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Revista ingeniería de construcción

versión On-line ISSN 0718-5073

Rev. ing. constr. vol.26 no.2 Santiago ago. 2011

http://dx.doi.org/10.4067/S0718-50732011000200003 

Revista Ingeniería de Construcción Vol. 26 N°2, Agosto de 2011 www.ing.puc.cl/ric PAG. 171 - 186

 

Application of an "Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence" model on shafts and tunnel construction

Aplicación del modelo "Antecedente-Comportamiento-Consecuencia" en la construcción de lumbreras y túneles

 

Victor Jiménez Arguelles*1, Jesús A. Flores Bustamante*, Luis A. Rocha Chiu*

Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, MÉXICO.

Dirección para Correspondencia


ABSTRACT

The first part of this research shows that in the works of shafts and tunnels construction, incidents and accidents are mostly caused by factors involving directly the workers behavior, even when the work safety conditions have been provided completely. The research is based on the data collected during two years in the construction of a deep drainage system in the Mexico City, which was carried out by four major Mexican construction companies. This research was developed from by external project monitoring, which allows using representative data without the problem of affect or benefit participating companies. Considering that the construction of the project will require three more years, the second part of the research aims to develop and implement a plan of labor risks prevention (LRP) based on the behavioral intervention of workers, in order to minimize the presence of accidents at work.

Keywords: Prevention, risks, accidents, behaviors, consequences


 

1. Introduction

Workers safety is a subject which has been gradually gaining importance on working schedules in labor centers. Some companies, for example those involved with pharmaceutical, clothing manufacture or petrochemical industries, have LRP management systems which help to reduce labor accidents to a minimum, with the purpose of achieving "cero accident" rates for a given period of time.

Construction sector, which has quite particular characteristics, is the industry showing the highest accident rate worldwide. Although many company managers are aware of workers "un-safety" conditions in construction job sites, they intend to solve the problem by providing individual protection equipment, by delivering good condition tools (technical part), by hanging up warning posters; however, accidents still occur.

On the other hand, construction job sites involve a great amount of incidents not directly resulting in workers physical injuries. Consequently, this situation leads to:

- Workers to believe accidents are a random matter.
- Company managers tend to minimize such kind of events and continue to believe unnecessary to invest in LRP.

Therefore, the current research intends to analyze and to prove that workers behavior is the main source of labor accidents in construction industry. It is also intended to prove how a LRP Plan based on Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence (including workers behavior patterns) might be adapted to construction companies' management system in order to minimize labor risks and consequently decrease accident rates.

2. Methodology

The first stage of this study, by means of qualitative research, intends to analyze the current situation of labor risk prevention in construction industry and, particularly in the tunnel construction project for a deep drainage system in Mexico City.

Subsequently, as second stage, a quantitative research was developed to conduct a statistical analysis to achieve a relative status of accident chances in this project. Specifically, accident reports were analyzed in other to determine potential causes.

The third stage once again applied the qualitative research to analyze the probability of employing theories based on behavior patterns, not including remarkable modifications to companies' LRP management systems. For such purpose, due to operational conditions of construction companies, training and positive reinforcement are two powerful tools to be integrated by Management Systems to reduce potential un-safety practices performed by workers.

3. Current situation of safety in construction job sites

Presently any work center should consider workers safety as a top priority, unfortunately it seems to be that such sensitive subject is minimized and overshadowed by budgetary reductions, as stated by Almodovar (2001).

Another situation affecting construction workers safety is the fact that most researches developed for risk prevention are developed under traditional industry parameters, that is to say, under completely different characteristics to those in construction industry.

Above antecedent leads to the failure in the implementation of LRP plans on construction sector, thus delivering quite poor results, due to adverse conditions it involves. Consequently, as stated by Rappaport et al. (1999), it creates a lack of motivation to those professionals who develop efforts to provide workers safety conditions and this is a starting point for a negative vicious circle leading to increase un-safety conditions in working centers.

Therefore, this research may express the problem as follows:

How can workers' un-safety and careless behavior be modified to adopt new safety patterns during working activities? Besides, how are positive obtained changes held permanently?

