Michelle Turner, Sarah Holdsworth, Christina Scott-Young and Kara Sandri’s important work on the experiences of women working in the construction industry has been published in leading international peer-reviewed journal Construction Management and Economics.

The study explored the resilience of trades and semi-skilled women working onsite in the Australian construction industry. Survey results indicate that women had a high level of employee resilience despite little to no support from their workplace. Follow-up interviews identified that resilience is considered as a mandatory capability by women working onsite to manage gendered workplace hazards and attain career success.

Confidence, reflective practice, self-efficacy, and adaptability were considered as important characteristics related to employee resilience which enabled women to remain emotionally and mentally strong and focussed on the job. However, a high level of resilience does not necessarily reflect a positive workplace culture. While resilience may be a critical resource for women, it does not negate the need for the removal of harmful work conditions that women in construction are routinely exposed to. The results reiterate that more needs to be done to provide a mentally and physically safe working environment for women working onsite in the construction industry.

To read the full abstract click here.

Congratulations to RMIT’s Dr Rita Peihua Zhang and Visiting Professor Paul Bowen (University of Cape Town) for winning the “John Smallwood Best Paper Award” at the Joint CIB W099 and W123 International Conference titled ‘Changes & innovations for improved wellbeing in construction’.
Their paper, 'Family Role Blurring and Conflict: The Case of South African Construction Professionals', explored the relationships between work demands, role blurring, work-to-family conflict and health and wellbeing consequences among South African construction professionals.
RMIT was well-represented at the conference, which also featured paper presentations from Michelle Turner, Helen Lingard, James Harley and Payam Pirzadeh exploring the theme of workers' mental health. We congratulate everyone who presented on their valuable contributions to the field of construction work health and safety.
You can watch Dr Zhang's presentation on the edShare@GCU website.

This report presents the Stage 1 results of a project funded by icare NSW and undertaken in partnership with the Master Builders Association of New South Wales.

Interviews with 30 NSW apprentices and 11 supervisors identified several factors that facilitate effective communication and interactive social support in the workplace. These factors include:

  • intrapersonal characteristics (of apprentices and supervisors),
  • characteristics of effective and supportive interpersonal interaction (between apprentices and supervisors), and
  • organisational or work-context factors that enable effective communication and social support to occur.

The findings of this report will be used to inform the development of an intervention designed to improve communication and social support provided to construction apprentices in the workplace.

The award-winning paper, "Safety at the Front Line: Social Negotiation of Work and Safety at the Principal Contractor–Subcontractor Interface", documents an ethnographic study that examined the influence of social relationships on construction safety practices. While most worksite safety theories emphasise the enforcement of universal and inflexible rules, Lingard and Oswald's research highlights that a culture of worksite safety can actually develop though effective social interaction and a measure of flexibility, in addition to relying on rules enforced in a top down manner.

Funded by icare, this project will examine the nature of supervisor-worker communication about safety issues, health (mental and physical) and experiences outside work in the NSW construction industry. This research will enable industry partners to develop healthy, safe, and supportive workplaces for young construction workers, who are identified as a high-risk subgroup of the construction industry’s workforce.

We are inviting papers for a special issue of Construction Management and Economics on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on construction industries across countries.

The aim of this special issue is to analyse, understand and document the way in which construction industries across the globe have responded to and experienced (and continue to experience) the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as what they have learnt during this extraordinary period. The special issue seeks to collate evidence as to what worked well and what did not, and why, and to identify and share lessons learned in relation to strengthening the global construction industry's risk governance mechanisms, bolstering organizational resilience and reducing vulnerability to transboundary crises that might arise in the future.

Key dates

  • Full paper submission open: January 2021
  • Extended abstract submission deadline: until 30 April 2021
  • Full paper submission deadline: 1 October 2021
  • Publication of the special issue: Planned for September 2022 

For more information, please visit the Taylor & Francis Online website.

Holdsworth, S., Turner, M., Scott-Young, C.M., & Sandri, K. (2020), Women in Construction: Exploring the Barriers and Supportive Enablers of Wellbeing in the Workplace, RMIT University, Melbourne.

This research was commissioned by the Victorian Government as part of the Victorian Women in Construction Strategy 2019-2022 Building Gender Equality program.

We are very proud that our PhD student, Tung Pham was one of three finalists in the WHS Science Sprint competition held at the 2020 National Work Health and Safety Colloquium – The Impact of Research in Sydney on 11 November 2020.

