Download PDFOpen PDF in browser

An Ethnographic Investigation into a Series of Incidents on a Large Construction Project

8 pagesPublished: October 23, 2017


A series of incidents in a short period created cause for concern on a large construction project in the UK (+£500m). Incident investigations are one of the ways to learn about safety failings, so that remedial action can be put into place to avoid a recurrence. The researcher was a member of the H&S department, with the role of a participant observer during the incident investigation period. Data collection included: informal conversations with employees; attending safety and accident investigation meetings; viewing project documents; and attending the safety stand down that occurred. The case study findings revealed that a blame culture restricted information flow on the incidents; and consequently there was a focus on easily observable unsafe acts, and static unsafe conditions, providing a narrow rather than deep perspective. These acts and conditions, such as a lack of compliance with PPE, or a weather condition, were often difficult to manage. For safety understanding the project repeatedly used Heinrich’s (1931) seminal work as a foundation. However, this work is arguably outdated as it focuses on accidents on an individual rather than complex socio-technical level.

Keyphrases: accident investigation, construction, ethnography, safety

In: Marsha Lamb (editor). AUBEA 2017: Australasian Universities Building Education Association Conference 2017, vol 1, pages 62--69

Download PDFOpen PDF in browser