Title page for ETD etd-06272006-224309


Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Thomas, Chanel Tonya
Author's Email Address chthoma6@vt.edu
URN etd-06272006-224309
Title Influence of Acculturation and Individual Differences on Risk Judgments of Construction Laborers
Degree Master of Science
Department Industrial and Systems Engineering
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Smith-Jackson, Tonya L. Committee Chair
Geller, E. Scott Committee Member
Kleiner, Brian M. Committee Member
Keywords
  • Cross-Cultural Differences
  • Construction Laborers
  • Ethnicity
  • Risk
  • Individual Differences
Date of Defense 2006-05-24
Availability unrestricted
Abstract
In 2002 the number of reported nonfatal injury and illness cases in the construction industry involving days away from work was over 98,000 for European-Americans (non Hispanic) and 26,000 for Hispanics. Disproportionate to the number of injury and illness cases, the construction industry is comprised of 68% European-Americans, 7% African-Americans and 23% Hispanics (BLS, 2004a).

Based on the expected increase in employment of construction laborers and the increase in the number of injuries and fatalities among specific ethnic groups, a need exists to study disparities across cultural groups to determine the basis for injury and fatality differences between these ethnic groups. The purpose of this research was to contribute to the literature, an effective method for predicting the risk judgments of laborers employed by small construction firms. Predicting the risk judgments of laborers will assist in developing training programs to address these risk factors, which ultimately will reduce injury and fatality rates.

Thirty-six construction laborers , 18 European-American and 18 Hispanic, were recruited for the research. Both ethnic groups were divided into two groups; the control and experimental groups. The control groups viewed a generic concrete construction video and the experimental groups viewed a People-Based Safety video. Each of the participants completed a demographic form, questionnaires, and the narrative simulations (pre-test). Following the narrative simulations the participants rated the narrative simulations, watched a video designated by group, and completed the narrative simulations (post-test). The narrative simulations were used to assess their ability to make risk judgments based on the information presented in the video. The questionnaires completed measured various individual differences, and were administered to detect confounding factors that may not be directly attributed to ethnicity. These questionnaires included: Phinney’s (1992) Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure, Leonard, Hill, and Karners’ (1989) Risk Perception Scale, Janicak’s (1996) Accident Locus of Control Scale, Rooney and Osipow’s (1992) Self-efficacy Measure, and Zohar’s (1980) Safety Climate Measure. Participant prior exposure to incidents as well as experience in the construction industry was also included. These measures were used to determine if differences in risk perception, locus of control, experience, acculturation, incident exposure, education, self-efficacy, and safety climate had an influence on the ability to make safe risk judgments. Information on topics construction laborers would like included in safety training as well as the preferred method of training was obtained through the use of focus groups. Eleven participants from the experimental group were recruited for the focus groups; 5 European Americans and 6 Hispanics. One focus group was conducted for each ethnic group.

Six hypotheses were tested in this study: (1) there would be no difference in the risk judgments of European-American and Hispanic construction workers when given a choice of language, (2) more experienced construction workers would have more difficulty making safe judgments, (3) construction workers who have had more experience with safety related critical incidents in the workplace would have more difficulty making safe judgments, (4) construction workers who have lower levels of risk perception would have more difficulty making safe judgments, (5) construction workers who have an internal locus of control would have more difficulty making safe judgments than those who have an external locus of control, and (6) high acculturation participants would score higher on the narrative simulations than low acculturation participants following the video intervention. The first and fourth hypotheses were supported by the research. There were no significant differences found between the risk judgments of European-American and Hispanic construction workers, and risk perception was positively correlated to risk judgments. The remaining hypotheses were not supported by the research.

The major findings of the research are (1) there were no differences in the risk judgments of European-American and Hispanic construction laborers, (2) risk perception and safety climate were significant predictors of construction laborer risk judgments, and (3) the risk judgments of participants were significantly higher for individuals viewing a People-based Safety intervention. There are several advantages of having this information. First, the lack of differences between the two ethnic groups, demonstrates that both groups are able to make safe risk judgments when given the appropriate information in the correct form and language. Secondly, regression analysis using independent variables risk perception and safety climate, may be used to predict narrative simulation risk judgments. The positive relationship between risk perception and safety climate on safe risk judgments should encourage employers and trainers to increase employees’ awareness of hazards on the job and increase employees’ perception of the company safety climate. Hazards should be identified in addition to their consequences. Trainers should aim to increase workers’ perception of risk by relying on past negative outcomes that have a personal nature even if they are infrequent events. Third, experience was positively correlated to participants’ confidence in their risk judgments on the narrative simulations. Trainers should not exclude the more experienced employees during training. Continuous training will allow more experienced employees to re-familiarize themselves with old hazards and become aware of new hazards. It is just as important for more experienced employees to be updated on risks because they are more confident in how they react to hazardous situations. It is in the best interest of the company for the confident employees to be confident in safe risk judgments.

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