Building safety

Building Safety

Outlining a safe work methodology with a subcontractor or inducting on-site operatives to requirements and compliance.

Outline and Background of Case Study

As a framework to a discussion around the topic of this case study Safe Work Australia (SWA) (2015) state in their recent report that due to the high number and rate of work-related injuries and illnesses together with inherent risks associated with working in the industry that construction is a high priority for work health and safety.

  • Construction workers reported a substantially higher proportion of work-related cuts and open wounds compared to workers in other sectors;
  • Construction workers also experienced a greater proportion of injuries due to falls from height compared to other workers;
  • In terms of disease-causing hazards, construction workers reported that the most common hazards in their workplace they were exposed to were airborne hazards, vibration and noise (SWA; 2015 pp5).

SWA (2015) also suggest in their report that almost all construction employers reported that they make work practices safe, removed hazards as much as possible and used personal protective equipment in the workplace. Workers had high levels of agreement, however this level of agreement was less than that of their employers. Only four in ten employers indicated that their workplace reviewed incident reports and statistics. Construction businesses spent much more time per week preparing Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) than businesses in the other priority industries. Almost one third of construction workers agreed that conditions in their workplace stopped them from working safely, which was much higher than reported by employers.

Relevant to the case study that follows, thirty-nine percent of construction employers did not provide any work health and safety training to their employees during 2012. A much higher proportion of construction employers included contractors in their induction training for new employees than employers in other industries. One quarter of construction employees indicated that they accepted risk taking at work. The top six compliance activities undertaken by construction employers were according to Safe Work Australia (2015):

  • The provision of protective clothing or equipment
  • Identification of safety issues
  • Talking with workers (including contractors)
  • Implementing safety measures
  • Talking with other businesses, and
  • Running toolbox sessions.

What a boss must do according to Safe Work Australia

Your boss must: look after your health and safety at work. Your boss must:

  • show you how to do your job safely or make sure someone shows you how to do your job safely
  • make sure there is someone to watch out for you
  • not ask you to do anything that needs a special licence, like drive a car, a crane or a forklift if you don’t have the right licence
  • have the right tools and equipment for you to do your job safely.
  • give you safety equipment if you need it to do your job.

These are some of the things that could hurt you at work:

  • using equipment when nobody has taught you how to use it properly
  • not wearing the right safety equipment or not wearing it properly
  • hurrying and taking short cuts
  • doing things that take your mind off the job while you are working (like using your own mobile phone while you are working). View the full report.

Purpose – aims and objectives

The purpose of setting out this example is to highlight some of the more pertinent facts about contemporary construction safety when compared with other target sectors. Once students become aware of these facts a relatively factual discussion around an induction of site operatives may take place. The top six compliance activities noted above may be utilised.

The aim is to help students understand that whilst there are issues associated with on-site safety, a concerted and proactive approach will ensure that all workers on site return home from work each day.

The objective is to provide students with several actual examples where safety may be improved and discuss in class with a predetermined case study how steps may be put in place to obviate accidents and WHS issues on site.

Some questions:

  • What are the issues if PPE is not provided?
  • Sometimes young people/ or less experienced people are pressured to undertake unsafe acts whilst operating in the workplace
  • Consider workers who simply do not understand what PPE they should be using.

Antecedents (precursor)

Students may feel their job is threatened if they refuse to comply with an instruction on site. They may be keen to show they are compliant and interested in their work regardless of the circumstances they are put in.

Protective Factors

  • Knowing current legislation.
  • Being assertive and clear that you know what your rights and obligations are.
  • Particular protective factors in this instance can be identified from a discussion around engagement in peer group work and perhaps role-play.

Risk Factors

  • The balance between risk and protective factors is said to be a dynamic process. Accordingly, a lack of protective factors would increase the possibility of risk associated with a student’s resilience when considering the case study.
  • Insufficient competency or a lack of basic skills in negotiation or problem-solving may increase the possibility of risk associated with the case study.
  • Support - it may be noted that the student may take the opportunity to prepare prior to the meeting.

Resilience or coping

  • Some discussion around possible outcomes associated with the case study with a particular focus on the positive is useful.
  • A capability to defuse a situation of the kind identified is positive.
  • Providing solutions and a way forward, both immediately and in the short term are helpful.


A particular consequence arising from the case study can be identified as personal growth. This draws us back to the definition of resilience shown above

Contribution by

Professor Peter Davis, University of Newcastle

Further reading

Safe Work Australia (2015). "Work Health & Safety Perceptions: Construction Industry." S. W. Australia, ed., Stakeholder Engagement, Safe Work Australia, Canberra ACT 2601.

Download/print this case study (PDF, 41KB)