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Safety Science 48 (2010) 845858

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Safety Science
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/ssci

Accident precursors and near misses on construction sites: An investigative tool


to derive information from accident databases
Weiwei Wu a,*, Alistair G.F. Gibb b, Qiming Li a
a
Department of Construction Management and Real Estate, Southeast University, Nanjing 210096, China
b
Department of Civil and Building Engineering, Loughborough University, Leicestershire LE11 3TU, UK

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Safety problems on construction sites seem to be largely unresolved as the fatality and injury records in
Received 9 April 2009 construction continue to plague the industry across the world. The lack of an effective system to interrupt
Received in revised form 20 February 2010 and prevent the precursors and contributory factors on construction sites is argued to be the critical de-
Accepted 6 April 2010
ciency of extant research and practice. This paper covers research to develop a systematic mechanism to
interrupt and prevent precursors and immediate factors (PaIFs) on construction sites. First, the impor-
tance of precursors and near misses to further improve safety margins are emphasized. Furthermore, a
Keywords:
systematic model of improving safety on construction sites is presented to consummate and perfect
Precursors
Immediate factors
extant safety-improving systems on construction sites by reinforcing and accentuating the real-time
Real-time tracking of precursors and immediate factors. The real-time tracking sub-system is argued to be an effec-
Near miss tive measure to interrupt and prevent PaIFs. Eventually, an investigative model of PaIFs on construction
sites is proposed, indicating how to seek PaIFs from historical accident records and how to obtain near
misses and mitigating measures from reported events. Results indicate that model of PaIFs is effective
and able to acquire as much information as possible about precursors and near misses and thus, in part,
overcome the deciency of lacking sufcient and adequate historical accident records. This study pro-
poses a feasible approach to facilitate acquiring more useful information from historical records of acci-
dents in order to improve safety on construction sites and serve as a foundation for further study by
drawing researchers attention to precursors and near misses.
2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction and literature review safety on construction sites including historical, economic,
psychological, technical, procedural, organizational and environ-
Safety risks on construction sites have always been accorded mental issues. Abdelhamid and Everett (2000) thought that con-
great attention by researchers and practitioners. Nevertheless, struction accident investigations had missed important steps to
safety problems seem to be largely unresolved as the fatality and identify the root causes of accidents and presented an accident
injury records in construction continue to plague the industry root causes tracing model. Suraji et al. (2001) proposed a
across the world (Hinze and Bren, 1996; Abdelhamid and Everett, conceptual but practical model of accident causation for the con-
2000; Fang et al., 2004; Carter and Smith, 2006; Aneziris et al., struction industry, which included management and organiza-
2008). tional aspects of accident causation. Fang et al. (2004) found
From an integral perspective of accidents, some existing stud- that safety management performance on site was closely related
ies have been carried out to identify and analyze the causes of to organizational factors, economic factors, and factors related to
safety hazards and risks, in order to prevent fatal and injury the relationship between management and labor on site. Teo
accidents on construction sites. Accident Causation Models and et al. (2005) pointed that site accidents were more likely to hap-
Human Error Theories were the main categories, such as the pen when there were inadequate company policies, unsafe prac-
Domino Theory (Heinrich, 1959) and Reasons model of human tices, poor attitudes of construction personnel, poor management
error (Reason, 1990). A detailed literature review has been con- commitment and insufcient safety knowledge and training of
ducted by Abdelhamid and Everett (2000) about this issue. What workers. A model based on an ergonomics systems approach
is more, Sawacha et al. (1999) analyzed the factors inuencing indicated the manner in which originating managerial, design
and cultural factors shaped the circumstances found in the work
place, giving rise to the acts and conditions which, in turn, led to
* Corresponding author. Tel.: +86 025 83792527; fax: +86 025 83793251.
E-mail address: wwwhyh2000@163.com (W. Wu). accidents (Haslam et al., 2005).

0925-7535/$ - see front matter 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.ssci.2010.04.009
846 W. Wu et al. / Safety Science 48 (2010) 845858

