THE INFLUENCE OF NATIONAL CULTURE ON WORKERS SAFETY CLIMATE IN THE NIGERIAN CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY

THE INFLUENCE OF NATIONAL CULTURE ON WORKERS SAFETY CLIMATE IN THE NIGERIAN CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY

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ABSTRACT

The research explored and analyzed the influence of national culture on workers safety climate in the Nigeria construction industry. It identified the attitudes and perceptions of construction workers towards safety, the national culture dimensions that influence workers attitudes and perceptions and the relationship between the national culture dimensions and construction workers safety climate. It employed survey research method where two set of similar questionnaires were structured and distributed to a total of 180 respondents which comprised 120 site operatives and 60 site management personnel. Out of the total number of questionnaire distributed only 141 were returned and utilized for analysis. Data obtained from the questionnaire survey were subjected to analysis using the following statistical tools; simple bar chart, pie charts, frequency tables and percentages. Means score Index and standard deviation were calculated and used to evaluate the effects of safety climate factors and national culture dimensions on workers attitudes and perceptions towards safety. Pearson’s Product-Moment Correlation Coefficient (r) was used to determine the relationship between national culture dimensions and safety climate, while two-tailed t-test was used to ascertain the significance of the correlation of the relationship. Again, one-way ANOVA was used to determine if there is any significant difference between the opinions of operatives and managers on the influence of national culture on workers safety climate. It was then found that workers involvement and beliefs and perceptions were among the safety climate factors that mostly affect workers attitudes and perceptions towards safety while the low mean values for management commitment and safety education and training indicates the level of management commitment to safety issues on construction sites. Five national cultural dimensions: power distance, collectivism, femininity, uncertainty avoidance and long term orientation greatly influence safety climate of construction workers. All the five culture dimensions except long term orientation have a very high positive correlation with safety climate. The correlation coefficients of the other four dimensions ranged from 0.75 to 0.99 while long term orientation dimension has correlation coefficients of 0.47 and 0.65 for operatives and managers respectively. Also the influence of all the five culture dimensions were statistically significant on workers safety climate at 5% significances level except for the long term orientation dimension which was not significant at 5% significance level. Likewise, there was no significant difference between the opinions of site operatives and site management personnel at 5% significance level, except for the power distance dimension which showed a significant difference as a result of large power distance between the operatives and management due to their job positions. In view of these, there is urgent need for the speedy passage of National Building Code Enforcement Bill so as to enforce the usage of project health and safety plan in all construction works, provision of health and safety regulations for construction work, training of site workers in basic safety practices, and putting into consideration workers cultural values and beliefs whenever any project is being embarked upon as it affects workers beliefs and perceptions and attitudes towards safety.

Key words: National Culture, Safety Climate, Construction Workers, Nigerian Construction Industry.

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1        BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

Construction industry is the hub of social and economic development in all countries of the world. Though in 2009, construction industry contributed only 1.98% of the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to the Nigeria economy (National Bureau of Statistics, 2010a); its importance and roles in the development of economy of any nation can never be disputed.

However, when compared with other labour intensive industries, construction industry has historically experienced a disproportionately high rate of disability injuries and fatalities for its size (Hinze, 1997). The industry alone produces 30% of all fatal industrial accidents across the European Union (EU), yet it employs only 10% of the working population (Mckenzie et al., 1999); in The United States of America (USA), it accounts for 22% of all fatal accidents and only 7% of the employed (Che Hassan et al., 2007). Bomel (2001) notes that in Japan, construction accidents account for 30%-40% of the overall industrial accidents, with the total being 50% in Ireland and 25% in the United Kingdom (UK). This situation is even worse in the developing countries and Nigeria in particular, because there are no reliable sources of data for such accident records.

Though, notable improvements have been achieved in terms of workers safety at site, the industry has continue to lag behind most other industries with regard to safety (National Safety Council, 1999). This notorious

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nature of construction industry in terms of safety is confirmed by Farooqui et al. (2008).

Davis and Tomasin (1996) observe that there are a number of reasons why accident records within the construction industry compare poorly with those of the manufacturing industry. In factories, there is normally a controlled working environment, with little change in the working procedures and equipment over long periods; additionally, the labour force usually remains fairly stable. Thus, once identified, hazards can be remedied with relative ease, and danger mitigated. However, the situation is quite different in construction industry as the working environment and labours are constantly changing (Davis & Tomasin, 1996).

Hinze (1997) also observes that health and safety in construction industry is susceptible to dangers because of its fragmented nature, the uncertain and technically complex nature of construction work, the uncontrollable environment in which production takes place, the employment practices, and the financial and time pressures imposed upon project participants. Rowlinson and Lingard (1996) added that the prototype nature of work, low education level of the workforce, and high levels of subcontracting contribute to the poor health and safety performance in the construction industry.

In developing countries, construction industry has performed far below the expectation in the areas of health and safety. The situation is quite pathetic in Nigeria because there is no existing functional legislation to that effect. Even the National Building Code which was approved by the National Executive Council since 2006, which Enforcement Bill is before

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the National Assembly has not been passed into law till date. Based on this, the International Labour Organization (ILO) (1987) attributes the poor health and safety records and performances in construction projects with developing countries to:

§  The high proportion of small firms and high number of self employed workers;

§  The variety and comparatively short life of construction sites;

§  The high labour turnover;

§  The large proportion of seasonal and migrant workers; and

§  Various trades and occupations working in the same area.

It is based on these facts that safety climate and culture and national culture as factors that affect health and safety performance in construction industry are bring to focus.

1.2        STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

According to Mohamed (1999), accidents on construction sites, cause many human tragedies, de-motivate workers, disrupt site activities, delay project progress, and adversely affect the overall cost, productivity and reputation of the construction industry. In recognition of the problems above, countries all over the world have seen the necessity of improving occupational health and safety management on construction sites, particularly to reduce the number of accidents on construction sites.

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Then, it has been established that unsafe behavior is intrinsically linked to workplace accidents. Also different types of construction site accidents such as fall from height, hitting by falling object, electrocution, etc are often associated with person’s attitude. It has also been confirmed that a positive correlation exists between workers safe behavior and safety climate within construction site environment, and that workers attitudes towards safety are influenced by their risk perceptions, risk management, safety rules and procedures and cultural background (Che Hassan et al., 2007; Fogarty & Shaw, 2010; Glendon & Litherland, 2001; Ho & Zeta, 2004; Ismail et al., 2009; Mohamed, 2002; Mohd Saidin et al., 2008; Salminen &Seppala, 2005).

Currently, Nigeria is enjoying relatively strong growth in construction activities. Unfortunately, it is disheartening that enforcement of safety regulations is not widespread within the country. Researchers in some quarters have argue that the framework of existing occupational and health conditions of Nigeria construction industry if any, is grossly fragmented and inadequately enforced (Idoro,2007, 2008). Just like in any other industry, good health and safety conditions constitute good and safe business practice. It is a general believe that integration of health an


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