sustainabilityArticleQualitative Analysis of the Occupational Health andSafety Performance of Chinese InternationalConstruction ProjectsZhen Lei 1,2, Wenzhe Tang 1,* , Colin F. Duffield 3, Lihai Zhang 3, Felix Kin Peng Hui 3 andRichun You 11 Department of Hydraulic Engineering, State Key Laboratory of Hydroscience and Engineering,Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China; [email protected] (Z.L.); [email protected] (R.Y.)2 China Three Gorges International Corporation, Beijing 100033, China3 Department of Infrastructure Engineering, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3010, Australia;[email protected] (C.F.D.); [email protected] (L.Z.); [email protected] (F.K.P.H.)* Correspondence: [email protected]; Tel.: +86-10-62794324Received: 11 October 2018; Accepted: 20 November 2018; Published: 22 November 2018 Abstract: Chinese contractors undertaking international projects are frequently criticized for theirpoor Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) performance. It is noticed that people with differentoccupations may perceive OHS differently. From a qualitative perspective, this study investigatesthe perceived OHS performances of design managers and construction managers engaged inChinese overseas construction projects, considering a range of subgroups classified by people’soverseas experience, project size, project industry, project location, and firm size. The analysiswas based on an e-questionnaire survey that sampled responses from 52 design managers and160 construction managers involved in 110 international projects, and face-to-face interviews with26 managers. The findings indicate that the assessment variation of OHS performance betweendesign managers and construction managers is not only related to their different mental ways, butalso can be mediated by their in-progress communication and affected by project and organizationalconditions. The varying OHS performance in projects with different sizes or from different regionsalso suggests that Chinese contractors should be more proactive in OHS management instead ofpassively responding to external requirements.Keywords: occupational health; safety; comparative analysis; Chinese contractors1. IntroductionChinese contractors are playing a significant role in the international construction industry. Withcompetitive project cost and strong specialty expertise, Chinese contractors are achieving a rapiddevelopment in international construction markets [1,2]. According to the statistics from ChinaMinistry of Commerce, China’s 2015 overseas contracting revenue was $154 billion US, while thenumber was $8.4 billion US in 2000 . In the “2016 Top 250 International Contractors” list compiledby Engineering News-Record , there were 65 Chinese contractors, greater than the number of anyother country in the world.In the rapid expansion of their overseas business, Chinese contractors are also facing challengeswith regard to occupational health and safety (OHS) management. Chinese contractors were criticizedfor their poor behavior on safety management, such as poor safety awareness, lack of training,limited resource input and reckless operation . Cross-national comparison of construction safetyperformance also showed that China had a higher fatal construction accident rate than EuropeSustainability 2018, 10, 4344; doi:10.3390/su10124344 www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainabilitySustainability 2018, 10, 4344 2 of 17and America . The benchmarking analysis about corporate social responsibility perceptions ofChinese international contractors and international prominent contractors from USA, France, Spain,and Germany conducted by Wu et al. demonstrated Chinese contractors attach lower priority toOHS management . Zou and Zhang investigated construction personnel’s safety risk perceptioncomparison in China and Australia, and revealed that China’s main safety risks were “human-andprocedure-related issues”, e.g., lack of safety education and accident prevention procedures, whileAustralia gave more attention to environmental and site condition risks . This disparity also indicatesthe relative poor OHS management of Chinese contractors.In overseas project implementation, there exist two types of occupations in the project team for theChinese construction companies. One type is design managers, who are responsible for managementof design schemes from design companies and providing technical support for construction. Anotheris construction managers, who are responsible for management of construction activities to ensurethe construction meeting requirements of quality, time, cost, and OHS. OHS work is closely relatedto