Negotiating safety practice in small construction companies

Tidsskriftartikel - 2015


Small construction companies have high rates of work related injuries and pervasive challenges in preventing them. This article examines safety practice from the employee perspective, taking into account the role of the owner-manager and interactions with customers in everyday work settings. Data were derived from a qualitative multi-case study of ten small construction companies (carpentry/plumbing/masonry) involving one or two-man work crews. The analytic approach is phenomenological, based on thematic content analysis of interviews and participant-observations. The employees' general approach to safety was "to take care of oneself", which, in addition to standardized rule-based knowledge, drew on individual feelings, personal experience and the balancing of various concerns in different work settings, e.g. workflow, customer satisfaction, good work relations and safety issues. In the context of small companies, safety practice was negotiated in the tension between owner-manager decisions and employees' self-administration, which also was reflected in the way safety was communicated and learned within the companies as a matter of professionalism and individual mastering. Safety was rarely in explicit focus among employees in the small construction companies. It was an intrinsic part of their craftsmanship, established and negotiated in work situations and in interactions, in particular with customers. Safety issues were rarely shared or communicated as a common issue within the company. Consequently owner-managers had limited impact on the employees' daily safety practices. Injury prevention approaches should take into account the limited impact that owner-managers had on the day-to-day safety practices, as well as the importance of the employees' relationships with the customers.


Ozmec MN, Karlsen IL, Kines PA, Andersen L, Nielsen K. Negotiating safety practice in small construction companies. Safety Science 2015;71(Part C):275-281.
doi: 10.1016/j.ssci.2014.03.016

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