Construction safety through housekeeping: The Hawthorne effect

Emmanuel Aboagye-Nimo, Fidelis Emuze

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


Clean and tidy sites have often been associated with positive safety cultures in construction. Poor housekeeping can result in the creation of additional hazards and dangers in the form of protruding objects which may also be sharp, and increase in situations that can lead to slips, trips and falls on sites. They also create uneven ground levels, debris, and muddy conditions, which can all lead to an increase in accidents. Housekeeping also contributes to projects being finished in a timely manner due to the fewer distractions created by the chaos. However, maintaining good housekeeping practices on site have been known to be challenging due to the rapid and complex nature of construction projects. In a research that was initiated to explore the question of ‘why is housekeeping a continuing challenge in Lesotho construction?’, the final outcome of site visits and observations revealed the classic phenomenon of the Hawthorne effect. Without deliberate or intentional 'interventionary' measures or demand for regulatory adherence, subsequent visits revealed a transformation in site practices specifically on housekeeping. The Hawthorne effect refers to the alteration of behaviour by the subjects of a study due to their awareness of being observed. This effect does not necessarily refer to positive or negative outcome. In this paper, the transformation that occurred with regard to the workers’ practices is discussed critically in the context of this phenomenon. A key outcome of this discussion is whether housekeeping can be encouraged or improved using the notion of being observed. Finally, the ethical stance of carrying out overt or covert observations is deliberated.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTowards better safety, health, well-being, and life in construction
Place of PublicationCape Town, South Africa
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jun 2017
EventTowards better safety, health, well-being, and life in construction - Cape Town, 11-13 June 2017
Duration: 11 Jun 2017 → …


ConferenceTowards better safety, health, well-being, and life in construction
Period11/06/17 → …


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