Decolonizing occupational safety management: The case of construction site safety culture in Ghana

Fred Sherratt, Emmanuel Aboagye-Nimo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


From its Christian foundations, the notion of being one’s ‘brother’s keeper’ maintains a considerable influence on OSH across the world. This manifests in the global dominance of Western-centric ‘best practices’ for OSH, supported by an academe itself dominated by Western-centric methodologies. But this situation is problematic, constraining the development of meaningful methods of enquiry and the production of culturally-relevant findings able to improve and enhance OSH practice in non-Western countries. In parts of the world like sub-Saharan Africa, this situation is further magnified by the legacy of a more explicit colonisation, which still casts its long shadows on both OSH practice and research. Here, we explore this phenomenon using Ghana as our case study country and construction as our case study industry, to explore a core tenet of safety culture; that of
belief. Interviews with Key Informants, including contractors and health professionals, reveal local societal cultures and how the colonial legacy still manifests in Ghana. Our analysis found that construction site workers in Ghana always work in challenging ‘cross-cultural’ contexts: theirs and their former colonisers. They have to manage dissonance between traditional and Christian beliefs, the enduring legacy of a lack of education and training, and the vestiges of colonial ‘divide and rule’. The direct application of Western OSH practices and many Western-centric research methodologies to non-Western cultures and contexts are shown to be folly. As a field, we need to decolonise OSH research and practice in order to achieve benefits for construction workers across the world.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105732
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalSafety Science
Publication statusPublished - 10 Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research did not receive any specific grants from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors. The authors would like to thank all the participants in the empirical work undertaken. This paper is dedicated to the memory of Barry Rawlinson (1946-2021) who died during its production. Barry was a champion of social justice and inclusion, and in the 1980s he researched and wrote about the (continuing) European exploitation of other countries, particularly the Philippines.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Ltd


  • Construction
  • Culture
  • Decolonisation
  • Ghana
  • Safety Culture


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