Most recently, attentions have been paid on cognitive engineer- the previous literature review could be fundamentally solved.
ing approach, which concerns the characteristics of the work Nevertheless, it is the inevitability of the time lag between the
system that inuence the decisions, behaviors, and the possibility preliminary recognition and the intrinsic solution of those root
of errors and failures (Mitropoulos and Cupido, 2009). Saurin causal factors due to key constraint conditions that makes safety
et al. (2008) conducted an analysis of construction safety best prac- management on construction sites shoulder heavy responsibilities
tices from the perspective of cognitive systems engineering. in the long term. These key conditions include the economic issues
Mitropoulos and Cupido (2009) synthesized a new model for con- of safety (Fang et al., 2004; Suraji et al., 2001), the designers
struction safety based on the cognitive perspective and then pre- awareness of safety (Haslam et al., 2005; Gibb et al., 2006; Suraji
sented an exploratory case study. et al., 2001), improvement of safety polices (Chinda and Mohamed,
Additionally, studies were also conducted at a microcosmic le- 2008; Sawacha et al., 1999; Teo et al., 2005), human errors (Chi
vel to concentrate on the causes of specic safety hazards. Acci- et al., 2005; Gibb et al., 2006; Reason, 1990; Toole, 2002) and so
dents of falling from height on construction sites have on. More practically, there is also a time lag between the improving
consistently been identied as of major importance, e.g. Chi et al. measures and the checking of safety hazards (or near miss report-
(2005) and Aneziris et al. (2008). Saurin and Guimaraes (2008) ing). Consequently, the deciency and insufciency of extant re-
conducted ergonomic assessment of suspended scaffolds. Hinze search and practice lie in such time lags, in which a number of
and Bren (1996) analyzed hazards with fatalities and injuries due immediate factors may have the opportunity to result in an acci-
to contact with power cables based on data from OSHA. Chi et al. dent through this period irrespective of whether the causing fac-
(2008) also conducted an in-depth accident analysis of electrical tors are ever identied or not.
fatalities in the construction industry. Beavers et al. (2009) ana- However, extant safety-improving systems do not possess an
lyzed the steel erection fatalities in the Construction Industry. effective mechanism to interrupt or prevent the immediate factors
Shapira and Simcha (2009) investigated the factors affecting safety to avoid the up-coming accidents. An example illustration could be
on Construction Sites with tower cranes using AHP-based weight- an involved person (IP) who trod on a half-brick and turned his an-
ing method. Further insights were gained on the root causes of the kle. Then in the investigation, he added that he was on a site sim-
struck-by injuries and prevention against such kind of accidents ilar to this and the same thing had happened (HSE, 2003). These
(Hinze et al., 2005). seemingly innocuous accidents are not very likely to be taken seri-
From the life-cycle perspective, many researchers emphasized ously. However, had there been an unprotected inspection cham-
the importance of designing for safety issues at an early stage ber in the vicinity then the worker could well have fallen down
(Kartam, 1997; Gibb, 2000; Gambatese, 2000; Baxendale and Jones, the hole and suffered a serious injury or even fatality. In other
2000; Elbeltagi et al., 2004; Weinstein et al., 2005; Gambatese words, current safety management system on construction sites
et al., 2005, 2008). Furthermore, there have been studies consider- is not able to deal with immediate factors whether the causing fac-
ing safety attitude, safety culture and safety climate (Mohamed, tors are ever identied or not. There is a need to identify precursors
2002; Toole, 2002; Haupt, 2003; Fung et al., 2005, 2006; Chinda and immediate factors (PaIFs) even amongst the seemingly minor
and Mohamed, 2008). Hopkins (2006) also indicated that unsafe incidents.
behavior was often merely the last link in a causal chain and not The development of a systematic mechanism to interrupt and
necessarily the most effective link to focus on. prevent PaIFs on construction sites is similar to removing the dom-
Simultaneously, accident investigation methods and near ino of immediate cause just before an accident (Bird, 1974) and
misses on construction sites are attached importance to lately. A interrupting the trajectory of accident opportunity at the nal hole
new method for accident investigations was presented based on of immediate circumstance plate1 (Reason, 1990). But the signi-
the concept of safety function (Harms-Ringdahl, 2009). Katsakiori cance and importance of improving safety by the focus of immediate
et al. (2009) developed an evaluation of accident investigation factors is not widely accepted yet. A potential future use of this ap-
methods in terms of their alignment with accident causation mod- proach could be that a prediction is made just before an accidents
els. Cambraia et al. (2010) conducted a case study in the construc- occurrence and an early warning signal is sent to the person who
tion industry concerning identication, analysis and dissemination would be probably involved in that up-coming accident. How crucial
of information on near misses. Wu et al. (2010) analyzed and ver- would that be as a precious life could be saved? Obviously, the ques-
ied the autonomous information requirement of near miss and tion on the feasibility of making such a real-time prediction of safety
investigated the feasibility and performance of using a Zigbee RFID risks on construction sites arises.
sensor network to full these requirements. This research aims at developing a systematic mechanism to
It should be acknowledged that progress is being made in some interrupt and prevent PaIFs on construction sites. Firstly, the
areas. However, with such a lot of investigation and analysis on importance of precursors and near misses to further improve
causal factors, researchers and practitioners can not help to won- safety margins are emphasized. Furthermore, a systematic model
der why accidents still continue to emerge from time to time? Even of improving safety on construction sites is brought forward to
worse, accidents in similar situations were taking place repeatedly consummate and perfect extant safety-improving systems on con-
at intervals (Chi et al., 2005; Aneziris et al., 2008). What are the struction sites by reinforcing and accentuating the real-time track-
deciencies and insufciencies of the direction of extant research ing of precursors and immediate factors. At the same time, the
and practice? real-time tracking sub-system is argued to be an effective measure
Leveson (2004) argued that new approaches were needed and to interrupt and prevent precursor and immediate factors of acci-
that the changes were stretching the limits of current accident dents. Finally, an investigative model of PaIFs on construction sites
models and safety engineering techniques. Similarly, Hovden is proposed, indicating how to seek precursors and immediate fac-
et al. (2009) also discussed whether there was a need for new the- tors from historical accident records and how to obtain near miss
ories, models and approaches to occupational accident prevention
and pointed out that theories, models and approaches to high-risk
complex socio-technical systems had the potential of enriching
1
occupational safety management activities. It is important to note here that the authors are not suggesting that a
concentration on the more distal contributory factors such as design or pre-
A schematic model of improving safety on construction sites in construction planning are not relevant and would not have any affect rather, that
practice is summarized in Fig. 1. Indeed, safety on construction this work is concentrating on learning from the immediate accident circumstances as
sites should be greatly improved if all the issues mentioned in predictors of future accidents.
W. Wu et al. / Safety Science 48 (2010) 845858 847

Research on safety issues


Historical records of
on construction sites
accidents

Research
* Hazards on construction sites

* Casual factors of accidents

* Preventive measures to avoid future accidents

* Checklist of hazards * Near miss reporting

Analysis of near miss


Regular inspection of

hazard checklist
Practice

* Causing factors
On-going

project
Corresponding preventive measures

* Improvement of Safety

Database; Action; Outcome; Sequence;

Fig. 1. A schematic model of improving safety on construction sites in practice.

and mitigating measures from reported events. A real accident and accident that did, or could have, caused injury to construction per-
a playback of reported events on construction sites are selected to sonnel or the general public, or damage to property or the environ-
illustrate how the model of PaIFs can be used to further investigate ment. Seeking precursors including from historical accident records
accidents and reported abnormal events. This study would provide is an important way because history is a vast early warning system
a feasible approach to facilitate acquiring more useful information and provides a rich set of precursors (Phimister et al., 2004).
from historical records of accidents in order to improve safety on Undoubtedly, immediate factors are important exacerbating fac-
construction sites and serve as a foundation for further study by tors of accidents on construction sites. An updated domino se-
drawing researchers attention to precursors and near misses on quence (Bird, 1974) led to the comprehension of immediate cause
construction sites. before an accident. Fang et al. (2004) found that immediate factors
were caused by unsafe conditions and unsafe actions. The Lough-
boroughs ConCA accident causality model (Gibb et al., 2006) recog-
2. Understanding precursor and near miss on construction sites nized that immediate accident circumstances were failures in the
interaction between the work team, workplace, equipment and
2.1. The importance of precursor and near miss to further improve materials. Also, their ConCA/Reason model concluded that immedi-
safety margins ate circumstance was the eventual plate and the site team, who
were largely responsible for the immediate circumstances, needed
A recent study by the US National Academy of Sciences, which to concentrate on reducing their own holes failures or errors.
brought together experts on risk, engineers, practitioners, and pol- Considering the problem of sparse data of accident, an alterna-
icy makers from different industries, focused on the signals, condi- tive method is the near miss reporting system on construction sites,
tions, events and sequences that preceded and led up to accidents. which addresses near miss events with a much wider range of
This study found that many organizations had attempted to devel- severities. Near miss was dened as an event in which no damage
op programs to identify and benet from accident precursors or injuries occurred but, under slightly different circumstances,
(Phimister et al., 2004). Grabowski et al. (2007) also echoed that could have resulted in harm (Phimister et al., 2004). Moreover, it
recognizing alerts and signals before an accident clearly offers the has been widely accepted that accidents are just the tip of an ice-
potential of improving safety. A broad denition of a precursor berg. Heinrich (1959) pointed out that it was estimated that
was the conditions, events, and sequences that preceded and led 90.9% of all accidents produced no injuries, while 8.8% resulted in
up to an accident (Phimister et al., 2004). Similarly, Suraji et al. minor injuries and 0.3% caused major injuries. Similar conclusion
(2001) explained this concept as an undesired event, which was was echoed by some research (Bird and Germain, 1996; Morrison,
an unwanted incident immediately preceding and leading to an 2004). In construction industry, the modied statistical triangle of
848 W. Wu et al. / Safety Science 48 (2010) 845858

