Using eye-tracker to compare search patterns between experienced and novice workers for site hazard identification

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Journal Article
Safety Science, 2016, 82 pp. 56 - 67
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© 2015 Elsevier Ltd. The construction industry accounts for a high number of accidents. Although identifying hazards prior to commencing construction is widely employed to prevent accidents, it typically fails because of insufficient safety experience. The experience helps in training novice inspectors, although extracting and describing tacit knowledge explicitly is difficult. This study created a digital building construction site, and designed a hazard-identification experiment involving four workplaces featuring obvious and unobvious hazards (e.g., falls, collapses, and electric shocks), and an eye-tracker was used to compare the search patterns of the experienced and novice workers. The results indicated that experience assisted the experienced workers in assessing both obvious (p<. 0.001) and unobvious hazards (p= 0.004) significantly faster than the novice workers could; however, it did not improve the accuracy with which they identified hazards, indicating that general work experience is not equivalent to safety-specific experience, and may not necessarily improve workers' accuracy in identifying hazards. Nevertheless, the experienced workers were more confident in identifying hazards, they exhibited fewer fixations, and their scan paths for assessing hazards were more consistent. The experienced workers first assessed the high-risk targets-laborers working at heights-and subsequently assessed those working on the ground, followed by the equipment or environment. Furthermore, they typically inspected openings later than novice workers did. The search strategies identified may be incorporated into the training courses to improve the hazard awareness for novice workers.
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