Date of Award


Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Omer Akin

Second Advisor

Burcu Akinci

Third Advisor

Chimay Anumba


The construction industry is notorious for having one of the worst safety records among all industries in the private sector (Bentil, 1990; and Behm, 2005). In the United States, the industry accounts for up to 18% of work-related deaths and 15% of all worker compensation cases with approximately 1,000 construction workers killed annually (BLS, 2000-2009).

Towards minimizing safety hazards and incidents, construction companies employ several strategies including safety planning, staffing and training among many others (CII, 2003). Different strategies apply to different project phases. However, as the early identification and elimination of potential safety hazards is not only more effective but cheaper (Behm 2005; and Anumba, 1999), those strategies applicable to the earlier project phases are likely to have a more significant impact in improving construction worker safety. One of such strategies, Design for Construction Safety (DFCS), has the ability to function effectively in the current Architecture/Engineering/Construction (AEC) industry environment without requiring any major changes in procedure or contractual structure. DFCS is the explicit consideration of construction worker safety in the design of a project (Toole and Gambatese, 2008). Besides the ultimate benefit of decreasing site safety hazards, DFCS, through the proactive identification and elimination of hazards is safer and more cost effective than reactive management of the same hazards (Toole and Gambatese, 2008).

The most critical impediments to DFCS include designers' concern about increased liability, increased cost, and designers' lack of safety expertise. Others include concerns about schedule problems, diminished design creativity, and designers’ lack of interest (Gambatese et al, 2005). To assist designers in DFCS implementation, safety researchers sponsored by the Construction Industry Institute (CII) developed over 400 design suggestions to minimize or eliminate certain construction safety hazards (Gambatese et al, 1997). These suggestions were incorporated in a computer program, the DFCS Toolbox. Besides this, other research has been conducted and guidelines developed to aid DFCS implementation.

However, as DFCS is still experiencing limited application (Toole and Gambatese, 2008), this research presented a different paradigm. This paradigm considered that the guidelines and tools provided to enable and aid DFCS implementation were incomplete, inaccurate and/or inadequate to serve their intended purpose. Through this research, some of the available guidelines and tools were fine-tuned and detailed to better enable DFCS implementation. Hence, the research produced certain deliverables.

Firstly, the research identified DFCS measures that meet all the criteria for being situated in the capital project design phase. Secondly, the research identified impediments to implementing each of these design-phase DFCS measures where applicable. Thirdly, the research obtained revisions of certain designphase DFCS measures based on their identified impediments to make them more viable, both for implementation and for improving construction safety. Additionally, the safety benefits of implementing each of the design-phase DFCS measures were identified through the publicly accessible Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) database. These benefits refer to the construction hazard incidents that could have been prevented by implementing the DFCS measures. Lastly, a relational database application was developed to assist designers in making safety a consideration in the early phases of the capital project delivery process. This desktop software application was developed to have the functionality to provide the design-phase DFCS measures, their preventable safety incidents, their potential impediments, potential solutions to their impediments, and their tier of feasibility, based on project characteristics, design profession, and the stage of the design phase. The application also allows for the addition of new DFCS measures and accompanying data. It therefore incorporates the other research deliverables and thus, encapsulates the research findings to serve as a vehicle for utilizing the data to enhance DFCS implementation. In producing and validating these deliverables, a number of research tasks were executed including survey administration to AEC design professionals. Also, over 30 interviews were conducted with design professionals.

Besides the deliverables, there were a number of findings from the research results. Firstly, the results emphasized a key shortcoming of the DFCS concept. This is the effectiveness of DFCS depends on construction sequence. Secondly, it was determined that DFCS measures or modifications that not only improve construction worker safety but occupant and maintenance worker safety are more likely to be implemented by AEC design professionals and more likely to be accommodated by project owners as well. On this basis, a new dimension was identified towards increasing and improving DFCS implementation. Thirdly, this research further emphasized that the design-build project delivery method offers more opportunity and fewer barriers for DFCS implementation.

This research made a number of contributions. Firstly, the research characterized the design suggestions for construction worker safety yielded from earlier research. This research also brought focus to individual DFCS measures and their feasibility for implementation, as opposed to for the DFCS concept as a whole. Secondly, this research, through its deliverables, serves in fulfilling several earlier recommendations for DFCS research and some earlier identified information gaps. These research contributions are collectively intended to enhance and increase DFCS implementation on projects towards improving construction safety. There are a number of motivating factors for this. Firstly, professional, ethical and moral obligations require the safety of others to be protected. Secondly, the improvement of safety could potentially benefit every project stakeholder and participant by minimizing or eliminating the numerous costs associated with injuries to construction workers. Thirdly, all project participants may also benefit in that reducing the number of construction accidents and injuries could avoid disruption to work and avert delays in project completion and as a result, improve productivity (Huang, 2003). Additionally, poor safety performance and its resulting consequences such as court cases and lawsuits expose all project participants to bad publicity which could have such adverse impacts as preventing job awards or causing even more lawsuits from prior projects (Huang, 2003). These reasons collectively highlight the importance of improving construction worker safety and towards this goal, this research emphasized and enhanced DFCS as a strategy for reducing or eliminating construction hazard risks on capital projects.

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