Following a brief points list indicating why construction sector is appointed as one of the most complex industries regarding hygiene and safety matters:

- Lack of LRP plans in construction job sites,
- Lack of management level commitment,
- Development of activities in the open,
- High workers rotation,
- Lack of workers training,
- Lack of commitment from safety staff,
- Constant changes of job sites locations,
- Frequent and different tasks allocation to workers,
- Non-ergonomic personal protection equipment,
- Low salary
- Lack of family benefits and money incentives

4. Development

The Project is developed in Mexico, geographically located between Mexico City and Hidalgo State. Technically, it consists in the construction of a tunnel with 7 m final diameter and approximated length of 65 km, which will require 24 shafts (some of them at more than 150 m depth) and an outlet gate as well as auxiliary works (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Shaft appearance, 12 m diameter and 40 m depth (own source)

Nowadays, due to its large-scale, the Project is considered as one of the 5 projects with higher investment cost worldwide.

Regarding labor Safety and Hygiene matters, this Project is facing huge and difficult challenges. In the first phase, the antecedent of a previous tunnel construction in 1968 is considered, with quite similar technical characteristics and geographical location, which purpose is the same: channeling black sewage.

However the difference lays in the fact that workers safety conditions were not a relevant topic at that time, consequently the lack of commitment led to a huge amount of accidents.

During project development a great variety of accidents took place, most of them being of a minor type, as shown in figures 2 and 3, that is to say only the assistance from job site paramedics was required. A fact drawing great attention is that, after accidents repetitively occurred and at the moment of analyzing injured and witnesses' declarations they have openly stated: "It was my fault", "I was careless", "I overlooked", which evidences that working environmental physical conditions are not the main reasons for accidents. At the same time, an intervention to behavior analysis is even more than justified.

Figure 2. Percentages of accidents per type, out of a total of 50 (own source)

Figure 3. Percentages of accidents per type, out of a total of 88 (own source)

As observed in the two previous graphs, mortal type accidents only showed one casualty. On the other hand and contrarily to expected, the number of accidents occurred during the project execution was minimum (see Figures 4 and 5). Counting with an average of 2271 workers operating per month, the average accident rate is 6.9 per month, which is equivalent to 0.30% accidentability in a period of two years. It is important to outline that even though the average percentage is low, it would be ideal to have a cero accidents rate from a humanitarian point of view.

Figure 4. Number of accidents per month, year 2009 (own source)

Figure 5. Number of accidents per month, year 2010 (own source)

Given the adverse conditions present in construction sector, the task is not easy at all, however, it is possible. Therefore, based on the following argument "all accidents have physical and real causes", and considering that such causes may be detected and consequently eliminated, therefore "accidents might be avoided" by eliminating or reducing the original risk causes. Similarly, Megias et al. (2011) and Williamson et al. (2001) state that same problem is present in car accidents, which main cause is careless behavior, in particular drivers under alcohol effect. It is worth mentioning that one aggravating factor is that many workers are alcohol consumers in the construction sector.

5. Theory of safety based on behavior (SBB)

Several researches have convincingly evidenced the leading role played by people practices as direct causes for workers accidents. From studies developed by Heinrich 50 years ago, different sources have broadened their findings and confirmed their approaches. The most relevant studies were the researches on accidents at Dupont chemical company, which concluded that almost 80% of accident casualties were due to unsafe actions of people.

During the execution of the Project under study (tunnel construction in Mexico), an accident took place and a worker died, thus directly and clearly evidencing the intervention of unsafe behaviors of construction workers towards labor security.

Description of facts:

Accident information evidences the presence of behavior factors:

- The person in charge of commanding the basket maneuverings was directly injured provided his duty was to pay attention at all times during basket maneuvering and to alert the other workers.

- Dead worker was aware of basket descendant operation however, he was standing up just on the zone where he knew the basket would descend.

- After the mortal accident, it was learnt that the worker's mother had passed away the day before. Perhaps his grief led him to a lapse of concentration.

