Critical Factors Affecting the Safety Communication of Ethnic Minority Construction Workers

Sainan Lyu, Carol K.H. Hon , Albert P.C. Chan, Xiaoyan Jiang, Martin Skitmore

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Ethnic minority workers (EMWs) or migrant workers continue to be confronted with communication problems, which can have serious effects on safety outcomes. This study aims to help improve construction industry EMW safety communication by uncovering and analyzing the criticality, underlying constructs, and explanatory power of the influencing factors involved. A mixed research design was employed by combining a literature review, semistructured interviews, and a questionnaire survey. Following the identification of an initial set of safety communication factors (SCFs) and a questionnaire designed and administered to EMWs in the Hong Kong and Australian construction industry, a total of 134 valid responses were analyzed through mean scoring, factor analysis, and importance-explanation analysis. Eighteen critical EMW SCFs are identified and categorized into three groups of worker-related SCFs, manager-related SCFs, and organization-related SCFs. A set of 36 SCFs identified cannot only be used to examine the relative importance of EMW SCFs, but can also be adopted to capture the critical SCFs for both local and ethnic minority construction workers in other countries. Narrowing a wide range of SCFs for EMWs provides stakeholders with the insights needed to the key contributory factors of safety communication, which in turn has a positive impact on safety performance. Despite this study being conducted in Hong Kong and Australia, its findings can also be used as a reference for other countries where EMWs are employed (e.g., the US, the UK, Canada, the Middle East, Malaysia, Singapore, and South Africa). Practical Applications Safety communication is a major safety challenge for EMWs and effective safety communication leads to improved safety performance and decreased injuries and fatalities. This research provides extra information on the key issues of safety communication that associated stakeholders need to address for EMWs to help them understand and mitigate the main safety communication barriers. This study suggests that apart from some measures (e.g., language courses, understandable safety training and safety materials, and bilingual translators) that have been taken for improving EMW safety communication in many countries, governments and employers are recommended to adopt multifaceted strategies manipulating worker-, manager-, and organization-related SCFs that would be more effective than a single measure. The critical roles of managers and organizations in promoting EMW safety communication are also emphasized in this study. Future efforts to improve or develop programs or interventions for EMW safety communication can benefit from this study by referring to the critical SCFs to include each aspect of safety communication. Furthermore, the identified critical SCFs will also help industry practitioners diagnose deficiencies in EMW safety management practices.

Original languageEnglish
Article number04022173
JournalJournal of Construction Engineering and Management
Issue number2
Early online date9 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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