accident causation describes the same process from near miss to  Immediate factors are important exacerbating factors of acci-
fatal accidents and it was argued that hazard identication levels dents on construction sites. Differences between precursors
were far from being ideal (Carter and Smith, 2006). Undoubtedly, and immediate factors lie in the difculty for performing pre-
analysis of near misses has the potential to be a great supplement ventive actions due to time constraint. Immediate factors
to the precursor data set, especially where the concentration is on always have tight period allowed for taking actions. Thus, pre-
the high potential incidents. cursors rather than immediate factors are the focus of real-time
tracking. Also, precursors consist not only in the factors of
2.2. Denition of some concepts worker, environment, equipment and material respectively,
but also in their mutual interactions (Wu et al., 2010).
In this study, the general denition of precursor, immediate fac-  It should be pointed out that near miss is identied in a much
tor and near miss have been used (Phimister et al., 2004; HSE, wider range of severities and may include all defects and abnor-
2003; Wu et al., 2010): mal events. Furthermore, investigation on near miss events that
have the possibility to lead to accidents can also bring extra and
 The precursor is dened as the signs that always seem to pre- supplementary precursors.
cede the accidents caused by this kind of safety hazard on con-  Precursor and near miss provide insight into accidents that
struction sites. Immediate factors are dened as the failure in could happen and have the great signicance to further improve
the interaction between the work team, workplace, equipment safety margins. All the known precursors will be stored in the
and materials, which are important exacerbating factors of acci- database of PaIFs. And unknown precursors, which are reported
dents on construction sites. A near miss is dened as an event in rstly as a near miss and then be conrmed as a new near miss,
which no damages or injuries actually occurred but, under will be added into the database of near miss and simultaneously
slightly different circumstances, could have resulted in harm. added into the database of PaIFs.

As Cambraia et al. (2010) pointed out that the denitions of


near miss were far from being precise (Cambraia et al., 2010). Also, 2.3. Systematic model of improving safety on construction sites
in order to convenient for further understanding of the subsequent
model and based on the objective of this research, there are some Cooper (1998) pointed out that the tracking of safety hazards
complementarities to comprehend these concepts in this paper: was essential to predict safety while the prevailing safety methods
typically did not do this. Also, extant precision in the prediction of
 When adopting a broad denition of precursor, it is not difcult safety risks on construction sites was inadequate and far from
to nd that near miss is an important kind of precursor (Jones being satisfactory. At the same time, surveillance and reporting
et al., 1999; Phimister et al., 2004). However, some organiza- systems were indicated as alternative methods of monitoring
tions have chosen to limit the use of the term precursors to known accident precursors and discovering new ones (Phimister
near miss that exceed a specied level of severity (Phimister et al., 2004). Facing the deciency and insufciency of extant re-
et al., 2004). Likewise, according to the objective of this search and practice analyzed at the beginning of this paper, a sys-
research, precursors in this paper are also conned to the events tematic model of improving safety on construction sites is brought
that exceed a specied level of severity, which means that pre- forward in Fig. 2. The main purpose of developing this model is to
cursors appeared and occurred at least once in previous acci- consummate and perfect extant safety-improving system on con-
dents. That is, analysis of historical records normally gives struction sites by reinforcing and accentuating the real-time track-
birth to precursors. ing of precursors and immediate factors. Consequently, this

Tracking List
Precursors and
Immediate Factors N
Y
Real-time Tracking Dangerous? Early Warning

Routine Continuous Improvement or


Historical On Going Routine Checking
Records Project Improving Prevention

Known Y
Near Miss Reporting
Precursor ?

Precursors and Othe r


Causing Factors N
Near Miss
N
Accident yet?

Database; Action; Outcome; Sequence; Judgement; Data;

Fig. 2. Systematic model of improving safety on construction sites.


W. Wu et al. / Safety Science 48 (2010) 845858 849

improved system is divided into three sub-systems of real-time fAccidentg fPrecursor=Near missg
tracking, routine continuous improving and near miss reporting.  fMitigating Factorsg 2
The real-time tracking sub-system targets the precursors and
immediate factors on construction sites. It begins with a database Eq. (2) says that, if the next occurrence of the precursor/near miss
of precursors and immediate factors that are established based on does not include important interruption, prevention or mitigating
the analysis of historical records of accidents. As far as a specic measures, a consequential event will result.
hazard is concerned, a tracking list of corresponding precursors
and immediate factors is an outcome of the database. Then, with fAccidentg fPrecursor=Near missg
the progress of an on-going project, these precursors and immedi- fExacerbating Factorsg
ate factors are tracking in pre-designed ways and the safety risks  fMitigating Factorsg 3
are calculated. The concept is that, if it exceeds the alert threshold,
an early warning signal is then sent to the person who will be in- Eq. (3) combines the thoughts of Eqs. (1) and (2).
volved in that up-coming accident and corresponding measures
are taken to improve safety on construction sites. fAccidentgn1 fAccidentgn fNothingg fTimeg
The routine continuous improving sub-system is a common  fMitigating Factorsg 4
practice to improve safety at present. Based on the outcomes of
Eq. (4) says that, if corresponding measures are not adopted,
investigation on historical accidents, a routine checking list of haz-
similar consequential accidents will result in the future. Also, it
ards is used to inspect whether specic hazard is controlled prop-
can be inferred that an accident is sometimes a precursor to an-
erly at regular intervals. Improvement and prevention will be
other accident too.
adopted according to the inspecting results.
The near miss reporting sub-system would also be designed for
regularly improving safety on construction sites. The original near 3.2. An investigative model of PaIFs on construction sites
miss database consists of precursors from historical accident re-
cords. All defects and abnormal events that have the potential to The database of PaIFs is the foundation and starting point of the
lead to an accident can be reported through this sub-system. Thus, real-time tracking sub-system. Therefore, it is signicant and ur-
this sub-system is an effective way to supplement and increase gent to seek PaIFs from historical accident records. At the same
rare precursors that are subject to the lack of accident records. If time, the near miss reporting sub-system is an important way to
a reported event is the same or similar to a known precursor, then supplement and increase precursors and an effective way to im-
corresponding measures will be taken to improve safety. If it is not prove safety on construction sites. How to get precursors and mit-
a known precursor but has the potential to lead to an accident, it igating measures from near miss reporting sub-system is also an
will be treated as a new near miss. Further analysis will be con- essential element to actualize the real-time tracking system.
ducted and preventive measures should be adopted to relieve Based on the description of the equations, an investigative mod-
safety risks. Simultaneously, the information will be added into el of PaIFs on construction sites is composed. The main objective of
the database of precursors and immediate factors and database developing PaIFs is to seek precursors and immediate factors from
of near miss. historical accident records and how to obtain near miss and miti-
The real-time tracking sub-system is argued to be an effective gating measures2 from reported events, as illustrated in Fig. 3.
measure to interrupt and prevent accidents based on the informa- As far as a specic hazard is concerned, historical accident re-
tion of precursors and immediate factors. Indeed, it turns out to be cords are investigated by dividing into precursors and immediate
challenging to design and operate a real-time tracking sub-system factors. The immediate accident circumstance of work team, work-
based on precursors and immediate factors. In order to make the place, equipment and materials in Loughboroughs ConCA accident
early warning come true, the real-time tracking sub-system should causality model (Gibb et al., 2006) are used in the rst instance to
be able to identify, detect, lter and evaluate precursors when they categorize immediate factors. Precursors are then inferred and de-
occur and implement instant measures to interrupt and prevent duced from historical accident information. Also, as sometimes an
the up-coming accident. It should be acknowledged that it is dif- accident can be a precursor too, it is possible to get four, or even
cult to create such a program with all of these features. Neverthe- more, possible precursors from a particular accident record as
less, to consider how it can be done and whether extant systems shown in Fig. 3. Consequently, the database of specic hazards
can be improved is of great importance. precursors and immediate factors is established and by repeating
the work to other hazards, all hazards databases are set up too.
In turn, initializing a near miss database is founded in terms of
3. Seeking precursors/near miss and immediate factors the database of precursors and immediate factors from historical
accident records. In an on-going project, when defects and abnor-
3.1. What prevents a precursor/near miss from becoming an accident? mal events are reported through the reporting system, comparison
and contrast will be conducted between the reported event and the
An accident is a highly consequential adverse event (Heinrich, near miss database to check whether it is a known near miss or
1959; Bird, 1974; Gibb et al., 2006). Phimister et al. (2004) argued similar to a known near miss. If the judgement is Yes, a corre-
that when something less than an accident occurs then this was sponding preventive measure will be proposed to improve safety,
due to one of three reasons: (1) an exacerbating factor was miss- which is the normal approach of a routing continuous improving
ing; (2) a mitigating factor was effective; or (3) both. Adapting sub-system. If No, another analysis and judgment will be made
their achievement slightly to express these ideas on construction on whether it has the potential to lead to an accident. If it has such
sites as equations, we have: a probability to cause an accident, this reported event will be