At the same time and because of this accident, it was stated that safety staff must be also aware of workers' mood and physical condition. As indicated by Ferguson et al. (2010), tiredness and sleepiness symptoms shall be detected in advance to avoid exposing workers to dangerous conditions.

Such type of situations repeatedly taking place in construction field and particularly in the construction project under study, as shown in figure 6, indicate that 85% of accidents occur due to causes directly attributable to workers whether they have been physically or psychologically affected.

On the other hand, mechanical and natural factors as well as physical conditions of working sites, have demonstrated to be of less importance as accident causes; besides at the end human behavior is always part of them, which indicates that the percentage corresponding to human behavior could even be increased.

Figure 6. Main factors causing accidents (own source)

Provided before mentioned antecedents, the incorporation of SBB in LRP plans is more than justified, as it considers:

- Positive feedback and reinforcement to increase appropriate and safe behavior by workers. This is a highly effective and easily applicable measure, since it is only required to immediately praise efforts made by workers when they develop their activities fulfilling prevention risk rules and executing confident practices.

- Corrective feedback on undesired behavior patterns. This practice is not desired by companies, however it is necessary. It involves warning calls, sanctions to workers not complying with safety recommendations instructed by the responsible safety staff. The most common situation is that workers do not "want" to use personal protection equipment claiming it is uncomfortable or arguing it slows down their activities performance. This situation shall be analyzed in detail, since in order to save money, workers are provided with equipment lacking of ergonometric features.

Counting with such type of practices, it is also possible to broadcast commitments internally held by the company in safety and hygiene matters, so that in a short term workers will assimilate and deal with safety behaviors including the corresponding preventive actions in all times.

Behavioral safety also implies taking into consideration that:

- It is a continuously improvement process
- It is a process led by the own workers towards workers
- It requires commitment and similar strategies in the whole construction sector, as this industry has an inconvenient workers rotation.

Equally, we consider that due to the quite particular characteristics of construction industry, and since SBB is specifically centered on workers behaviors, this tool can be integrated to Management Systems in each construction company, without replacing the plans already implemented or eliminating objectives already established.

During the execution of the project under study, we have been able to frequently prove normal un-safety practices performed by workers and even more it has been greatly observed the occurrence of careless practices risking their own lives and their co-workers. Luckily, since they are not affected by accidents, such negative practices consequently draw a negative effect regarding safety, since the wrong idea that they will never have an accident even makes the presence of poor habits and customs worse (see Figure 7).

In other words: "The worker does not see a direct relation between his careless practices and the risks he is exposed to."

Figure 7. Layout of un-safe practices cycle performed by workers (own source)

Pedroso et al. (2008) considers that two basic concepts definitely involved during a SBB process are the following:

a) Attitudes: defined as internal beliefs someone has regarding the evaluation of a given subject or situation. Therefore, it is quite common to listen that: in order to change people's safety behavior, his attitudes should be modified first.

b) Culture: considered as a set of behavior rules supported by the group, such rules reflect beliefs about desirable matters in the organization that guide members' behavior.

When implementing such theories a problem has been detected, which not only lays in the fact that people do not like to be told what to believe, but also because some of the behavior rules negatively affecting safety are derived from the eventualities of working environment, such as incentives promoting production goal achievements at the expenses of safety.

On the other hand, Montero (2003) states that the theory of learning safety behavior patterns first recommends changing the behavior - because it might be modified - and once behaviors related to operation tasks are modified, results will lead to positive actions that later will lead to a solid safety culture, which is opposite to current practice.

In this way, it is believed that new acquired behaviors will lead to better practices in relation to safety, which will contribute to modify the culture throughout time (see Figura 8).

Figure 8. Process of changing behaviors (own source)

6. Model antecedent-behavior-consequence (ABC)

Workers behaviors are analyzed and described in the context they directly influence accidents occurrence, particularly in the construction sector. Following a description of how to implement SBB in PRL plans by means of ABC.

Antecedent (A)

Antecedent is defined as the action preceding the behavior that influences the operator on a given performance.

Robbins (2003) believes that, in a great extent, future behaviors will depend on the worker past behavior and furthermore antecedents will be only successful when they effectively predict the consequences, that is to say when warning posters, meetings, instructions and training predict real situations.

