Exploring Safety Management Challenges for Multi-National Construction Workforces: A UK Case Study

David Oswald, Fred Sherratt, Simon Smith, Matthew Hallowell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Large construction projects frequently operate with multi-national workforces, utilising migrant workers to provide both skilled and unskilled labour. Multi-national workforces are also brought together through joint ventures, as companies from different countries collaborate and share their expertise to construct large and complex construction projects. A multi-national joint venture in the UK provides the case study for an examination of the safety management challenges found on such projects. Whilst language and communication issues amongst workers are typically primary concerns, here they have not been prioritised. Instead, findings are presented that illuminate more nuanced and unquantifiable problems that faced the safety management team. An ethnographically-informed approach was mobilised, with the lead researcher spending three years on the site with the safety team gathering data. Analysis revealed several challenges: problems with non-UK company compliance with UK legislation and standards; differences in working practices amongst both non-UK workers and their managers; differences associated with national cultures; and problems of poor worker welfare. It is suggested that awareness of these challenges should inform both the way in which such projects are initially contracted, as well as the development of more sophisticated safety management systems that better support multi-national construction projects in practice.
Original languageEnglish
JournalConstruction Management and Economics
Early online date16 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Ethnography
  • migrant workers
  • multi-national
  • Safety


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