fAccidentg fPrecursor=Near missg


2
fExacerbating Factorsg 1 It is important to note here that how to obtain near miss and mitigating
measures belongs to the sub-system of near miss reporting and thus it is outside the
major focus of this paper. However, in order to illustrate a whole application of PaICFs
Eq. (1) says that, if the next occurrence of the precursor/near miss model, explanation and corresponding case in the following part named playback
includes specic immediate factors, an accident will result. scenario is also briey described.
850 W. Wu et al. / Safety Science 48 (2010) 845858

Table 1
{Precursor4} Possible immediate factors, shaping factors and originating factors (adapted from the
work of Gibb et al. in 2006).
{Precursor3}+{Equipment and Materials}
Immediate factors Shaping factors Originating factors

{Precursor2}+{Workplace} Work team Worker factors First level


Actions Attitudes, Client requirement
{Precursor1}+{Work team} motivations
Behavior Knowledge, skill Economic climate
Capabilities Supervision Construction education
+ Communication Health and fatigue Second level
{Precursor(s)} {Immediate Factor(s)}
Workplace Site factors Permanent work design
Layout Site constrains Project management
Space Work scheduling Construction processes
Historical Records Specific Lighting Housekeeping Safety culture
Hazard PaIFs Noise Equipment and Risk management
of Accidents
material factors
Hot, cold, wet Design
Local Hazard Specication
Reported Defects Equipment and Supply and
Near Miss materials availability
and Off-normal
Events Suitability
Usability
Condition
Known Nearmiss? Y Preventive
Similar to Known
Near miss? Measures

N
Table 2
N Y New Near
Possible to Lead to Identied key immediate factors of the accident.
an accident? Miss
Immediate factors Possible precursors
Workplace (major factors) Interaction of work team and
{Near miss} - {Mitigating Factor(s)} equipment and materials
(1) There were two boards missing (1) Working close to an area of
on the scaffold. scaffold where there are missing
{Near miss1}-{Mitigating Factors Shaping Factor(s)} boards or voids.
Mitigating Work team (2) Holding something and walking
{Near miss2}-{Mitigating Factors Originating Factor(s)} Factors (or stepping) backwards without
looking.
(1) IP knew two boards were missing (3) A worker removes a scaffold
Database; Action; Outcome; Judgement;
but took no action to rectify the board or plank and no one recties
Sequence; Data; situation. the void immediately.
(2) IP walked backwards without (4) Working without sufcient
Fig. 3. An investigative model of PaIFs on construction sites. seeing the void. operational fall protection.
Interaction of workplace and
equipment and materials
(1) Some boards are missing from the
treated as a new near miss. Moreover, this new near miss is further scaffold.
analyzed to obtain the mitigating factors in terms of shaping fac-
tors and original factors (Gibb et al., 2006). At the same time, it
is also possible to get two or even more than two new near miss
events that are sequentially added into the initializing near miss {Possible Precursors}
database. Meanwhile, the database of precursors and immediate
factors is updated according to the updated near miss database.
In this way, the function of near miss databases supplementing
and increasing precursors that are subject to the lack of accident {Work team} {Workplace}
{Possible
records is realized. Precursors}

3.3. Examples {Possible Precursors} {Possible Precursors}

To illustrate how PaIFs may be used to further investigate acci-


{Equipment and
dents and reported abnormal events, a real accident and a playback Materials}
reported events on construction sites are selected from HSE report
of Causal Factors in Construction Accidents prepared by Loughbor-
Fig. 4. The origination of precursors on construction sites.
ough University and UMIST (HSE, 2003). The direction of possible
immediate factors, shaping factors and originating factors are
adapted from the work of Gibb et al. (2006) in Table 1. The IP knew they were missing and perceived this as hazardous
but took no action to rectify it. The IP fell through the void injuring
3.3.1. Case study his ribs. The key aspects of this accident have been identied as
The IP was erecting a pre-assembled timber roof-truss. He column one of Table 2 shows.
walked backwards along the working platform of the scaffold. At Sequentially, PaIFs is used to seek and infer possible precursors
some point he stepped into a void in the platform created by two of this hazard. Fig. 4 indicates the logistic route to investigate such
missing scaffold battens. Unknown persons had removed these. precursors.
W. Wu et al. / Safety Science 48 (2010) 845858 851

First of all, one major reason was there were two boards miss- Table 3
ing on the scaffold, which belonged to Workplace. Then, against Identication of near miss and mitigating factors.

