Construction workers safer when they ditch the manual: study

Construction workers safer when they ditch the manual: study

Depositphotos_1035309_s-2015We all know (or suspect) that safety manuals really aren’t designed for ease of worker use and effectiveness but rather to comply with legislation, to pass audits and win tenders – the very cynical may use terms like “Cover Your Arse”. They are written by “experts” and do not always consider literacy levels, language barriers, years of practical experience and heuristics (which workers must fall back on in preference to being flooded and their own normal bounded rationality).

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This article, published recently on The Conversation Blog,  shares the finding from a recent study by the RMIT University into the more effective use of digital technology in safety.

Extract from original article first published here

The literacy levels of construction workers are low relative to other industries, and yet prescriptions about how to work safely are often buried inside long and complicated documents.

Our research suggests workers may not even read these documents before they commence work. Also, no matter how complex they are, documents cannot cover all eventualities. There’s a gap between the way work is described in formal health and safety documents and the way it is practised on site.

Visual methods, including video, can overcome some of these difficulties. For a long time videos have been used to communicate health and safety information to workers. But safety training videos are often produced by technical experts or media companies and shown to workers in stand-alone presentations. In such uses, workers are passive audiences to generic video materials.

Construction companies are legally required to consult workers on health and safety issues, but this is often done in a very formal top-down way, rendering it meaningless.

This is a missed opportunity because construction workers possess a wealth of knowledge based on their practical experience, often gained over many years. Research conducted at RMIT University (undertaken in partnership with Melbourne-based firm CodeSafe Solutions) examined the potential for digital and mobile technologies to be used to access, capture and share workers’ health and safety knowledge.

In the research, construction workers were involved in making films about their everyday work practices. Unlike documentary, in which subjects have little or no say in how they are portrayed, participatory video engages people in making films about their everyday experiences.


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