construction, and can also be affected by design or technical schemes [9,10]. It is pointed out thatproject team members with different occupations may have different perceptions of OHS issues [11–14].The difference implies potential risks in OHS management and helps provide a deeper understandingof contractor’s OHS practice. There is a lack of empirical studies on the qualitative analysis of OHSperformance of Chinese contractors with consideration of the potential difference in perceptionsbetween design managers and construction managers.Thus, from a qualitative perspective, this paper investigates the perceived OHS performance ofdesign managers and construction managers engaged in Chinese overseas construction projects.The study aims to: (1) test whether the perception of OHS performance varies between designmanagers and construction teams, within a range of subgroups classified by people’s overseas workingexperience, project size, industry sector, project location, and firm size; (2) investigate potential causesof the differences; and (3) provide insights for contractors to improve their OHS performance ininternational markets. This study helps supplement existing research on the comparison of OHSperceptions from people with different occupations and also contributes to a deeper understanding ofthe OHS practice of Chinese international contractors.2. LiteratureScholars have noticed that different people may perceive OHS in different ways [10,11,14–19].Chen and Jin investigated different kinds of workers’ perceptions of a safety program conducted by aU.S. contractor on its jobsites, and found that older workers tended to have more positive perceptionsthan young workers, but the perceptions from workers with high and low safety risks showed nosignificant difference . On the contrary, Gyekye found workers with high safety risks had negativeperceptions relative to workers with low risks when investigating Ghanaian workers’ perceptions ofworkplace safety . Comparing perceptions of safety culture or climate between managers andworkers, Gilkey et al. and Marin et al. both found managers scored higher than workers, as theyconducted the survey respectively in residential construction in Colorado in U.S. and of Hispanicworkers in Massachusetts in U.S. [11,13]. Geminiani et al. concluded contractors’ and inspectors’perceptions could be significantly different in terms of the OHS inspectorate performance .Lingard et al. compared four groups (architects, engineers, constructors and OHS professionals) ofAustralian construction professionals’ judgments of accidental injury likelihood by photographicexperiment and revealed that no shared mental models exist in construction project teams . Zhaoet al. then investigated the four kinds of professionals’ construction risk perceptions in U.S. by usingthe similar experiment method with Lingard et al and found that architects tend to perceive lowerprobability of incidents, engineers perceive higher probability, and contractors and safety professionalscontain similar medium perceptions [10,12].The perception variation reveals the different intentions, mental ways or characteristics ofdifferent people [12,20]. People’s perception directly tells how they think about the OHS issuesSustainability 2018, 10, 4344 3 of 17and can provide a vivid picture about OHS management of the contractors. It helps scholars andpractitioners better understand OHS issues, which can further suggest management emphases .Accordingly, focusing on the two occupations of design managers and construction managers ofChinese international contractors, an unknown question is that whether their perceptions of OHSperformance in international construction projects are equal.3. Research Methodology3.1. Data CollectionA combination of questionnaire survey and interview was used for data collection.The questionnaire survey targeted design managers and construction managers to investigate theirperceptions of OHS practice in overseas projects. By using the questionnaire survey, respondents’qualitative perception of OHS performance was quantified with differing levels. The questionnairedata were used for the statistical comparison between design and construction teams. Information frominterviews further provided qualitative views from a variety of managers regarding their OHS practice.These help draw a comprehensive picture of the OHS perception variation between design andconstruction teams. The research complied with guidelines of Tsinghua University for research ethics.An e-questionnaire was developed to survey Chinese managers’ perceived OHS performancein their engaged overseas projects. Each respondent was asked to