this immediate factor, corresponding precursor should be an inter- Shaping factors and originating Possible mitigating factors
action between Work team and Equipment and Materials, that is factors of known or similar to known
Working close to an area of scaffold where there are missing precursor

boards or voids. Other possible precursors against this factor are Shaping factors Against shaping factors
Holding something and walking (or stepping) backwards without (1) Lack of training to IP to increase (1) A special workshop or training to
safety awareness workers about possible accidents of
looking, A worker removes a scaffold board or plank and no one walking backwards without looking
recties the void immediately and Working without sufcient around rstly
operational fall protection. Similarly, another reason was IP knew (2) Lack of routine supervision to (2) Immediate supervision to check
the boards were missing but took no action to rectify it, which be- check boards on scaffold the boards on scaffold
Originating factors Against originating factors
longed to Work team. Then, possible precursors should be an
(1) Lack of risk management (1) Suggest a method of risk
interaction between Workplace and Equipment and Materials, management against the walking
which is Some boards are missing from the scaffold. At the same backwards on scaffold without
time, the interaction between Work team, Workplace and looking around
Equipment and materials should be considered too. These possi- (2) Lack of a consideration of the (2) Design considerations to reduce
working space work at height
ble precursors have the great opportunity to lead to similar acci-
dents in the future. From the results of this example, it is easy to
nd that there are some similarities of precursors and immediate
factors using this method. Thus, ve possible precursors are shown
is similar to a known precursor investigated before. If any mitigating
in Table 2. Considering the further wide application of such infor-
measures are not taken, the colleague may be involved in similar
mation, this accident can be expressed in the form of an equation
accidents in the future. So this reported event is conrmed as a
as following:
known near miss. Mitigating factors are analyzed and adopted as
fAccidentg shown in Table 3.
Of course, if it not conrmed as a known or similar to a known
fSome boards are missing from the scaffoldg
precursor, further analysis will check whether it has the potential
fHolding something and walking to cause an accident. If the answer is Yes, the reported event will
or stepping backwards without looking:g be conrmed as a new near miss and added to the database of near
fA worker removes a scaffold board or plank miss and, in turn, added to the database of PaIFs.
and no one rectifies the void immediately:g
fWorking close to an area of scaffold where 4. Case studies and questionnaires
there are missing boards or voids:g
4.1. Results of case studies
fWorking without sufficient operational fall protection:g
Indeed, behavior and action similar to any of these precursors Fall from height is a leading cause of fatalities on construction
and immediate factors do not result in accidents every time be- sites. Furthermore, ndings of Chi et al. (2005) indicated that fall
cause this accident is just the tip of the iceberg. But if we can track from scaffold and staging accounted for more than 30% of fatalities,
these precursors and take interrupt measures to avoid these pre- which made it the leading composition of fall-from-height acci-
cursors, similar accidents will have slim chance to occur in the fu- dents in Taiwan. Thus, accidents of fall from scaffold are chosen
ture. Moreover, up to four or even more possible precursors can be in this research to illustrate the application of PaIFs because of
inferred and obtained from one historical accident record, which their severity and catholicity.
indicates that the investigative model of PaIFs in part overcome The cases used in this research come from the US Department
the deciency of lacking sufcient and adequate historical accident of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). They
records. have been compiled in a Microsoft Access database form. This
database contains more than 14,000 injury and fatality incidents
3.3.2. Playback scenario3 in US from 1990 to 2008. What really counts is the fact that
Based on the previously mentioned accident a playback sce- every case comprises a situational abstract and detailed descrip-
nario is designed to illustrate how to conduct the near miss inves- tion of the accident, potentially providing valuable information
tigation through model of PaIFs. about the precursors that seem always precede a specic safety
A worker reported an abnormal event. He said one colleague of- hazard.
ten walked backwards on scaffold without looking around and First of all, a query of cause = fall from scaffold was conducted.
nearly fell down that afternoon. Then, the results were randomly divided into groups each contain-
After receiving the report, the investigator would rst search ing 10 cases. Afterwards, the PaIFs method was used to analyze the
the keywords walk backwards and scaffold in the near miss data- precursors of each case, group by group until no new precursor
base that are established based on the precursor and immediate could be obtained in the next group. In total, ve groups of 50
factor database.4 Then it is easy to judge that this reported event fall-from-scaffold cases were investigated. The investigation
stopped because only one new precursor was obtained in the
fourth group and no new precursor was obtained from the entire
fth group. The precursors and their frequency of these 50 cases
3
Because it is outside the major focus of this paper, it is just briey described. of fall from scaffold are shown in Table 4.
4
The authors are not suggesting that searching the database (or add the new near It is obvious that the ve top frequent precursors in these 50
miss to the database) has the priority to xing the problem. Actually, if the safety cases are: Working without sufcient operational fall protection;
professionals are well trained, which is generally required and necessary, the action of
conrming whether it is a known precursor and what are the measures should take
Working on a scaffold with no guard railings; Stepping from scaf-
no more than one minute. It is just a detailed explanation of procedures. Fixing the fold onto the building or structure (or visa vessa); Holding some-
problem always has the priority. thing and walking (or stepping) backwards without looking and
852 W. Wu et al. / Safety Science 48 (2010) 845858

Table 4 Working close to an area of scaffold where there are missing


Precursors of fall from scaffold in 50 cases. boards or voids. Nevertheless, considering the empirical propor-
Precursors Code Freq. tion of 300-1 between near miss and real accidents (Heinrich,
Working close to an area of scaffold where there are FS1 6 1959; Bird and Germain, 1996; Morrison, 2004), it should be no-
missing boards or voids ticed that other relatively rare precursors are also of great impor-
Holding something and walking (or stepping) backwards FS2 7 tance to improve safety on construction sites.
without looking
A worker removes a scaffold board or plank and no one FS3 2
recties the void immediately
4.2. Commonness versus otherness
Some boards are missing from the scaffold FS4 2
Working without sufcient operational fall protection FS5 49
Working on a scaffold in or after a rainy weather FS6 2 Can these precursors that are obtained based on the data from
Working on a scaffold with poor lighting FS7 1 US Department of OSHA be appropriate for improving safety in
Working on a scaffold with no guard railings FS8 16 the UK and other countries? To respond to this question, two sim-
Doing tasks on a scaffold that involve dynamic forces FS9 1
ilar but entirely different pairs of cases were employed to compare
(e.g. cleaning out concrete pump pipes)
Leaning back onto the guardrails FS10 1 their precursors. UK cases are from HSE report of Causal Factors in
Stepping from scaffold onto the building or structure (or FS11 10 Construction Accidents, and US cases are from US Department of
visa vessa) OSHA. Details of both pairs of accidents and the corresponding pre-
Set up/remove/move the scaffold or planks in an FS12 4 cursors are shown in Table 5. The analysis is also based on the PaIFs
incorrect procedure
Use an unchecked scaffold. FS13 1
method.
Stand too close to an end of planks that are not fully FS14 2 Indeed, although a variety of indices are being used to depict
restrained and examine the impact of injuries, there is a huge range of inci-
Lose balance on the scaffold FS15 3 dence rates, varying from country to country and the characteris-
Try to climb off the scaffold not using the ladder FS16 2
tics of each countrys construction industry differ. In the
Worker on the scaffold has a heart disease FS17 1
Unhooking from one area lifeline without securing to the FS18 2 meantime, as far as the root causes are concerned, these two pairs
new area lifeline of accidents also differ in surrounding environments, work in pro-
Using a standard ladder in conjunction with a mobile FS19 4 cess, materials used and scaffold erected because of the level of
tower scaffold construction technology, type of production, safety management
Lift arm of the hoist (material/personal) is not tied down FS20 1
when repairing the hoist
practices and so on. Otherness is more evident than commonness
when concerning the level of root causes of accidents in different

Table 5
Two compared pairs of cases in UK and US and their precursors.

