Developing toolkits and guidelines to improve safety performance in the construction industry in Oman

Umar, Tariq (2019) Developing toolkits and guidelines to improve safety performance in the construction industry in Oman. (PhD thesis), London South Bank University,


For the past few decades, there have been large infrastructure developments in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member countries consisting of the main oil and gas exporting countries that include Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar. This rapid growth has attracted international construction organizations and the workforce to the region. At the same time, occupational safety and health remained one of the key issues of the industry in the region. The aim of this research was, therefore, to find the solutions, develop toolkits and guidelines which could help construction organizations in the region to improve their safety performance. This study has considered the key areas of safety that include causes of accidents, costs of accidents, heat stress, occupational safety and health regulations, worker's health factors, and safety climate. There are some studies which considered these areas related to safety and health, but most of these studies are carried out in developed countries which have different environmental and social variables as compared to GCC in general and Oman in specific. For instance, the temperature in Oman in summer reaches 50° C. A toolkit developed for construction workers working in mild temperatures would not be effective for workers working in extreme hot and humid climatic conditions. To achieve the aims of the research associated with these areas, a mixed research method which includes both quantitative and qualitative research methods was adopted. The accident tracing model developed in this thesis was applied to 623 different types of accidents that took placed in two main construction organizations. The results show that “workers” were the cause of 42% of the total accidents under consideration. Construction organizations will be in a better position when they know the root causes of accidents in their projects. This will help them to develop strategies that encounter such accident causes. Improved safety performance cannot be achieved without investment in safety. Construction organizations are normally reluctant to spend on safety as they don’t properly understand the financial consequences. It was therefore attempted in this research to estimate the cost of accidents in the GCC construction industry. While there have been some issues in estimating the costs of accidents; however the total costs of an accident in Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar are estimated at US$ 415,620, US$ 91,940 and US$ 205,526 respectively. GCC region is well known for its hot and humid environment which could heavily affect the workers’ performance related to safety and productivity. The interviews held with 20 construction workers involved in different accidents confirm that a hot and humid environment was one of the reasons for the accident in which they were involved. In order to protect workers from heat stress; guidelines have been prepared considering GCC region climatic conditions. One of the key aspects which can guarantee improved safety performance is the presence of robust occupational safety and health regulations and its implementation. The existing GCC occupational safety and health regulations were compared with the regulations applicable in the USA, UK, AUS, and SA. The discussion revealed that the current regulations in GCC countries related to the (a) Fall from height, (b) Hazard communication standard related to chemicals, (c) Scaffolding, (d) Respiratory protection (e) Control of hazardous energy, (f) Ladders, (g) Powered industrial trucks, (h) Training, (i) Machinery and machine guarding, and (j) Eye and face protection, needs to be updated considering latest industrial requirements and standards. It is a universal fact that healthy worker's acts will not only make workers safer but such workers will be more productive as well. The results of this study show that the majority of construction workers in the region, based on the results of BMI and BP are not healthy. Similarly, the majority of them reported musculoskeletal pain. Such pain was confirmed to be affecting the worker's productivity. A balanced diet, healthy lifestyle, improved accommodation, workplace facilities and control on tobacco product are some of the key areas which could be considered to improve the workers’ health. Finally, a study has been carried out in the area of safety climate which resulted in a new safety climate assessment tool suitable for the GCC construction industry. The newly developed tool has a total of seven main dimensions including (i) Aligning and Integrating Safety as Value, (ii) Training At all Level, (iii) Improving Site Safety Leadership (iv) Management commitment, (v) Empowering and Involving Workers, (vi) Ensuring Accountability, and (vii) Improving Communication. Brief guidelines have been provided on how to use this assessment tool and how to interpret the results to make plans to achieve the required level of maturity. The key tools/guidelines developed in this research project were, a) tracing model for the root causes of accidents, b) guidelines for protecting workers from heat stress, c)recommendations for revising occupational safety and health regulations, and d) the safety climate assessment tool. Although, the safety climate assessment tool developed in this research was validated through email interviews, however, longitudinal studies are still recommended to evaluate the effectiveness of the proposed tool.

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