Lowering the Curve – Construction Site Safety Improvement: Culture`s Consequences

Department: Real Estate and Construction
Research Centre: Healthy High Density Cities Lab;
Active Dates: September 2014 - on-going

Principal Investigator: Steve ROWLINSON
Funding body: GRF

The Problem

Since 2005 the rapid decline in the accident rate on Hong Kong construction sites stopped and has plateaued at 55 accidents per 1000 workers per annum. There has been no shortage of site safety initiatives but it appears that the effectiveness of the initiatives is reducing.

The questions addressed by this research are;

  1. Why have safety improvements plateaued?
  2. What has to be done to promote a new, sustained decline in accident rates?


  1. Undertake a 360° assessment of the safety climate on construction sites and reflect on how climate can be improved.
  2. Highlight and investigate the mismatches between what is spoken and what is actually done on site and how this influences risk-taking.
  3. Assess the extent of risk-taking propensity of construction workers and its effect on OHS performance.


  • Risk-taking propensity of Hong Kong workers
  • Pace of construction work
  • Payment systems (piece rate vs daily wage)
  • Subcontracting and culture of the work force
  • Risk propensity
  • Cultural gap between managers and supervisors & workforce
  • Dynamic risk assessments


Tangible change has taken place in procedures and systems in place on Hong Kong construction sites but intangibles, such as safety climate and cultural values have not changed. This research has revealed the impact of safety climate, risk taking propensity and cultural dissonance on the effective working of safety management systems in the construction industry.

Enlarge Photo: Research in ActionEnlarge Photo: Figure 1: Data collection was conducted on the construction sitesEnlarge Photo: Video gaming based Safety Training<br>
Figure 2-1: Captures from safety training 3D-video

Enlarge Photo: Video gaming based Safety Training<br>
Figure 2-2: Captures from safety training 3D-videoEnlarge Photo: Figure 3: Safety seminar and training using 3D-Video for the workers