Working Near the Edge: A New Approach to Construction Safety

Gregory A. Howell1, Glenn Ballard2, Tariq S. Abdelhamid3 & Panagiotis Mitropoulos4

1Executive Director, Lean Construction Institute, Box 1003, Ketchum, ID 83340. 208/726-9989. [email protected]
2Research Director, Lean Construction Institute, 4536 Fieldbrook, Oakland Ca. 510/530- 8656. [email protected]
3Assistant Professor, 207 Farrall Hall, Construction Management Program, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1323. [email protected]
4Ph.D., Process Improvement Coordinator, Menlo Park, CA, 94025. [email protected]


Construction safety has substantially improved, but has reached a plateau. Further improvement will come from spreading Best Practice throughout the industry, or from Breakthrough that transcends Best Practice. We are working on Breakthrough and propose that what is needed is a new theory of accidents. Current Best Practice is described along with its underlying theoretical assumptions. An alternative theory is proposed, based on the work of Jens Rasmussen, a leading thinker on risk management in dynamic environments. A research program is proposed to test that theory and to develop a new approach to safety management.


Accident, accident theory, decision making, hazard, risk, safety



Howell, G. A. , Ballard, G. , Abdelhamid, T. S. & Mitropoulos, P. 2002. Working Near the Edge: A New Approach to Construction Safety, 10th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction , 49-60.

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