S performance, is an area that remains highly under-examined. Hence, using the Nigerian construction industry as a case study, this study evaluates the impact of religious consciousness on H&S practices, H&S attitudes and H&S performance, and explains how it is practiced to influence H&S. It also identifies, evaluates and explains the ways in which religion is instrumental in improving H&S. The study employs a mixed method research approach involving the use of survey questionnaires and interviews in collecting relevant data. The data collected was analysed thematically and using descriptive and inferential statistics including the Kendall's tau-b test. The findings show strong evidence of elements of religion, for example, the belief in the supernatural and religious underpinned activities in construction organisations. It also shows correlations between H&S lagging indicators, such as rituals, alteration of works and elements of religion, being afraid or respecting the supernatural. There is a correlation between the element of religion, membership of a religious organisation and the leading H&S indicators such as conducting H&S audit. Additionally, it emerged that elements of religion, such as observed belief in the supernatural, correlate with the attitudes of the contractors towards H&S such as ensuring the safety of the public and preserving the environment. Furthermore, a significant number of the respondents perceived that the promotion of H&S practices through religious underpinned teachings could be an effective way of improving H&S practices in Nigeria. This study is a first step in exploring the potentials of religiousness in H&S improvement. It is also beneficial to academics, policymakers and religious teachers, in promoting improved H&S performance on construction projectsPoor safety culture is a systemic issue for construction workers in Nigeria. Evidence suggests workers’ rights to safe work and dignity are abused frequently. Although extant Nigerian laws compel contractors to maximise work safety, media reports are rife with incidents of collapse of structures, site accidents and hazards. Fatalities, and consequential losses from these, are significant. In context, the Nigerian procurement law requires contractors to be pre-qualified before receiving contract awards. Through a systematic literature review (SLR), this study examines pre-award assessment processes and standards relating to contractors’ compliance with workers’ health and safety. In addition, pre-award assessment objectives are compared with normative objectives of health and safety standards during construction. A significant gap is found between the two: pre-award assessment is incapable of translating into considerable safety outcomes for workers and projects. As a result, a new framework for assessing contractors’ safety capability is proposed. The study also argues the significance of the proposed framework to extant pre-qualification frameworks used in Nigeria. Rather than being prescriptive, the framework can measure health and safety capabilities quantitatively. Conclusions are elicited from these on how to reform the Nigerian procurement landscape in terms of health and safety standards, and the cost benefits therefrom.

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