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Managing production pressures through dangerous informality: a case study

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Original languageEnglish
JournalEngineering, Construction and Architectural Management
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019


Purpose: It is well-known that significant production pressures exist on many construction projects and previous studies have suggested that this pressure is a contributory factor in safety incidents on sites. While research has established that production pressures do exist on sites, less is understood about the construction practices that occur when projects are under such pressures in practice and their repercussion for safety.
Through an ethnographic approach on a large construction project in the UK, these practices were explored and unpacked. The lead researcher was a member of the Health and Safety department for three years, and adopted a participant observer role to collect a variety of data.
It was found that informal, covert and dangerous ‘piecework’ strategies were adopted at the site level in direct response to scheduling demands. Construction workers were incentivised through extra finance and rest periods to finish the work quickly; which in turn prioritised production over safety. Unreasonable production pressures remain an unresolved problem in the construction industry, and are, perhaps consequentially, being informally managed on-site.
This study contributes important research knowledge to help understand the complexities involved in unresolved production versus safety demands, which marks a step towards addressing this substantial challenge that is deeply ingrained within the industry.

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