UK cases US cases
Case UK-1 description: Case US-1 description:
The IP was putting a roof-truss rafter up. He walked backwards along the On June 26, 2001 at approximately 1:30 pm, employee fell through an
working platform of the scaffold. At some point he stepped into a void in opening that was between the oor and scaffold that he was working from,
the platform created by two missing scaffold battens. Unknown persons employee fell approximately 55 feet to the ground below. The employee
had removed these. The IP knew they were missing and perceived this as was in the process of installing aluminum siding on a sports facility, along
hazardous but took no action to rectify it. The IP fell through the void with three other employees working from a hydraulic tower scaffold. At the
injuring his ribs. time of the accident, the employee was in the process of carrying back some
working materials to load onto the scaffold. The employee went to step
back onto a 2 in. and 12 in. wood plank the crew was using as a walkway
from the building to the scaffold. The wood plank had been removed and
employee fell through the opening where the 2 in. and 12 in. wood plank
was previously located. Employee fell approximately 55 feet to the ground
sustaining fatal injuries.
Precursors of case UK-1: Precursors of case US-1:
(1) Work close to the area of scaffold with missing boards or voids. (1) Work close to the area of scaffold with missing boards or voids.
(2) Hold something and walk (or step) backwards without seeing the void. (2) Hold something and walk (or step) backwards without seeing the void.
(3) One worker removes the board or plank and no one recties the void (3) One worker removes the board or plank and no one recties the void
immediately. immediately.
(4) Some boards are missing. (4) Some boards are missing.
Case UK-2 description: Case US-2 description:
Concrete-pump pipes were being blown through (a wet foam is place inside On 02 April 2007, at approximately 02:30 p.m., at 8076 Big Cottonwood
the pipe and with pressurized air propelled to other end) at the end of Way, in Brighton, Utah, an employee was standing on a scaffold. The
the workday. The accident report states that an operative was standing platform of the scaffold. The platform of the scaffold was located 25 feet
over the pipe (at the exit end) and that with the force of propulsion at above a wooden deck. He was holding a two and one half inch rubber hose.
the last of the concrete and wet ball came through, this throw him They were attempting to pour a concrete wall. The hose had plugged and
backwards (onto a column). He tried to hold the pipes back down they were attempting to clear the hose. They had placed a sponge rubber
because he knew the pressure was coming and the pressure of it would plug in the hose and were forcing it through the hose with compressed air.
have meant a third person. He sustained a groin and back injury and was As the sponge cleared the end of the hose, the hose jerked and knocked the
off sick for a week. employee from the scaffold. The employee was wearing no fall protection.
The scaffold appeared to consist of two 2 and 8 planks, with no guard
railings. The employee suffered fatal head trauma when he struck the deck.
Precursors of case UK-2: Precursors of case US-2:
(1) Hold concrete pipe without any safeguard and xation to its beginning (1) Hold concrete rubber hose (pipe) without any safeguard and xation to
and completing inertia. its beginning and completing inertia.
(2) Work without sufcient or operational fall protection.
(3) Work on the scaffold with no guard railings.
W. Wu et al. / Safety Science 48 (2010) 845858 853

countries. However, when it comes to precursors, which are more In total, 43 questionnaires (18%) were returned (39 by email
macroscopic than root cause level, they are almost the same. In the and 4 by mail). 41 (95%) of them were safety managers/advisors,
second case occurred in UK (in Table 5), the precursors would be and 2 had previously been a safety manager. 35 (81%) have been
also the same as the second case occurred in US only if the work working on construction sites in UK for more than 11 years, while
in process was on a scaffold. Hence, it is argued that commonness 5 (11.63) between 6 and 10 years and 3 (7%) between 2 and
is more apparent than otherness when investigating accidents at a 5 years. 29 (67%) of them had a university degree, compared to
precursor level. 16 (33%) with a Further Education qualication (B.Tec, HND, etc).
The results of descriptive statistical analysis on 20 items are
also listed in Table 6.
4.3. Results of questionnaires The results of four other questions that are related to the useful-
ness and validity of the proposed model are shown in Table 7.
Questionnaires were sent to the safety manager/advisor of 241 Results of the questionnaire, from Tables 6 and 7, indicate that
construction companies in UK by email. The objective of the absolutely most of the responders have given positive evaluation
questionnaires was to elementarily examine the results of precur- to the precursors, which are derived from the previously proposed
sors that were derived from the proposed PaIFs model as well as PaIFs model, and to the usefulness and validity of the proposed
its usefulness and validity. There were four parts of the question-
model.
naire consisting of introduction, questionnaire, some questions
about you and contacting information. The questionnaire is
attached in Appendix A. The part of introduction gave the back- 4.4. Measurement of agreement among responders
ground and a brief introduction to this research and the purpose
of this questionnaire. Items in the part of questionnaire included The measurement of agreement among these responders was
20 possible precursors that were derived from the previously pro- performed in order to get a better and more rational understanding
posed PaIFs model and other four questions that related to the of questionnaire results. Further analysis of the results was also
usefulness and validity of that proposed model. The purpose of conducted to evaluate whether the results were due in part or en-
some questions about you was to gather some information about tirely to chance.
the participators identities. Contacting information involved The kappa statistic is a widely used chance-corrected measure
some ways to return their questionnaires back. to evaluate agreement among responders (Vries et al., 2008; Viera

Table 6
Results of questionnaire.

VS (%) SS (%) LS (%) NS (%) Positive evaluation (%) Negative evaluation (%)
FS1 97.7 0 0 2.3 97.7 2.3
FS2 58.1 37.2 2.3 2.3 95.4 4.7
FS3 86.1 11.6 0 2.3 97.7 2.3
FS4 95.4 2.3 0 2.3 97.7 2.3
FS5 76.7 11.6 4.7 7.0 88.4 11.6
FS6 14.0 44.2 34.9 7.0 58.1 41.9
FS7 34.9 32.6 30.2 2.3 67.4 32.6
FS8 97.7 0 0 2.3 97.7 2.3
FS9 34.9 51.2 14.0 0 86.1 14.0
FS10 23.3 46.5 18.6 11.6 69.8 30.2
FS11 30.2 32.6 30.2 7.0 62.8 37.2
FS12 72.1 25.6 0 2.3 97.7 2.3
FS13 55.8 41.9 2.3 0 97.7 2.3
FS14 60.5 34.9 2.3 2.3 95.4 4.7
FS15 25.6 27.9 41.9 4.7 53.5 46.5
FS16 81.4 14.0 2.3 2.3 95.4 4.7
FS17 4.7 46.5 41.9 7.0 51.2 48.8
FS18 62.8 20.9 9.3 7.0 83.7 16.3
FS19 39.5 51.2 7.0 2.3 90.7 9.3
FS20 48.8 37.2 11.6 2.3 86.1 14.0

Note: (1) VS = very signicant; SS = some signicance; LS = little signicance; NS = no signicance; (2) positive = VS + SS; negative = LS + NS.

