The safety manager as a boundary spanner between communities of practice : The employment of a safety manager in a Swedish construction company

University essay from KTH/Fastigheter och byggande; KTH/Fastigheter och byggande

Abstract: Safety is an important concern within the construction industry.  Many different management strategies exist in the literature, but despite ambitious efforts to improve the safety and prevent accidents, the accident incidence is still unacceptably high. This paper examines the employment of a safety manager in the Swedish construction industry as a strategy to foster a better safety culture, and discusses how the safety manager should approach the project based organisation (PBO). The study uses an abductive approach with an iteration of interviews, observations and a literature study to gain deeper knowledge of the subject. The research comprises a cross sectional interview study of semi-structured interviews to narrate the role of the safety manager accompanied with a short survey. The study is limited to three projects of one Swedish construction company, and a new role not yet established in the company. Furthermore, the study uses a human resource management approach with focus on communities of practice and boundary spanning. The findings report that the safety managers take on a role as a boundary spanning link between well-established but unsynchronized communities of practice. The identified communities are the HR department and the PBOs. Furthermore, the safety manager functions as a “double-sided” boundary spanner, to broke knowledge and support employees to achieve a satisfactory safety culture.  However, the narratives express a present ambiguity and a need to clarify the role and its responsibilities regarding safety in the PBO. The thesis contributes with insights of the safety manager’s practice and discusses how safety knowledge should be transferred between communities of practice in the fragmented PBO and its high level of tacit knowledge.

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