Published Report Details
Mandatory Fields
Stonehouse, M; Langan, E; Conaghan, M; Brennan, N; Goggins, J
Health and Safety – An Investigation into its Inclusion within Undergraduate Construction-Related Degree Programmes in Ireland
Dublin, Ireland
Health and Safety Authority
Optional Fields
Health Safety Welfare Construction Education
IntroductionThis report examines the inclusion of health and safety content in third level, construction-related undergraduate degree programmes in Ireland. It was commissioned by the Health and Safety Authority and the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH). The construction industry is by its nature very high risk and labour intensive. In 2010, there were six deaths arising from work in theconstruction sector in Ireland and, therefore, the focus still rests on keeping accidents and ill health to a minimum. It is recognised that the education of future architects, engineers, surveyors and builders is fundamental to drive the improvement of health and safety performance in the construction sector in Ireland.The study’s key research objectives were to: establish the extent to which health and safety is included in the undergraduate degree programme content; identify the academic weighting given to health and safety in such programmes; identify current approaches to the inclusion of health and safety content; review international research on the inclusion of health and safety content; and make recommendations on the most appropriate ways of ensuring that health and safety education isincorporated into the programme content of all such safety-critical programmes atthird level.Healy Kelly Turner & Townsend in conjunction with the National University of Ireland, Galway undertook the research. The views of the main stakeholders with respect to the inclusion of health and safety within construction-related undergraduate programmes were sought through a variety of research methods. The main stakeholder groups included: academics involved in the delivery of construction-related programmes and students of such programmes; professionals working in theconstruction industry; and professional bodies that accredit construction-related degree programmes. Health and safety content in undergraduate programmesCurrently, construction-related undergraduate degree programmes are provided by most third level institutions in Ireland, with awards made at Level 7 and Level 8 of the National Framework of Qualifications. Professional bodies also have a role in the accreditation of these third level programmes. The research identified that while health and safety content is included in all programmes analysed as part of this study, there is variation in the expected learning outcomes.The research also found that less than 2% of overall credits of an honours degree programme are assigned to health and safety content. More credits are assigned to health and safety within process/delivery-related programmes than design-related programmes. The predominant approach to the inclusion of health and safety content across all construction-related degree programmes is as a distinct part of a module. This is followed by the inclusion of a stand-alone module on health and safety.Stakeholders’ perceptionsSubstantial proportions of stakeholders surveyed are satisfied that students are adequately equipped in their undergraduate programmes with knowledge of health and safety and construction regulations, that they have an opportunity to develop an understanding of these issues, and that the health and safety content of their programmes is adequate. However, industry professionals are much less satisfied than academics or students in respect of these three measures, especially in regard to the adequacy of the health and safety content. Academics are more satisfied thanstudents in respect of these three measures.Most stakeholders favour stand-alone modules for health and safety content, and embedding health and safety content in design modules. Industry professionals most favour stand-alone modules, while this approach is least favoured by academics, who prefer embedding health and safety in design programmes. Academics would welcome further support and engagement with industry around the inclusion of health and safety content in programmes. Industry professionals are aware of the challenges for academics in its inclusion within undergraduate programmes, and agree that they need to engage more with third level institutions to support this. International researchA review of relevant international research identified broad agreement that all professionals in the construction industry, especially designers, need to develop a strong concern for safety issues. Safety awareness, in addition to overall design issues, should include the construction, operation, maintenance, demolition and use of buildings and structures. Education of undergraduates is identified as one of the tools for achieving the cultural change required. Responsibility for achieving the necessary changes is broadly based: academic institutions, professional bodies, governments and national safety institutes are all identified as responsible. Conclusions and recommendationsThis research identified differences between industry professionals and academics in Ireland regarding the adequacy of health and safety knowledge displayed by graduates entering the workplace. Industry is dissatisfied with graduates’ level of health and safety knowledge whereas academics are satisfied. A gap exists between industry and academic perceptions of graduates’ knowledge requirements regarding health and safety. Most third level institutions have endeavoured to include health and safety content in construction-related programmes, but with varying deliverymethods and degrees of quality. There is not a consistent and strategic approach towards the inclusion of health and safety within construction-related programmes.A collaborative and concerted effort is required by all stakeholders to improve the level of health and safety competency of graduates, and thus their overall employability. Actions to be undertaken by specific stakeholders – professional bodies, third level institutions, the Health and Safety Authority and IOSH – are recommended to address the findings and conclusions from this research. 
S. Leigh-Doyle
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