Investigating the Safety Consciousness and Safety Citizenship Behaviour of Construction Workers in Mainland China and Hong Kong: The Individual and Organizational Channels for Improving Personnel Safety Management


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Awarding Institution
Award date3 Aug 2021


The construction industry in Hong Kong and Mainland China has rapidly developed with the continuous prosperity of these two regions. However, the occupational injuries and diseases that come with deficient management in the construction industry threaten human safety and adversely affect the healthy development of the society and economy. Therefore, the issue of reducing the occurrence of accidents by improving the safety management for construction personnel in the two regions needs to be seriously considered by scholars and industrial practitioners.

The concept of “safety management” is relatively general and abstract, which contains a number of safety constructs and theories. Hence, it is essential to check through the relevant literature so as to identify the key issues and promising research orientations related to “improving the occupational safety of construction personnel through safety management approaches.” The results of such endeavor will generate useful guidelines and objectives for the benefit of succeeding safety studies. The current work conducts quantitative and qualitative literature reviews to identify the key research orientations and perspectives (achieved through the quantitative review) and then complement the theoretical references and foundation for the research subjects in detail (achieved through the qualitative review).

For the quantitative literature review, 250 papers published between 1990 and 2019 were collected from Web of Science, Google Scholar, and Scopus databases by searching the keyword “Construction Safety Management”. Citation network analysis, a recognized quantitative literature review approach, was applied to visualize the interrelationship among authors, keywords, and references by using VOSviewer and CitNetExplorer. A knowledge structure map was drawn on the basis of the main path analysis of the articles, which was implemented by Pajek. The literature review revealed several promising research topics, including safety consciousness (SC) and safety citizenship behaviour (SCB). These two topics were identified to be particularly important because they serve as effective channels and indicators that help improve the occupational safety management for construction personnel.

The qualitative literature review was conducted to establish the specific research gaps and formulate the research plans for the identified research prospects and orientations. The results of the review should strengthen the theoretical basis of the relevant domains. The collected materials verified the feasibility of using SC and SCB as approaches for improving construction safety management. The two safety constructs were also reviewed extensively in relevant research, with a focus on theoretical development, individual and organizational characteristics, limitation of existing measurement scales, influencing factors, potential effects on safety performance, and possible links to safety management of construction personnel. The reviewed literature also covered the conceptual introduction of safety management in the construction industry and its current application in Hong Kong and Mainland China.

In addition, the thesis comprises five sequential studies that were designed to improve construction safety management in line with the identified research gaps and limitations. On the basis of the literature review, the theories of SC and SCB were found to be widely applied to different industries, such as agriculture, catering, and petroleum processing. However, the corresponding application in the construction industry is still in the early stage. Furthermore, no appropriate measurement scales are available for assessing the SC and SCB of construction practitioners. Therefore, Study 1 of this dissertation aims to solve the problem of “how to measure the SC and SCB accurately under the background of the construction industry in Hong Kong and Mainland China.” The scales of SC (11 items) and SCB (12 items) were designed by pooling the items and dividing the conceptual dimensions from the literature. The SC scale involved four dimensions: familiarity with safety regulations, education for safety skills, conscientiousness, and dependency on work experience. Similarly, the SCB scale contained four dimensions: mutual aid, relationship between superior and subordinate, participation in suggestion making, and self-control. The designed scales were tested for their reliability and validity and then further used to measure the SC and SCB of construction workers in Mainland China and Hong Kong. Data from 292 Mainland workers and 290 Hong Kong workers were collected by means of a questionnaire survey. The correlation between SC and SCB was verified to be significantly positive in Hong Kong and Mainland China.

After developing the effective measurements for assessing SC and SCB in the two regions, the next issue is determining “in which conditions SC and SCB are higher or lower,” that is, “What can trigger SC and SCB to improve or deteriorate?” Two studies of the thesis (Study 2 and Study 3) clarified this issue in different aspects. Specifically, Study 2 was conducted to discover the factors influencing SC and SCB from a “demographical” aspect. It focused on identifying the specific types of workers who are vulnerable to poor SC and SCB. Technically, Study 2 was conducted by going through the basic situation of the SC and SCB of construction personnel in Hong Kong and Mainland China. The effects of demographics on SC and SCB in the two regions were also compared by selecting gender, age, education level, weekly working hour, and length of working service as five representative demographic variables. A questionnaire survey involving 253 Mainland workers and 256 Hong Kong workers was conducted to collect research data. The data obtained were further classified into subgroups in accordance with different types of demographical information to investigate its influence on SC and SCB. Analysis of variance was applied to identify the subgroup differences of demographic influence while multinomial logistic regression and structural equation modeling (SEM) were used to simulate the changing trends of SC and SCB influenced by different demographic variables. The findings of Study 2 can provide insights into the comparison of demographic influences on the SC and SCB of construction workers in Hong Kong and Mainland China. The study further ascertains the reasons for and the resultant implications of territorial differences and may thus help these regions learn complementarily from one another.