Tung’s research investigated the effectiveness of work health and safety training and the application of trained skills and knowledge in managerial and non-managerial construction workers. The research indicated perception of construction workers on effective training design and delivery methods, and workplace factors affecting the likelihood that construction workers utilise what they have learned in the work setting.

Watch Tung’s video presentation:

Image of Tung Pham

Tung Pham - RMIT PhD student finalist in WHS Science Sprint Competition

LINGARD, H., COOKE, T., ZELIC, G. & HARLEY, J. (2020), A qualitative analysis of crane safety incident causation in the Australian Construction Industry, Safety Science, Vol.133, pp.1-11; 2020.

Highlights of the paper:

  • Factors contributing to construction crane safety incidents were explored using qualitative methods.
  • Contributing factors were identified at different levels within the construction industry work system.
  • Immediate factors were linked to issues in the regulatory, industrial and organisational environment.

Read more about the research project.

Zhang, R.P., Lingard, H., & Oswald. D. (2020), Impact of Supervisory Safety Communication on Safety Climate and Behavior in Construction Workgroups, Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, Vol.146(8), pp.1-11.

Excerpt from the abstract: A study was conducted to quantitatively examine the relationships among supervisory safety communication, group safety climate, and safety behaviors, as well as to qualitatively explore effective ways for supervisors to communicate safety expectations and information to workers. A survey was conducted among workers engaged in rail construction work in Melbourne, Australia.

Read more about the research project.

PIRZADEH, P., LINGARD, H. & BLISMAS, N., (2020), Effective communication in the context of safe design decision making, Safety Science, 131, 104913

Highlights of the paper:

  • Safety in design requires effective communication between project participants.
  • A multilevel socio-technical network view is applied to study decision-making.
  • Safety in design decision-making is studies in 6 cases.
  • A model is developed capturing the features of effective communication.
  • The model reveals how effective communication supports design with positive H&S outcomes.

Researchers from our team presented at the 36th ARCOM Annual Conference 2020, which was held virtually this year.

Dr Payam Pirzadeh presented a paper titled ‘A multilevel socio-technical perspective on work health and safety related design decision making’, co-authored with Dist. Prof. Helen Lingard and Prof. Nick Blismas.

Dr Rita Peihua Zhang presented a paper titled ‘Work-Related Strain Effects and Coping Strategies among South African Construction Professionals’ co-authored with Prof. Paul Bowen and Dr. Peter Edwards. 

LINGARD, H., WAKEFIELD, R. & WALKER., D. H. T., (2020), The client’s role in promoting work health and safety in construction projects: balancing contracts and relationships to effect change, Construction Management and Economics.

Excerpt from the abstract:

Client practices in relation to the management of WHS were examined in a longitudinal case study conducted in a public infrastructure programme of work in Australia. Control mechanisms for WHS at the client-contractor boundary were explored over a 12-month period. The study provides important new knowledge regarding the client’s role in driving WHS performance in infrastructure/engineering construction projects.

TURNER, M. & LINGARD, H., (2020), Examining the interaction between bodily pain and mental health of construction workers, Construction Management and Economics.

Excerpt from the abstract: This study explores musculoskeletal bodily pain and the impact this has on construction workers’ mental health. A mixed-method approach incorporated survey and interview data. Key themes emerging from the interview data comprised of the expectation of pain, managing pain, impact of pain on mental health, pressure to work with pain, work ability and planning for the future, and the stigma of mental health.

Click here to read more about the research project.

SHOOSHTARIAN, S., LINGARD, H. & WONG, S. P., (2020), Using the cost of construction work to trigger legislative duties for WHS: the Australian experience, Built Environment Project and Asset Management

Except from the abstract: The research highlights some potential challenges associated with the use of a monetary threshold in the regulation of WHS planning in construction projects. Thus, the results are expected to contribute to addressing these challenges, leading to the development of an appropriate balance to achieve efficient and effective WHS regulation in Australia.

LINGARD, H. & OSWALD, D., (2020), Safety at the frontline: The social negotiation of work and safety at the principal contractor-subcontractor interface, Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, 146 (4): 04020024.

Excerpt from the abstract: This research investigated the influence of the social context on work practices and safety at the principal contractor–subcontractor interface. The results reveal limitations inherent in traditional technical approaches to understanding safety in the construction site environment because these approaches tend to ignore the social and power relations at play. The results reveal that safety at the principal contractor–subcontractor interface is better understood as an emergent property of a complex ecosystem of social relationships and interactions.

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Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.

aboriginal flag
torres strait flag

Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business.