Health and safety management practices in small and medium enterprises in the South African construction industry


  • Justus Agumba University of Johannesburg
  • Jan Harm Pretorius University of Johannesburg
  • Theo Haupt University of Johannesburg



Elements, Small and medium construction enerprises, Validation


Considering its share in, and impact on national economies, the construction industry receives additional attention in terms of its performance and productivity, especially among small and medium contractors. However, with the extensive workforce it employs, health and safety (H&S) issues have become important, since the industry still has the reputation of being one of those with the highest fatality and accident rates. It has been well established from literature and previous studies (Fernandez-Muniz, Montes-Peon & Vazquez- Ordas, 2007: 636; Rajendran & Gambatese, 2009: 1072) that managing H&S helps to ensure that construction organisations are achieving their H&S objectives. As such, H&S management practices constitute a vehicle to improve H&S performance. Given the dominance of small and medium contractors in the construction sector, the challenge is to determine what needs to be measured and practised by these Small and Medium Construction Enterprises (SMCEs) at project level. The objective of this article is to validate the H&S practices that small and medium construction enterprises practise in order to improve H&S performance at project level. A descriptive survey was done and data collected using a structured questionnaire consisting of 31 practices. These practices were categorised in terms of five elements developed from an extensive review of literature and the participation of 20 H&S experts, 16 of whom completed all four iterations of the Delphi survey. A convenience sample of 1.450 SMCEs was used to gather data. A total of 228 questionnaires were returned, of which 216 responses were usable for analysis. The Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) version 20 was used to determine the convergent validity and the reliability of the proposed H&S practices. Furthermore, the respondents’ perception on H&S practices was also determined. The five elements, namely upper management commitment and involvement in H&S, employee involvement and empowerment in H&S, project supervision, project H&S planning and communication in H&S, as well as H&S resources and training were considered key factors of H&S for SMCEs at project level. However, employee involvement and empowerment in H&S was the least rated H&S attribute within the SMCEs. It was, therefore, recommended that employees needed to be engaged in H&S at the project level of SMCEs.


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How to Cite

Agumba, J., Pretorius, J. H. and Haupt, T. (2013) “Health and safety management practices in small and medium enterprises in the South African construction industry”, Acta Structilia, 20(1), pp. 66–88. doi: 10.38140/as.v20i1.134.



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