Occupational Health and Safety Research on the Tideway Project: Loughborough / IOSH longitudinal ‘tracer’ research project

16 September 2016

Loughborough University have obtained funding from IOSH for an action research project to develop new understandings of the effectiveness of occupational safety and health (OSH) interventions in a large, complex multi-site construction project with a networked supply chain. Uniquely, the research will study interventions longitudinally, revealing the ways within OSH policies and practices intersect and intertwine with other organisational agendas.

Through this project new approaches to achieving desirable OSH outcomes will be identified, together with in-depth knowledge of how they can best be managed through the process of implementation.  The project will focus on aspects such as:

  • Leadership, strategies, standards and professional practices
  • Achieving transformational OSH performance and outcomes beyond legal minimums
  • OSH knowledge, expertise and innovation
  • Policy to practice translation/realisation

Almost all previous research in occupational safety and health (OSH), particularly in construction, has been cross-sectional - taking a ‘snap-shot’ in time and then extrapolating the findings backwards and forwards.  This relies heavily on a combination of the recollections of interviewees and on data based on lagging indicators. 

This research is a unique opportunity to study the impact of OSH leadership, policy and practice over an extended period - which has never been done before.  Lessons learnt will focus on human and organisational aspects rather than the technological aspects.

The proposed method will use ‘tags’, developed jointly with the project team, to identify the important processes and key post-holders, as well as critical documents, events and activities.  Using tried and tested research techniques, these tags will be traced throughout the project, tracking variations within the context of the changing project environment and across the three different JV operations – a ‘living-laboratory!’  The initial research phase is for the first three years of the construction programme.  Follow-on funding will be sought subject to successful progress on this initial research project.

Deliverables will include IOSH reports and presentations at IOSH events along with Legacy Summaries disseminated through Tideway as the project progresses.

Benefits to IOSH, the construction sector and OSH practitioners and, ultimately to society

  • Learning from the first long term study of OSH throughout a major construction project.
  • The use of a ‘living-lab’ to test in ‘real time’ the application and outworking of cutting edge OSH concepts such as Hollnagel’s Safety II (focussing on what goes right rather than what goes wrong) and the Preconditioning for Success study from London 2012 (human and organisation factors underpinning the 2012 OSH successes).
  • Translation of the findings to other major projects and more broadly across construction.
  • Significant contribution to policy and training for next generation OSH professionals.

More information from Loughborough’s RAEng Professor Alistair Gibb (a.g.gibb@lboro.ac.uk)