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

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.

Delivering Value for Money in Major Infrastructure Projects – Building Client Capabilities in the Public Sector

Principal Investigator: Roine LEIRINGER (PI); Steve ROWLINSON (Co-I)
Funding body: GRF


This research project examines the role of the public sector bodies that are charged with the acquisition of infrastructure assets. In particular, it investigates what the most appropriate role for public sector organisations as clients for infrastructure asset acquisition projects is; and seeks to establish what ‘mix’ of capabilities they require to ensure the effective definition and delivery of their projects. The research need is qualified on the basis of three observations. First, cost and time overruns have become close to inherent features on large infrastructure projects. Second, public sector clients are increasingly being asked to do more for less, i.e. produce more public value with fewer resources. Third, the pressures on resources in combination with changes in the organisation of the public sector at large have led to the outsourcing of client capabilities, in order to achieve slimmer client organisations. The research takes as its point of departure that public sector clients need the capability to manage the projects that they promote. The findings promise to support clients in establishing organisational structures and procedures based on a suitable mix of capabilities necessary to realise their objectives. They also contribute to the academic literatures on organisational capabilities, procurement and project management.


  1. Find the most appropriate role for public sector clients in large infrastructure asset acquisition projects.
  2. Establish what ‘mix’ that project-related capabilities public sector clients require to ensure the effective and efficient definition and delivery of different types of major projects.
  3. Develop a set of managerial principles that can help public sector clients decide on the most appropriate level and mix of capabilities for managing the projects they sponsor.


  • Winch, G.M. and Leiringer, R. (2016). Owner project capabilities for infrastructure development: A review and development of the “strong owner” concept. International Journal of Project Management, 34(2), 271-281.
  • Adukpo, S. and Leiringer, R. (2016) Developing ‘Owner Project Capabilities’ for Public Sector Clients Delivering Infrastructure Projects: A Dynamic Capabilities Approach. Accepted for CIB World Building Congress 2016, Tampere, Finland. June 2016.

Cost Escalation Study

Prof Steve Rowlinson has been commissioned by the Hong Kong Construction Association (HKCA) to study the reasons behind construction cost escalation in Hong Kong. The study aims to identify the sources and explain the causes of cost escalation in the construction industry in recent times. The study has culminated with the production of a “Cost Escalation Report” by Prof Rowlinson and a press conference organized by the HKCA on 1 Sep 2014. In the press conference, Dr Koh, with the austhorization from Prof Rowlinson, had presented the findings of the study to a group of HKCA senior committee members and media reporters including the reporters from the South China Morning Post, Ming Pao, Apple Daily, Oriental Daily ews, Ta Kung Pao, and The Sun. The study had also been presented to the HKCA’s Senior Management Committee Members and ordinary members in earlier occasions.


近年來,香港建造成本顯著上漲。香港建造商會對該問題高度關注,并委託香港大學建設與房地產系盧連新教授就工程成本上漲為課題而展開調查研究。此項 研究課題的目的是為建造業成本上漲的原因進行調查和分析。2014年9月1日,建造商會就此研究事宜召開新聞發佈會。許達雄博士受盧連新教授所委託在會中 向建造商會的高級委員會成員和媒體匯報主要研究成果。