answer the questions based onexperience in a specific overseas project. General background questions include the project name,contract size, industry and location, and the respondent’s occupation in the project and total overseasworking experience. Four questions in a five-point Likert scale were used to survey managers’perceptions of OHS process management and the overall OHS performance in international projects.The questions are as follows.Q1: Do you agree that requirements of laws, regulations and standards regarding OHS were fullyconsidered in design schemes? Response options range from 1—strongly disagree to 5—strongly agree.Q2: Do you agree that sound OHS management strategies in construction, e.g., input of OHS funds,provision of OHS facilities, allocation of safety managers and emergency planning, was establishedaccording to requirements of laws, regulations, the client and the consulting engineer? Responseoptions range from 1—strongly disagree to 5—strongly agree.Q3: How do you think the overall performance of occupational health in the project? Responseoptions range from 1—very bad to 5—very good.Q4: How do you think the overall performance of construction safety in the project? Responseoptions range from 1—very bad to 5—very good.With the approval of company head offices and under the ethics requirements of TsinghuaUniversity, e-questionnaires were sent to 16 Chinese international contractors in October in 2016.Each firm was ask to distribute the survey to design and construction managers with overseas projectexperience. 223 questionnaires responses were received.The electronic records associated with the e-questionnaires enabled the time each respondent tookto answer the questions to be checked. Responses where an unrealistically short time (500 (26.4%). The distribution by project industry is:power (57.1%), transportation (17.0%), general buildings (14.2%), water supply (5.7%), mining (3.3%),and sewerage/solid waste (2.8%). The distribution by project location is: Southeast Asia (24.10%),Islamic Area (27.40%), Sub-Saharan Africa (27.80%), and other (20.80%). According to the contractors’Sustainability 2018, 10, 4344 4 of 172015 overseas contracting revenues ($ million US), these managers are from: small-sized firms withrevenue ≤400 (38.7%), medium-sized firms with revenue 400–800 (31.6%) and large-sized firms withrevenue >800 (29.7%).To learn Chinese contractors’ OHS management practices, face-to-face interviews with26 managers from six Chinese contractors according to their sizes were conducted. Three of themwere large-sized contractors with overseas revenue >$800 million US, two of them were medium-sizedcontractors with overseas revenue $400–800 million US, and one was a small-sized contractor withoverseas revenue 5 overseas years 92 3.38 (0.82) 3.74 (0.72) 4.02 (0.85) 3.85 (0.85)2 Projects ≤ $100 million US 72 3.24 (0.81) 3.57 * (0.69) 3.96 (0.83) 3.71 * (0.83)Projects > $100 million US 140 3.46 (0.97) 3.79 * (0.81) 4.12 (0.80) 3.99 * (0.86)3 Power projects 121 3.50 * (0.94) 3.81 * (0.79) 4.07 (0.80) 3.91 (0.84)Non-power projects 91 3.22 * (0.88) 3.58 * (0.75) 4.05 (0.83) 3.87 (0.88)4 Southeast Asia 51 3.45 (0.97) 3.71 b* (0.67) 4.18 (0.68) 3.94 (0.86)Islamic Area 58 3.24 (0.76) 3.36 a*, c** (0.69) 3.91 (0.73) 3.72 (0.77)Sub-Saharan Africa 59 3.54 (0.92) 3.83 b** (0.83) 3.95 (0.99) 3.90 (0.99)5 Firms < $400 million US 82 3.37 (0.91) 3.77 (0.77) 4.23 y* (0.71) 4.11 y**, z* (0.74)Firms $400-800 million US 67 3.39 (0.90) 3.69 (0.80) 3.93 x* (0.89) 3.72 x** (0.95)Firms > $800 million US 63 3.40 (0.98) 3.67 (0.76) 4.00 (0.82) 3.79 x* (0.85)Note: a = compared with Southeast Asia, b = compared with Islamic Area, c = compared with Sub-Saharan Africa;x = compared with Firms < $400 million US, y = compared with Firms $400-800 million US, z = compared withFirms > $800 million US; ** = at the significant level of 0.01, * = at the significant level of 0.05.Comparisons between subgroups in Table 1 show that, (1) no overall significant disparity existsbetween managers with different overseas experience, (2) large projects have a significantly betteroccupational health performance than small projects, (3) power projects have significantly betterconsideration of OHS requirement in design and better OHS strategies in construction than nonpower projects, (4) perception of consideration of OHS requirement in design from Islamic Area issignificantly worse than that from Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, and (5) perception ofoccupational health performance from small firms is significantly higher than that from large andFigure 1. Perception of project OHS performance from design and construction