Table 7
Results of four other questions.

Q1: If all these precursors were identied and eliminated, what would be the effect on a potential fall from scaffold accident?
Very likely to prevent Likely to prevent May likely Unlikely to prevent
60% 37% 0% 2%
Q2: Will identifying and learning from the causes of previous accidents be likely to prevent future accidents?
Very likely Likely May likely Unlikely
42% 56% 0% 2%
Q3: Would a tool that identied hazardous actions/conditions as precursors to accidents be useful for construction sites?
Very useful Some useful Little useful None useful
47% 51% 2% 0%
Can the UK learn from studying accidents in other countries (e.g. USA)?
Denitely Probably May be Not
30% 44% 23% 2%
854 W. Wu et al. / Safety Science 48 (2010) 845858

and Garrett, 2005; Gambatese et al., 2008), which is calculated by detailed literature review. And then a schematic model of improv-
subtracting the proportion of the rates that are expected to agree ing safety on construction sites was summarized to analyze the
by chance from the overall agreement and dividing the remainder deciencies and insufciencies of extant research and practice. It
by the number of cases on which agreement is not expected to was pointed out that there was a need to identify precursors and
occur by chance (Kundel and Polansky, 2003; Fleiss et al., immediate factors even amongst the seemingly minor incidents.
2003). Basically, there are three cases of kappa: the same pair Later, a systematic model of improving safety on construction sites
of responders per subject, weighed kappa and multiple ratings was brought forward and the real-time tracking sub-system was
per subject with different responders. As the questionnaire has argued to be an effective measure to interrupt and prevent acci-
four categories and 43 raters, it is obvious that it belongs to the dents. Obviously, the database of PaIFs was the foundation and
third case. When multiple raters are used, it is common to calcu- starting point of the real-time tracking sub-system. Consequently,
late the values of kappa for pairs of raters and then compute an an investigative model of PaIFs on construction sites is composed.
average kappa for all possible pairs (Kundel and Polansky, 2003; In order to elementarily examine the results of precursors that
Vries et al., 2008). Meanwhile, given the reality that the relative were derived from the proposed PaIFs model as well as its useful-
importance of disagreement between categories is not the same ness and validity, a questionnaire was designed and distributed.
for adjacent categories as it is for distant categories (Kundel Results of the questionnaire illustrated that absolutely most of
and Polansky, 2003; Fleiss et al., 2003), weighed kappa is also em- the responders had given positive evaluation. The kappa value of
ployed to allow for differences in the importance of disagree- 0.527, average positive agreement of 0.877 and average negative
ments by assign weights between 1 and 0 to each agreement agreement of 0.276 indicate that agreement between the respond-
pair. The assignment of weights is taken from the suggestion of ers were not due to chance. These results lay the foundation for fu-
Fleiss et al. (2003) and Kundel and Polansky (2003). The hypoth- ture research and application by providing the generic method for
esis that the underlying value of weighted kappa is zero is also deriving precursor information, which is the starting point of acci-
tested. dents real-time tracking. Further, these results serve as a founda-
Thus, after calculating the weighed kappa value of all possible tion for further study by drawing researchers attention to
pairs, the proposed average weighed kappa of jave(w) can be precursors and near misses.
calculated as 0.527. As far as the meaning of a kappa value is
concerned, it can range from 1.00 to +1.00, in which a kappa
below zero means that there is no agreement beyond chance, 5.2. Principal considerations to practical challenges
and a kappa of 1.00 means that there is perfect agreement (Kun-
del and Polansky, 2003; Gambatese et al., 2008). A kappa value There are a number of practical challenges to realizing such a
of 0.527 means moderate agreement. system. This paper is just a starting point for future studies con-
However, it is important to notice that Feinstein and Cicchetti cerning the real-time tracking of accidents based on precursors
(1990) have pointed out that the paradox of high overall agree- and near misses. Principal considerations to practical challenges
ment and low kappa, and Cicchetti and Feinstein (1990) suggested are discussed as follows:
that three indices of kappa, positive agreement, and negative What are the possible technological solutions to track near-miss
agreement should be included when reporting a kappa. Also, Kun- accidents based on real-time information?
del and Polansky (2003) pointed that the choice of intervals was The development of promising information technologies, such
entirely arbitrary and agreed that it was a useful way of showing as radio frequency identication (RFID) and wireless sensor net-
agreement data because this would give an indication of the type works (WSN) has prompted research into their application to
of decision of the type of decision where raters disagreed and construction. Simultaneously, great efforts have been made to
alerted the raters to the possibility of effects caused by prevalence automate the safety management on construction sites. Navon
or prior knowledge. From the questionnaire, it is easy to decide and Kolton (2006) conducted researches on how to automate fall
that the evaluation of very signicant and some signicance tend prevention procedures. Furthermore, both autonomous data
to be a positive evaluation, while the selection of little signicance requirement analysis of near-miss accidents and technological
and no signicance leans to a negative evaluation. From the per- solutions to track near-miss accidents based on real-time infor-
spective of this idea the judgment matrix of positive evaluation mation on construction sites have been investigated by Wu
and negative evaluation can be derived. Then, the positive agree- et al. (2010). Their outcomes (Wu et al., 2010) systematically
ment, pqpos, and negative agreement, pqneg, can be calculated analyzed the autonomous data requirement of near-miss acci-
(Feinstein and Cicchetti, 1990; Cicchetti and Feinstein, 1990; dents based on typical historical accident cases, which generally
Kundel and Polansky, 2003). Thus, after calculating the positive consisted of real-time information about location, identity and
agreement and negative agreement of all possible pairs, the aver- environment, and then proposed an autonomous real-time track-
age positive agreement, pavepos, and average negative agreement, ing system, which employed ultrasonic for outdoor and indoor
paveneg, can be calculated. The results are 0.877 (pavepos) and real-time location tracking, adopted sensors for environment sur-
0.276 (paveneg) respectively. veillance, RFID for access control as well as storage of safety
Therefore, the value of average weighed kappa indicates a mod- information about workers, equipment and materials, and wire-
erate degree of agreement beyond chance. In the meantime, by the less sensor networks for data transmission. All system compo-
magnitude of positive and negative agreement, agreement of posi- nents were integrated into a Zigbee RFID sensor network
tive evaluation is statistically highly signicant and major dis- architecture that featured a relatively low cost and fast imple-
agreement lies in negative evaluation. mentation with a pure wireless network backbone. The imple-
mentation of such system into the scenario of construction site
was also illustrated. That study provided a possible approach
5. Discussion for tracking near-miss accidents based on real-time information
and served as a foundation for further study by drawing
5.1. Meaning for real-time tracking researchers attention to the precursor signals leading to acci-
dents on construction sites.
This paper presents a fairly new generic method for deriving
precursor information from historical accidents. It started with a  What is the alert threshold and how is it established?
W. Wu et al. / Safety Science 48 (2010) 845858 855

