A social network perspective on design for construction safety

Pirzadeh, P 2018, A social network perspective on design for construction safety, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Property, Construction and Project Management, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title A social network perspective on design for construction safety
Author(s) Pirzadeh, P
Year 2018
Abstract The proactive practice of anticipating and `designing out¿ work health and safety (WHS) risks at early project stages, known as safety in design, is well-recognised. Evidence from previous research also indicates that the effective interaction between design and construction participants is vital to make construction process knowledge accessible to design decision-makers. Nevertheless, effective communication still seems to be a problem in practice.

This PhD study was undertaken to explore the way in which the interactions between design and construction decision-makers impact on the quality of design decisions and WHS outcomes. Social network analysis (SNA) has been applied to explore the patterns of interaction between project participants. Previous applications of SNA in construction have largely been cross-sectional and single-level in their focus, implicitly assuming a degree of simplicity and stability in the project context. The reality is, however, that the construction project context is complex and unpredictable. Decisions unfold and trade-offs are made at different organisational levels as participants negotiate solutions to emergent problems. At the same time, there are important interdependencies between the technical decisions and the social interactions that underpin them.

In order to recognise these socio-technical complexities and interdependencies, a multilevel framework is implemented representing the design process as a socio-technical network. Using this approach, six case studies were conducted. In each case, the design process and its underlying interactions were explored and the characteristics of effective interaction during design decision-making were identified. In addition, the way that effective interaction contributes to the achievement of safety in design in construction projects was investigated.

It was found that certain structural properties of communication networks between project participants were linked to better safety in design decision outcomes. The research evidence suggested that this effect can be attributable to an alignment between the information interdependencies of the design decisions and the communication patterns that underpin them.

Through this PhD study, a realistic understanding of the role of information exchanges in supporting safety in design was facilitated. Moreover, implementation of the multilevel framework and analysis technique in this study, not applied in construction research to date, enabled a comprehensive and detailed analysis of the complexities and socio-technical interdependencies that characterise design decision-making. The findings of this study can be used to understand and proactively design, encourage and maintain interaction networks that support effective decision-making in the context of safety in design.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Property, Construction and Project Management
Subjects Building Construction Management and Project Planning
Keyword(s) Safety in design
Social network analysis
Work health and safety
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Created: Tue, 05 Feb 2019, 15:06:55 EST by Keely Chapman
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