Anglia Ruskin University
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Exploring human error through the safety talk of utilities distribution operatives

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conference contribution
posted on 2023-07-26, 13:50 authored by Mumtaz Patel, Fred Sherratt, Peter Farrell
Cable strikes form a significant safety challenge for the construction industry’s utilities sector. Such incidents can and do result in both death and injury for the workforce, as well as costing companies millions of pounds in associated damages and compensation costs. Despite specialized tools, processes and training programmes, cable strikes still occur on a regular basis. The majority of cable strikes are, like many incidents within the construction industry as a whole, attributed to human error. However, current thinking has suggested that human error is itself a symptom, rather than a cause, and theories have developed to position the incident-causing human error action as the final link in a much longer chain. This paper presents an exploratory study which sought to examine this theory within a specific context; the construction utilities sector and cable strike incidents. Seven interviews were undertaken with operatives within their work environments, which gathered talk around general safety and cable strike incidents. A thematic approach enabled patterns within the transcribed data to be extracted and contextualized within industry practice. Findings indicated that operatives assigned a variety of different causalities to their experiences of incident occurrence, which were then used to construct a taxonomy of the causal factors of cable strikes from the operatives’ perspective. These factors were then analysed within the industry context to construct potential ‘causal chains’ which are able to link the site incidents to management policy. This study, although exploratory, suggests that application of the systems theory of human error is highly applicable to the construction industry, and that the focus of safety management and safety management research should look beyond operatives on the front line to seek further improvements in safety performance.


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Proceedings 28th Annual ARCOM Conference

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28th Annual ARCOM Conference


Edinburgh, UK

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ARCHIVED Faculty of Science & Technology (until September 2018)

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