Therefore, antecedents for workers can be the following:

• Safety knowledge
• Training on specific tasks to be performed by the operator
• Social and family problems undergone by the worker
• Work team willingness
• Culture rules available in the company
• Short time assigned for the completion of each task.
• Tools and equipment conditions
• Warning conditions (signaling, instructions, etc)

Behavior (C)

Behaviors are defined as observable practices performed by people, which are actions having the advantage of allowing a most accurate assessment. Besides, there are effective and proved techniques to achieve behavior changes.

The terminology: Antecedent, Behavior and Consequences are always involved when "someone" does "something", therefore, with the purpose of changing un-safe workers behaviors these terms shall be considered as a whole.

A person's behavior can be observed, therefore it may be registered and such recordings may be collected. From these data, by means of statistic analysis, an inference of trends may be developed.

On the other hand, as stated by Koukoulaki (2010), labor safety shall be considered and treated as a system, not only as an isolated topic; otherwise efforts developed in this field will not be productive.

Consequence (C)

According to Montero (2002) people's behavior may be influenced by the own consequences they create.

In fact, the principle of safety based on behaviors has been used in safety management since some time ago: disciplinary measures (negative consequences to be avoided), safety training (antecedents), propaganda and advertising (antecedents), incentives due to proper safety performance (positive consequences), awards (positive consequences) are all mainly empirical examples of the employment of this model or rule, whether it is conscious or not.

7. Implementation of an ABC model in LRP plans in the construction sector

Taking up the theory stating that an immediate, feasible and positive consequence is the best combination to influence a person and to reinforce a desired behavior and, also considering that generally the fear of accidents themselves is a powerless consequence to influence behaviors on solid basis; then it is necessary to incorporate the following SBB facts to LRP.

First, it is necessary to count with real conviction and willingness to cooperate at all levels in the company, beginning with managerial level.

Second, It is necessary to train the staff in charge of safety and hygiene area, as much as on specific constructive procedures of the project as on SBB matters.

Third, workers must be trained on specific activities to be performed by them. Taking into account the adverse conditions involved in construction sector, then training shall be carefully planned, at least considering: workers low educational level, high workers rotation, time restrictions and non-adequate facilities.

Fourth, providing safety lectures of 5 to 15 minutes on daily basis at the beginning of working day.

Fifth, safety staff and job site managers must conduct inspections to check safe and un-safe practices performed by workers and shall correct the wrong practice at the very same moment.

An important aspect is to reinforce an adequate practice immediately, thus providing a higher motivation to worker, consequently leading by example.

Sixth, when an accident takes place a feedback tool must be employed, which is to be applied immediately after the incident or accident has occurred.

Seventh, company managers should keep a list of recruited workers to avoid starting from cero at the job site operation.

Eighth, the participation of safety staff and job site managers should not be limited to the role of policemen looking for someone to blame, they should be risk management experts seeking opportunities to cooperate in a preventive way. Therefore, it is necessary to detect careless practices and inadequate procedures by demonstrating the correct way to perform such tasks. At the same time, full awareness of the consequences from such negative practices should be made. In this way, the consequences will be gradually turned into antecedents.

Ninth, It is necessary to develop an accident report analysis which might deliver preventive measures to avoid recurrent events, as considered by Pinto et al (2011).

Tenth, the Company shall maintain the process of implementation and improvement at all levels, so that a general culture on LRP can be achieved in the long term. In this way, continuous workers' rotation will not negatively affect general behavior, as it is expected that new workers will be provided with clear rules and procedures allowing a fastest adaptation.

8. Conclusions

During the execution of the Project under study, it was observed that constructors practices are carried out on reactive basis and not "proactive basis", that is to say "Labor Prevention Risk" is simple not preventive.

On the other hand, companies interested in "counting with" safety measurements in their job sites, have only limited to deliver personal protection equipment, but have not trained nor convinced the worker on the use of such devices.

