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A Spanish subcontractor in a UK culture

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conference contribution
posted on 2023-07-26, 13:50 authored by David Oswald, Simon Smith, Fred Sherratt
Globalisation of the construction industry has meant that people from different national cultures often work together. This creates many additional challenges for the industry, one of which is forming and maintaining a positive safety culture. This study focuses on a Spanish subcontractor working in the UK on a large construction project (+£500m). Throughout a 9-month period, an ethnographic study was undertaken to explore the safety-related challenges that were created for the principal contractor; the lead researcher was able to spend time on the project as a participant observer to gather data around this phenomenon. Despite some regarding it as suspicious, ethnography has now emerged as another approach for understanding the construction industry. This paper demonstrates that through this qualitative approach, new avenues can be explored to broaden and improve our understanding of the industry. The Spanish subcontractor had a faster but less safe culture than their UK counterparts and found it difficult to change their ways and comply with stricter regulations. During the study period, the Spanish subcontractor was stopped numerous times for safety reasons, and even temporarily removed from site. These failings led to the appointment of a health and safety advisor which did lead to some improvements. The challenges did not only occur when the Spanish subcontractor was not following regulations or revealing a poor safety culture, but also when they appeared to display competence. Under UK legislation, the principle contractor is required to check and monitor the competence of the subcontractor and their systems. However in one scenario the principal contractor did not know anything about the Spanish system the subcontractor were using, so how would it be possible to monitor competence? Findings suggest that whilst the Spanish subcontractor may have been a low-cost option initially, safety risks were increased leading to significant amounts of time, money and resources being required to attempt to control these risks.


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30th Annual ARCOM Conference

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30th Annual ARCOM Conference


Portsmouth, UK

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ARCHIVED Faculty of Science & Technology (until September 2018)

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