Challenging standardisation by embracing ambiguities of site safety: the case of micro construction firms

Emmanuel Aboagye-Nimo, Ani Raiden

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNConference contribution with ISSN or ISBNpeer-review


Streamlining and standardising safety practices in the construction industry has always been the goal of many policymakers and large construction firms. This would understandably ensure that all practices on a wide range of projects adopt and implement similar procedures and regulations. In addition, this idea could possibly reduce the uncertainties and variations associated with interpretations of policies and regulations amongst project teams. Unfortunately, safety issues on construction projects and sites are widely acknowledged to differ from project to project and even activity to activity. For this reason, the implementation of a broad-brush approach has always proven difficult in the industry. Micro and small teams in the industry operate under the notion that projects and site conditions are always fluid and tend to adapt their safety practices accordingly. The aim of this research is to highlight the experiences and nuances of the ambiguities in safety practices of workers of small and micro construction firms. Qualitative data was collected using ethnographies on construction sites in the South East and the East Midlands regions of the UK. Findings from the ethnographic studies indicate that workers from small and micro firms from both regions acknowledge that the risks and hazards associated with various stages of projects change constantly. These changes are attributed to various reasons including site conditions, project changes, workers’ state of mind and overall site culture. Furthermore, the workers believe that standardising approaches for all projects will be ineffective especially if the teams should encounter extenuating circumstances that they have not planned for. The workers thus embrace the uncertainties in safety and adopt an approach the takes into account the ambiguities associated with construction practices thereby being able to use a dynamic approach to avoid accidents and injuries that could prove costly or fatal.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 35th Annual ARCOM Conference
EditorsChris Gorse, Chris Neilson
PublisherAssociation of Researchers in Construction Management
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)9780995546349
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2019


  • Ethnography
  • Micro firms
  • Safety ambiguity
  • Site safety


Dive into the research topics of 'Challenging standardisation by embracing ambiguities of site safety: the case of micro construction firms'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this