Regarding the core of this research, it is of great importance to outline that a high amount of minor incidents and accidents taking place during the first two years of tunnel construction, 85% of workers have declared that the causes were due to personal careless practices and excess of self-confidence.

Therefore, we consider that the implementation of SBB in LRP plans is justified, since it is a powerful tool offering the possibility of intervening in an area, which has been neglected so far. Besides, one of the advantages of this tool is that it does not demand money investments; it only requires the commitment and willingness of all workers as well as all hierarchical levels in the Company.

After all, the objective is that LRP interventions will be centered in workers, in such a way they may analyze and modify their antecedents to achieve safe practices.

In that sense, causes or antecedents shall be analyzed and multiple originating factors must be treated and modified.

In order to achieve risk behavior changes, it is recommended to employ ABC analysis and reinforcement foundation guidelines. If this process is maintained and gradually includes more members in the organization, attitudes will be eventually modified and a global change will be achieved by the company, thus establishing a culture of labor security.

It is worth mentioning that the implementation of ABC model in LRP plans, specifically in the construction sector, does not require a strict sequence of stages and it does not limit or prevent the execution of each task or use of tools in this model.

Finally, it is required an active intervention from government authorities looking after the compliance of regulation in force for the construction sector, in order to concentrate efforts to increasingly reduce labor accidents rates in construction job sites.

9. References

Almodóvar M., Zimmermann M., De la Orden V., Maqueda J. (2001), "Evolución de los accidentes en el sector de la construcción", XII Congreso Nacional de Seguridad y Salud en el trabajo, Valencia, España. Subdirección Técnica-INSHT.

Association Internationale des Tunnels et de l'espace Souterrain (2008), "Guidelines for good occupational health and safety practice in tunnel construction". Report no. 001 Avignon, Francia. November

Bernal J. (1996), "Formación general de seguridad e higiene del trabajo", Ed. Tecnos, España.

De La Orden V., Zimmermann M., Maqueda J. (2001), "Influencia de la formación en la percepción de las causas de los riesgos de accidentes de trabajo", XII Congreso Nacional de Seguridad y Salud en el Trabajo, Valencia 20-23 de Noviembre, Subdirección Técnica del INST.

Ferguson S., Peach G., Dorrian J., Roach G., Jay S. (2010), "Performance on a simple response time task: is sleep or work more important for miners?", Applied Ergonomics, Elsevier, volume 42, Issue 2, 210-223

Guglielmetti V. (2008), "Mechanized Tunnelling in Urban Areas", Ed. Taylor and Francis, London, U.K.

Jiménez V. (2005), "Modificación de comportamientos de riesgo en los trabajos del sector de la construcción", Tesis doctoral UPC, Barcelona, España.

Megías A., Maldonado A., Candido A. (2010), "Emotional modulation of urgent and evaluative behaviors in risk driving scenarios", Accident Analysis and Prevention, Elsevier, 43, 813-817.

Melia J. (1995), "Un proceso de intervención para reducir los accidentes laborales", Revista de Psicología del Trabajo y de las Organizaciones, 11 (32), 51-165

Montero R. (2003), "Siete Principios de la Seguridad Basada en los Comportamientos", Revista del INSH, España.

Mutua U. (2001), "Manual técnico de la construcción, gestión de la prevención de riesgos laborales y de la protección del medio ambiente", Ed. Ciedossat, España.

Pedroso S., Agostinho S., Lima M., Meliá J. (2008), "The impact of work accidents experience on causal attributions and worker behavior", Safety Science, 46, 1992-2001.

Pinto A., Nunes I., Ribeiro R. (2011), "Occupational Risk Assesment in Construction Industry - Overview and Reflection", Safety Science, 49, 616-624

Rappaport S., Weaver M., Taylor D., Kupper L., Susi P. (1999), "Aplication of mixed models to assess exposures monitored by construction workers during hot processes", The Annals of Occupational Hygiene, British Ocupational Hygiene Society, 43, 435-499

Robbins S. (2003), "La verdad sobre la dirección de personas y nada más que la verdad", Ed. Gestión 2000, España.

