Author: Lyu, Sainan
Title: Improving the safety communication of ethnic minority workers in the construction industry
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2019
Subject: Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Construction industry -- Safety measures
Construction industry -- Employees
Minorities -- Employment
Minorities -- Health and hygiene
Pages: xix, 371 pages : color illustrations
Language: English
Abstract: The increasing employment of ethnic minority workers (EMWs) or migrant workers has formed a distinctive feature of the construction industry in many countries, such as European countries, the United States (U.S.), Australia, Middle Eastern countries, and Singapore. However, evidence shows that ethnic minority (EM) construction workers are more vulnerable to safety-related accidents and injuries than their local counterparts. Safety communication plays an important role in improving the safety climate and avoiding accidents at construction sites. Previous research has highlighted communication barriers as one of the major safety problems faced by EM construction workers. Thus, the safety communication of EMs deserves more attention. This study aims to improve the safety communication of EMWs in the construction industry. Its objectives are to identify and evaluate the safety and health problems of EMs; identify the critical safety communication factors for EMs; explore the relationship between the safety communication factors and safety performance of EMs; compare the safety communication factors among EMs, management, and local workers; build the predominant safety communication structures of EMs; evaluate the safety communication structures of EMs; and investigate the relationships between the safety communication structures and safety performance of EMs. To achieve these objectives, both qualitative (i.e., semi-structured interview) and quantitative methods (i.e., Delphi survey and questionnaire surveys) were employed in this study. The semi-structured interviews with 18 management professionals were initially conducted to determine the categories of safety and health problems and the safety communication factors of EMWs. Two rounds of a Delphi survey were employed to rank the relative severity of the identified safety and health problems. Questionnaire survey 1 was carried out with EM and local construction workers, and management staff in the Hong Kong and Australian construction industries to evaluate the safety communication factors and examine their relationships with safety performance. A total of 134, 202, and 95 valid questionnaires were collected from EMs, local workers, and management staff, respectively, in survey 1 and the overall valid response rate was 66%. Questionnaire survey 2 was conducted face-to-face with EM construction crews on sites in Hong Kong to build the safety communication structures and examine their relationships with the safety performance of EMs. Responses were gathered from six EM crews, with the size of the crews ranging from 10 to 21.
The current study identified four categories and 14 subcategories of construction safety and health problems of EMWs. Among the 14 subcategories, the most urgent and serious were insufficient safety materials and training in their native language, insufficient safety staff from the EM's origin, and safety communication barriers. In addition, safety and health problems at the corporate and governmental levels are also worthy of attention. A total of 18 critical safety communication (SC) factors for EMs were identified from the perspective of EM construction workers and were categorised into three groups using exploratory factor analysis: (1) worker-related safety communication factors of EMs (WFEM); (2) management staff-related safety communication factors of EMs (MFEM); and (3) organisation-related safety communication factors of EMs (OFEM). The direct and indirect effects of critical SC factors on the safety performance of EMs were further examined using structural equation modelling. The results showed that WFEM and MFEM had significantly positive direct effects on the safety compliance and safety participation of EMs. WFEM and MFEM also had significantly positive indirect effects on safety compliance and participation of EMs via safety knowledge and safety motivation. Safety knowledge and safety motivation were two complete mediators. The direct effect of OFEM on safety compliance and safety participation of EMs was not significant. OFEM only had indirect effects on the safety compliance and safety participation of EMs. The results of the comparative analysis of SC factors of EMs between management and EMs showed that 22 out of 36 SC factors were perceived as significantly different by EMs and management staff, all of which were perceived as more important by EMs than by management staff. There was significant disagreement regarding the rankings of SC factors between EMs and local workers. Twenty-eight out of 36 SC factors had a significant difference in the mean values as perceived by EMs and local construction workers, all of which were perceived as more important by EMs than by local workers. The predominant safety communication structures of EM construction crews were built and evaluated using social network analysis and their relationships with safety performance were examined. The results revealed that language proficiency, network density, and level of reciprocity were contributing factors that distinguished the high and low safety performing EM crews. EM management received more safety information from EM construction workers than local management. The centrality of EMWs was significantly related to their age, perceived priority of safety, and language ability. This study sheds light on how to improve the safety communication of EM construction workers. It contributes by updating the existing body of knowledge on safety and health problems encountered by EM construction workers, the safety communication factors for EMs, and the safety communication networks of EM crews. Findings about key safety and health problems of EMs will be of value to various stakeholders in formulating safety and health measures for EM construction workers. The identified critical SC factors for EMs could help industry practitioners to diagnose deficiencies in safety communication management with EM construction workers. The relationship between SC factors and safety performance should be useful for safety professionals to improve the safety performance of EMs. The findings related to the safety communication networks of EM crews contribute to developing effective communication network patterns for EM construction workers.
Access: open access

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