Understanding the Risk-Taking Behavior of Hong Kong Construction Workers

香港建造業工人冒險行為研究

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

View graph of relations

Author(s)

Detail(s)

Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Award date2 Aug 2019

Abstract

The construction industry has significantly contributed to Hong Kong’s gross domestic product. However, the unsatisfactory safety performance of this industry has received considerable attention from the concerned authorities and safety researchers. Accordingly, the importance of behavior-based approaches in improving construction safety performance has been realized. Although numerous studies have been conducted to understand the safety behavior of construction workers, none have focused on the risk-taking behavior of these workers. Risk-taking behavior has been investigated in other safety research areas, such as transportation safety. For example, researchers in this field have identified the factors that influence risky driving among drivers, thereby providing practical recommendations to reduce such behavior and traffic accidents. In the context of construction safety, none of the aforementioned studies have exerted concerted effort to understand the risk-taking behavior of construction workers. Therefore, the five studies involved in the present research aimed to investigate the risk-taking behavior of construction workers, identify key factors that contribute to their risk-taking and non-risk-taking behaviors, and examine the interaction among these factors and their influence on the risk-taking behavior of construction workers. This research used a mixed-method design, in which where qualitative and quantitative approaches (i.e., individual interview and questionnaire survey) were adopted sequentially to understand the risk-taking behavior of construction workers.

In the first study, 40 individual interviews were conducted to explore the attitudes and experiences of construction workers toward risk-taking behavior and identify the underlying reasons for their risk-taking or non-risk-taking behavior at work. Findings showed that the factors that influence their risk-taking behavior can be classified into three contexts, namely, personal, behavioral, and environmental. The factors in the personal context included the attitude toward risk-taking behavior, risk perception, perceived behavioral control, work experience, and habituation. Outcome expectation was identified In the behavioral context. Social influence, safety management system, situational influence, and work schedule were involved in the environmental context. However, the extent to which each factor influences the risk-taking behavior of construction workers has not been assessed quantitatively.

To fill in the research gap in the first study, a reliable and valid instrument for measuring risk perception of construction workers is needed. However, no valid and reliable measures are currently used to quantify the risk perception of construction workers. Thus, the second study aimed to develop a psychometrically rigorous construction worker risk perception (CoWoRP) scale. Four phases of scale development, namely, item development, factor analysis, reliability assessment, and validity assessment, were conducted with the collection and testing of data from a group (n = 469) of volunteer construction workers in Hong Kong. The finalized CoWoRP scale with 13 items have acceptable test-retest reliability, internal consistency reliability, and content, convergent, discriminant, and criterion-related validity. Moreover, the CoWoRP scale was affirmed to have three dimensions of worker risk perception, namely, risk perception – probability, risk perception – severity, risk perception – worry and unsafe. These dimensions were negatively correlated with the construction workers’ risk-taking behavior.

In the third study, a research model to understand the risk-taking behavior of construction workers was proposed. In particular, the extent to which the factors identified in the first study influence risk-taking behavior and the interaction of the factors were examined. A questionnaire survey was conducted with 536 construction workers employed in Hong Kong government construction projects. The proposed model was analyzed using the data collected through structural equation modeling. Personal factors, namely, outcome expectancy, risk perception – worry and unsafe, and attitude toward risk-taking behavior, were found to significantly influence risk-taking behavior. The organizational factors that had a significant effect on risk-taking behavior were safety promotion policy and safety training. Moreover, significant indirect effects of safety promotion policy on risk-taking behavior were mediated by outcome expectancy. By contrast, significant indirect effects of safety training on risk-taking behavior were mediated by attitude toward risk-taking behavior and risk perception – worry and unsafe.

The fourth study used the finding of the third study (i.e., risk-taking behavior of construction workers was generally influenced by risk perception – worry and unsafe) as basis to propose an affective risk perception index (ARPI). ARPI comprises six items adopted from the CoWoRP scale developed in the second study to serve as a screening tool and provide a guideline to researchers and safety practitioners in using the former. The ARPI scores evaluated using the data of the third study were analyzed using the 15th percentile, median, and 85th percentile to create four categories, namely “poor” (0–20 points), “moderate” (21–41 points), “good” (42–55 points), and “excellent” (56–60 points). Hierarchical multiple regression was used to examine the predictive value of ARPI for risk-taking behavior and compare this index’s four categories in predicting risk-taking behavior. Results showed that people who were classified as good or excellent engaged significantly less in risk-taking behavior compared with those who had a poor or moderate level of affective risk perception. Furthermore, no statistically significant differences were observed between the poor and moderate levels of affective risk perception and between good and excellent levels of affective risk perception in predicting risk-taking behavior. Therefore, ARPI is a practical screening tool for predicting the risk-taking behavior of construction workers.

Among different types of fatal accidents, falling from a high place is the leading cause of construction fatalities in Hong Kong. A major reason for the high frequency of occurrence of this type of accident is the construction workers’ non-use of personal protective equipment (PPE), which is one type of risk-taking behavior. However, no studies have been conducted to quantitatively examine the factors that influence the acceptance of PPE among construction workers. Lastly, the fifth study developed a research model to understand the acceptance of PPE among construction workers. This model incorporated the theory of planned behavior (TPB), technology acceptance model (TAM), risk perception, and safety climate to explain the acceptance of PPE among construction workers. A total of 413 construction workers were randomly selected to answer a structured questionnaire. The proposed model was analyzed using the data collected through structural equation modeling. Results provided evidence of the applicability of the TPB and TAM to the acceptance of PPE among construction workers. The positive influence of safety climate and risk perception – severity on attitude toward using PPE was found to be significant. In addition, risk perception – worry and unsafe was found to positively affect the intention to use PPE.

Results from the five studies offered significant academic contributions and served as strong bases to develop practical implications. Construction safety management, PPE developers, and concerned authorities can maximize these findings by obtaining an improved understanding of the risk-taking behavior of Hong Kong construction workers. Accordingly, these findings can be used to develop effective safety interventions, user-friendly PPE, and safety policies to reduce the risk-taking behavior of construction workers, thereby decreasing construction-related accidents.

    Research areas

  • Risk-taking behavior, construction safety, risk perception, construction worker, acceptance of personal protective equipment