Robbins S. (1988), "Testing Response Generation Rules", Journal of Experimental Psychology, Elsevier, volume 14, issue 4, October, 430-436

Williamson M., Feyer M., Mattick R. (2001), "Developing measures of fatigue using an alcohol comparison to validate the effects of fatigue on performance", Accident Analysis and Prevention, 33, 313-326.

Wood-black F. (2005), "oh, the risk we take!", Chemical Health and Safety, Elsevier, volume 1, 24-38


E-mail: jiav68@yahoo.com.mx

Fecha de recepción: 15/ 10/ 2010, Fecha de aceptación: 01/ 04/ 2011.

Almodóvar M., Zimmermann M., De la Orden V., Maqueda J. (2001), "Evolución de los accidentes en el sector de la construcción", XII Congreso Nacional de Seguridad y Salud en el trabajo, Valencia, España. Subdirección Técnica-INSHT.        [ Links ]

Association Internationale des Tunnels et de l'espace Souterrain (2008), "Guidelines for good occupational health and safety practice in tunnel construction". Report no. 001 Avignon, Francia. November        [ Links ]

Bernal J. (1996), "Formación general de seguridad e higiene del trabajo", Ed. Tecnos, España.        [ Links ]

De La Orden V., Zimmermann M., Maqueda J. (2001), "Influencia de la formación en la percepción de las causas de los riesgos de accidentes de trabajo", XII Congreso Nacional de Seguridad y Salud en el Trabajo, Valencia 20-23 de Noviembre, Subdirección Técnica del INST.        [ Links ]

Ferguson S., Peach G., Dorrian J., Roach G., Jay S. (2010), "Performance on a simple response time task: is sleep or work more important for miners?", Applied Ergonomics, Elsevier, volume 42, Issue 2, 210-223         [ Links ]

Guglielmetti V. (2008), "Mechanized Tunnelling in Urban Areas", Ed. Taylor and Francis, London, U.K.        [ Links ]

Jiménez V. (2005), "Modificación de comportamientos de riesgo en los trabajos del sector de la construcción", Tesis doctoral UPC, Barcelona, España.        [ Links ]

Megías A., Maldonado A., Candido A. (2010), "Emotional modulation of urgent and evaluative behaviors in risk driving scenarios", Accident Analysis and Prevention, Elsevier, 43, 813-817.         [ Links ]

Melia J. (1995), "Un proceso de intervención para reducir los accidentes laborales", Revista de Psicología del Trabajo y de las Organizaciones, 11 (32), 51-165        [ Links ]

Montero R. (2003), "Siete Principios de la Seguridad Basada en los Comportamientos", Revista del INSH, España.        [ Links ]

Mutua U. (2001), "Manual técnico de la construcción, gestión de la prevención de riesgos laborales y de la protección del medio ambiente", Ed. Ciedossat, España.        [ Links ]

Pedroso S., Agostinho S., Lima M., Meliá J. (2008), "The impact of work accidents experience on causal attributions and worker behavior", Safety Science, 46, 1992-2001.        [ Links ]

Pinto A., Nunes I., Ribeiro R. (2011), "Occupational Risk Assesment in Construction Industry - Overview and Reflection", Safety Science, 49, 616-624        [ Links ]

Rappaport S., Weaver M., Taylor D., Kupper L., Susi P. (1999), "Aplication of mixed models to assess exposures monitored by construction workers during hot processes", The Annals of Occupational Hygiene, British Ocupational Hygiene Society, 43, 435-499        [ Links ]

Robbins S. (2003), "La verdad sobre la dirección de personas y nada más que la verdad", Ed. Gestión 2000, España.         [ Links ]

Robbins S. (1988), "Testing Response Generation Rules", Journal of Experimental Psychology, Elsevier, volume 14, issue 4, October, 430-436        [ Links ]

Williamson M., Feyer M., Mattick R. (2001), "Developing measures of fatigue using an alcohol comparison to validate the effects of fatigue on performance", Accident Analysis and Prevention, 33, 313-326.         [ Links ]

Wood-black F. (2005), "oh, the risk we take!", Chemical Health and Safety, Elsevier, volume 1, 24-38        [ Links ]

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