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Montana State University's Perspective on Construction Safety and its Cultural Aspects

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Global and Cultural Issues in Construction

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

25.948.1 - 25.948.11



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Paper Authors


Whitney A. Lutey Montana State University

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Whitney A. Lutey, C.P.C., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at Montana State University, Bozeman, Mont., where she teaches construction practice, construction estimating, and construction scheduling from the professional practice point of view. Lutey earned her bachelor's of science in construction engineering technology, and minor in industrial and management engineering, Montana State University, 1996, and a master's of construction engineering management from Montana State University in 1997. Primary research included incentive programs for productivity in construction and TQM approaches in small construction firms. Her current research encompasses safety culture, the pedagogy of safety, and ethics in construction practice.

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Penny M. Knoll Montana State University

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OUR UNIVERSITY’S PRESPECTIVE ON CONSTRUCTION SAFETY AND ITS CULTURAL ASPECTSAbstract: This paper explores the current state of safety in construction as it is approached inour state. The culture of this individualistic state is one that naturally resists rules andregulations, primarily the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) and state laws. Multipleagencies have formed programs and informative works to help Contractors develop a strongsafety culture; however, many of these resources are not effectively engaged. Compared to otherstates, even those bordering ours, the accident incident rate is twice that of the national average.The state has a poor safety track record. According to the Department of Labor and Statistics,50% more days are lost to injury or illness in this state than the national average. The state isnumber four in the number of worker fatalities per year in the US (Labor and Statistics, 2007).And when an injury occurs, workers have a much more difficult time making the transition backto work. Injured workers stay out of work an average of 23 days longer than workers in the restof the country.From the educational realm, we have two ways to combat this culture: tools and perception.What tools do we use to arm our students to successfully change the culture of our individualisticstate and how do we shift the students’ thought paradigm to embrace safety and create a newattitude from an individualistic mind-set? At a minimum we can instruct our students as towhere to access appropriate safety information, standards, and laws. Beyond the data of OSHAand the BLS, it is necessary to arm the students with a clearer understanding of what resourcesare available to them as a future professional. This is where the state programs can beintroduced, emphasized, and used as a part of the curriculum.The culture of this state will be discussed at length to set the stage for understanding the currentsafety culture. In order to create a paradigm shift in our students, it is apparent that we also needto better understand this generation. The barrier to changing the safety culture in our state lieswithin understanding the student’s generational culture. By understanding the key drivers of ourstudent’s behavior, we can more effectively deliver leadership and safety tools for theirimplementation. This paper will investigate the root of current safety culture and examine thebest practices for teaching safety to instill change with the ultimate goal of training futureindustry leaders who take the state out of this safety slump.

Lutey, W. A., & Knoll, P. M. (2012, June), Montana State University's Perspective on Construction Safety and its Cultural Aspects Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21705

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