The role of production and teamwork practices in construction safety: a cognitive model and an empirical case study.J Safety Res. 2009; 40(4):265-75.JS
In construction, the challenge for researchers and practitioners is to develop work systems (production processes and teams) that can achieve high productivity and high safety at the same time. However, construction accident causation models ignore the role of work practices and teamwork. This study investigates the mechanisms by which production and teamwork practices affect the likelihood of accidents.
The paper synthesizes a new model for construction safety based on the cognitive perspective (Fuller's Task-Demand-Capability Interface model, 2005) and then presents an exploratory case study. The case study investigates and compares the work practices of two residential framing crews: a 'High Reliability Crew' (HRC)--that is, a crew with exceptional productivity and safety over several years, and an average performing crew from the same company.
The model explains how the production and teamwork practices generate the work situations that workers face (the task demands) and affect the workers ability to cope (capabilities). The case study indicates that the work practices of the HRC directly influence the task demands and match them with the applied capabilities. These practices were guided by the 'principle' of avoiding errors and rework and included work planning and preparation, work distribution, managing the production pressures, and quality and behavior monitoring.
The Task Demand-Capability model links construction research to a cognitive model of accident causation and provides a new way to conceptualize safety as an emergent property of the production practices and teamwork processes. The empirical evidence indicates that the crews' work practices and team processes strongly affect the task demands, the applied capabilities, and the match between demands and capabilities.
IMPACT ON INDUSTRY
The proposed model and the exploratory case study will guide further discovery of work practices and teamwork processes that can increase both productivity and safety in construction operations. Such understanding will enable training of construction foremen and crews in these practices to systematically develop high reliability crews.