Operation Analysis and Control: A Paradigm Shift in Construction Safety Management

  • Ciaran McAleenan

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    In the 1990s the author embarked upon a project that would fundamentally alter the theoretical basis of safety, health and wellbeing management in the construction sector and beyond. The emerging risk management approach was flawed, relying on an element of chance to deliver safe outcomes. The author’s
    research into development and delivery of the Operation Analysis and Control (OAC) led to the realisation that vision zero (or zero harm) was achievable, given the intellectual and technological capability at our disposal. What was missing was an understanding of the delivery mechanisms, how in fact could the intellect and technology be positively exploited to make zero harm a real possibility. The OAC model, developed from first principles, free from preconceived notions, attached to the then risk assessment (and the emerging risk management) approaches was so unencumbered that it was to become recognised by ISSA for its cross-jurisdictional and cross-disciplinary nature.

    The major thrust has been to establish the efficacy of the OAC approach within the construction industry. While OAC was in essence a model with a focus on designing operation processes, leading ultimately to zero harm there was another side to the coin, namely safe design or more correctly inherently safe[r] design, the ability to deliver on the prevention through design agenda. Here the OAC had a direct impact on the aim of delivering prevention through design, becoming a major feature of the PtD education approach, demonstrating a strong interrelationship between the projects.

    Delivering safety management as a quality systems approach set a new theoretical foundation upon which future health and safety education, training and performance could be built. The new paradigm (OAC) put workers at the heart of safety management, not as an adjunct as was implied in the accepted norm at the time. The production and proving of the OAC model and the scholastic work associated with developing Prevention through Design (PtD) learning and teaching packages are examples of outputs from the author’s original work in safety, health and wellbeing. The original and guiding premise was that:

    “Technologically and intellectually we have it within our capability to [deliver vision zero] prevent fatal or life altering accidents from ever occurring…”

    Workers need to be at the heart of safety management not external agents affected by its consequences and with acceptance of competence and agency (active participation) comes cognition; the ability for workers to challenge their historical and social situation.

    This thesis presents a critical reflection of the author’s work, using two major projects as exemplar outputs; OAC model and Prevention through Design education. The reflection discusses the interrelationship between the projects, including a synthesis of the author’s work as demonstrated by the projects presented. There is commentary on the current standing of the projects together with a critical review of the significant and original contribution the author’s work makes to the academic field of construction safety, health and wellbeing.

    A concluding chapter addresses lessons learnt and advances the author’s thoughts on further research in this area, exploring where the OAC model and Prevention through Design should go next in pursuit of vision zero harm in construction.
    Date of AwardFeb 2016
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorJohn Kinuthia (Supervisor), Paul Ryall (Supervisor) & Kathryn Franklin (Supervisor)

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