Part of the outcomes from the Ph.D. Thesis of Wu (2009),5 tors on construction sites is argued to be the critical deciency and
named real-time tracking methods of safety hazards and insufciency of extant research and practice.
predictive model of safety risks on construction sites, provided a This paper has developed a systematic mechanism to interrupt
possible method to establish the alert threshold. Firstly, a model and prevent PaIFs on construction sites. The importance of precur-
of modied accident sequence precursors (MASP) was set up sors and near misses to further improve safety margins has been
according to the characteristics of construction sites. That modi- emphasized. A systematic model of improving safety on construc-
ed model improved the foundation of traditional event tree. On tion sites is being developed, which seeks to improve extant
the other hand, given the nature of safety management on con- safety-improving systems on construction sites by reinforcing
struction sites, which paid attention to a conditional probability, and accentuating the real-time tracking of PaIFs. Consequently,
that model improved the original arithmetic based on conditional this improved system has been split into three sub-systems of
probability theory. Also, safety risks based on precursors were cal- real-time tracking, routine continuous improving and near miss
culated. Furthermore, sensitivity analysis of different variables in- reporting. At the same time, the real-time tracking sub-system is
volved in MASP was conducted and the order of sensitivity was argued to be an effective measure to interrupt and prevent precur-
listed. In succession, predictive model of safety risks on construc- sor and immediate factors of accidents.
tion sites was founded using signal detection theory (SDT). Calcu- Eventually, facing the urgency and signicance to establish a
lating methods of early warning threshold were set up and precursor and immediate factor database which is the founda-
compared in different criteria. The suitable conditions of different tion and starting point of the real-time tracking sub-system, an
methods were also discussed and compared. Consequently, investigative model of PaIFs on construction sites has been pro-
NeymanPearson criterion was decided to be a suitable criterion posed, indicating not only how to seek precursors and immedi-
for calculating early warning threshold on construction sites at ate factors from historical accident records but also how to
current stage. Moreover, the distribution forms of safety signals obtain near miss and mitigating measures from reported events.
and danger signals were supposed, and the parameters were esti- A real accident and a playback of reported events on construc-
mated and the hypothesis was tested. In the meantime, the meth- tion sites were selected to illustrate how PaIFs could be used
ods of judging sensitivity and risk tendency of early warning to further investigate accidents and reported abnormal events.
system were also founded using SDT. Results have indicated that PaIFs were effective and able to ac-
quire as much information about precursors and near miss as
 Who is monitoring for early warning signals and how are alerts possible because more than one precursor or near miss could
communicated and by whom? be obtained from a historical accident record or reported event
respectively. Moreover, considering that near miss reporting
According to the technological solutions to track near-miss acci- sub-system is also a signicant way to supplement and increase
dents based on real-time information on construction sites (Wu precursors, the investigative model of PaIFs in part overcame the
et al., 2010), the safety manager on site or relevant safety profes- deciency of lacking sufcient and adequate historical accident
sionals could be arranged to monitor precursor signals in the sever records.
manager room. Alerts could be communicated by wireless sensor Accidents of fall from scaffold were chosen in this research to
networks and by the safety manager and the involved workers di- illustrate the application of PaIFs. Questionnaires have also been
rectly, which would take very ephemeral time. conducted to verify the usefulness and validity of the proposed
model. The value of average weighed kappa indicated a moderate
 Will there always be sufcient time to alert the relevant work- degree of agreement beyond chance. In the meantime, by the mag-
ers on site? nitude of positive and negative agreement, agreement of positive
evaluation was statistically highly signicant and major disagree-
Cambraia et al. (2010) suggested that the proactive nature of ment lay in negative evaluation.
a near miss was linked to the fact that the items of information With regard to the practice in construction, this study proposes
generated allow actions to be performed, which would prevent a feasible approach to facilitate acquiring more useful information
injury or damage to property occurring in the future. Also, our from historical records of accidents and the investigator should
previously proposed PaIFs model differentiated precursors and further investigate the accident using PaIFs after a preliminary
immediate factors in the difculty for performing preventive ac- accident investigation in order to identify and benet from acci-
tions due to time constraint. The PaIFs attached importance to dent precursors. Moreover, the systematic model of improving
precursors and near misses that would always have sufcient safety on construction sites would indicate the direction to im-
time to alert the relevant workers on site. Thus, we argued that prove safety margins.
precursors and near missed would provide insight into acci- As far as the research is concerned, it would serve as a founda-
dents that could happen and have the great signicance to fur- tion for further study by drawing researchers attention to precur-
ther improve safety margins from the perspective of real-time sors, immediate factors and near misses on construction sites. In
tracking. order to realize this early warning facility, more challenging re-
search must be conducted, such as on how to investigate quantita-
tive relationships between precursors (near miss) and accidents
based on the established database; how to do the real-time track-
6. Conclusions and recommendations
ing based on different precursors and immediate factors on
construction sites; and how to deliver early warning signals to
Safety problems on construction sites seem to be largely unre-
involved persons.
solved as the fatality and injury records in construction continue
to plague the industry across the world. The lack of an effective
Acknowledgements
system to interrupt and prevent the precursors and immediate fac-

The research work for this paper is funded by the National


Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 50878049). Sup-
5
Wu, 2009. Real-time tracking methods of safety hazards and predictive model of port from China Scholarship Council, who sponsored the rst
safety risks on construction sites. Ph.D. Thesis, Southeast University, Nanjing, China. authors secondment at Loughborough University, is gratefully
856 W. Wu et al. / Safety Science 48 (2010) 845858

acknowledged. The responders of the questionnaires are also This research is seeking to develop an approach where the
gratefully acknowledged. Appreciation for the support and corpo- events that may lead to an accident can be identied ahead of
ration of the research is also given to Dr. Lam (associate professor, time, as precursors, such that action could be taken to avoid
department of Building and Real Estate, The Hong Kong Polytech- the accident. This is similar to a structured method of learning
nic University, Hong Kong), Dr. Yam (assistant professor, depart- from near misses.
ment of Building and Real Estate, The Hong Kong Polytechnic For this questionnaire we would like you to assume the sce-
University) and Dr. Chew (associate professor, School of Civil nario of operatives working on a scaffold. We would like you to
and Environmental Engineering, Nanyang Technological Univer- record your view of the signicance of each of the following ac-
sity, Singapore). tions, in-actions or conditions in contributing to a fall from
height accident (These have been identied from a study of acci-
dent reports).
Appendix A. Preventing falls from scaffold questionnaire All responses to this questionnaire will be treated as strictly
condential and all comments will be anonymous. The data
A.1. Introduction collected in the study will be used for academic purposes
only.
This questionnaire forms part of a joint research project be-
tween Loughborough University, UK and Southeast University,
A.2. Questionnaire
China.
W. Wu et al. / Safety Science 48 (2010) 845858 857

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