Following the verification of the similarity and distinction of demographic influence on SC and SCB, Study 3 further confirmed “what may influence the SC and SCB of the construction workers in both regions” in the “social–cognitive” aspect. Different from Study 2, which utilized the personal information (age, gender, etc.) of workers, Study 3 mainly focused on ascertaining the channels for influencing SC and SCB through safety constructs and sociological concepts at both organizational and individual levels. The study was conducted to verify the organizational and individual factors affecting the SC and SCB of construction personnel in the two regions. Specifically, a cross-sectional questionnaire survey was conducted, and 267 responses from Hong Kong and 268 responses from Mainland China were obtained. Through Pearson correlation analysis, SEM, and hierarchical regression modeling, four organizational factors (i.e., safety climate, prosociality, leader-to-member exchange, and peer-to-peer exchange) and four individual factors (i.e., work stress, safety attitude, personnel engagement, and proactivity) were identified to exert a significant influence on the SC and SCB of construction workers in both regions. For the mediating effects, the study revealed that work stress and proactivity significantly mediated the correlations between the organizational factors and the safety constructs (SC and SCB) in Hong Kong and Mainland China. Through its analysis of the reasons for and the resultant implications of territorial differences, this study essentially provides a starting point for further academic research on the comparison of SC and SCB improvements in terms of the influencing mechanisms between Mainland China and Hong Kong.

With the influential factors leading to the improvement of SC and SCB already recognized at this stage, the next research issue is focused on “what SC and SCB affect and how they contribute to the improvement of the occupational safety of construction workers in the two regions.” As ascertained in the literature review, safety performance is considered a proactive and typical indicator of personnel safety in the construction industry. It is also a reliable assessment criterion for the effectiveness of construction safety management. Therefore, the influence mechanism of SC and SCB on safety performance should be verified so as to support the development of safety management for building workers. Study 4 was conducted to improve the safety performance by integrating the SC and SCB theories while examining the crucial factors underlying the safety improvement of construction workers in Hong Kong and Mainland China. A questionnaire survey was carried out with 297 responses from Mainland China and 280 responses from Hong Kong. An integrative research model was established by combining three distal antecedents (safety climate, safety leadership, role overload), individual and organizational channels (SC and SCB), and dual-level safety performance model (individual-based and organization-based aspects). The results suggested that the integrated research model provides a rich explanation for the improvement of workers’ safety performance in both regions, thereby providing a thorough understanding of how and why safety performance is enhanced through the increased SC and SCB. This study is unique as it integrates the theories of promising safety constructs and the influence mechanism on safety performance from the individual and organizational aspects. Such integration can increase the effectiveness of reducing the unsafe performance of construction workers at the individual and organizational levels and thereby reducing the numbers of construction accidents and facilitating the redevelopment of safety management in the construction industry.

Based on the findings of studies 1–4, the SC and SCB of construction workers in Hong Kong and Mainland China have been thoroughly investigated for their dimensions, scale development, demographic influence, individual and organizational factors, and their effect toward personnel safety performance. The final study of this thesis aimed to find out how to utilize these academic achievements to promote the redevelopment and optimization of industrial safety management strategies in the two regions. Construction managers have recently launched a variety of safety and hazard-recognition management programs to improve the safety of their personnel. However, an integration of promising academic focuses and industrial practices has yet to be achieved because of the absence of any development in the safety management approaches based on SC and SCB theories. Such detachment between safety research and practical application leads to insufficient theoretical basis for targeted safety management design, thereby causing blindness and low effectiveness of safety improvement in the construction industry. Therefore, Study 5 of the thesis was aimed at developing an interventional safety management program targeted at improving the safety of construction workers in Hong Kong and Mainland China by integrating the research achievements related to SC and SCB theories obtained in previous studies. The interventional mapping method was applied to the development of safety management approaches. As for the findings of Study 5, five pressing issues that hinder the development of the occupational safety of construction workers in the two regions (workforce aging, low safety motivation, gender minority, poor education and cultivation, and unreasonable work stress) were revealed. Six intervention programs (Female Caring, Personnel Re-Education, Work Stress Release, Elder Caring, Leadership Promotion, and Motivation of Safety) were thereby developed, with each program addressing a specific issue. The findings were unique and contributive as the developed safety management programs include practical methods and approaches which can be directly applied to the construction industries of the two regions.

In a word, the overall thesis takes advantage of SC and SCB theories as individual and organizational channels while promoting occupational safety management for the construction personnel in Hong Kong and Mainland China, which can undoubtedly provide important recommendations and remarkable insights for both academic researchers and construction practitioners.