teams. z and p valuesare shown in the parentheses.The comparison between design and construction teams in Figure 1 shows that design team gavelower scores of the four questions than construction team, especially on Q2 and Q4 with significantz values. Perception disparity between design and construction team exists, especially on OHSstrategies in construction and the overall occupational health performance. Moreover, the scores ofQ1 are relatively lower than those of the other three questions, indicating that there is not enoughconsideration of OHS requirements in design schemes.Before comparing their difference in different kinds of subgroups by overseas experience, projectsize, project industry, project location and firm size, the comparison between subgroups by eachclassification is conducted first to explore whether OHS performance perceptions are equal betweenpeople with different overseas experience, different kinds of projects and contractors. The results areshown in Table 1.Table 1. Comparison of perception of project OHS performance between subgroups.The Questions Applied toSubgroups: M (SD) n Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 1Managers 1–5 overseas years120Managers > 5 overseas years92 2Projects ≤ $100 million US723.24 (0.81)3.46 (0.97)3.57 * (0.69)3.79 * (0.81)3.96 (0.83)4.12 (0.80)3.71 * (0.83)3.99 * (0.86)Projects > $100 million US 140 3Power projects 121 3.50 * (0.94) 3.81 * (0.79) 4.07 (0.80) 3.91 (0.84)Non-power projects 91 3.22 * (0.88) 3.58 * (0.75) 4.05 (0.83) 3.87 (0.88)4Southeast Asia 51 3.45 (0.97) 3.71 b* (0.67) 4.18 (0.68) 3.94 (0.86)Islamic Area 58 3.24 (0.76) 3.36 a*, c** (0.69) 3.91 (0.73) 3.72 (0.77)Sub-Saharan Africa 59 3.54 (0.92) 3.83 b** (0.83) 3.95 (0.99) 3.90 (0.99)5Firms < $400 million US 82 3.37 (0.91) 3.77 (0.77) 4.23 y* (0.71) 4.11 y**, z* (0.74) 3.93 x* (0.89)3.72 x** (0.95)4.00 (0.82)3.79 x* (0.85) Note: a = compared with Southeast Asia, b = compared with Islamic Area, c = compared with Sub-Saharan Africa;x = compared with Firms < $400 million US, y = compared with Firms $400–800 million US, z = compared withFirms > $800 million US; ** = at the significant level of 0.01, * = at the significant level of 0.05.Comparisons between subgroups in Table 1 show that, (1) no overall significant disparity existsbetween managers with different overseas experience, (2) large projects have a significantly betteroccupational health performance than small projects, (3) power projects have significantly betterconsideration of OHS requirement in design and better OHS strategies in construction than non-powerprojects, (4) perception of consideration of OHS requirement in design from Islamic Area is significantlySustainability 2018, 10, 4344 6 of 17worse than that from Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, and (5) perception of occupational healthperformance from small firms is significantly higher than that from large and medium firms, meanwhileperception of construction safety performance from small firms is significantly higher than that frommedium firms.These results demonstrate that perception of OHS performance varies according to different kindsof projects and firms. The investigation of whether the OHS perception disparity between design andconstruction teams vary within these subgroups were further analyzed as follows.4.1. Comparison within Subgroups by People’s Overseas ExperienceThe comparison of OHS perceptions between design and construction teams is carried outseparately in two subgroups classified by people’s overseas experience. The results are presented inFigure 2.Sustainability 2018, 11, x FOR PEER REVIEW 6 of 17medium firms, meanwhile perception of construction safety performance from small firms issignificantly higher than that from medium firms.These results demonstrate that perception of OHS performance varies according to differentkinds of projects and firms. The investigation of whether the OHS perception disparity betweendesign and construction teams vary within these subgroups were further analyzed as follows.4.1. Comparison within Subgroups by People’s Overseas ExperienceThe comparison of OHS perceptions between design and construction teams is carried outseparately in two subgroups classified by people’s overseas experience. The results are presented inFigure 2.Figure 2. Comparison between design and construction teams in the subgroups by overseasexperience: (a) people with 1–5 years overseas experience; (b) people with >5 years overseasexperience. z or t value and p value are shown in the parentheses.The results in Figure 2 show that the perception disparity between design and constructionteams mainly lies in the subgroup of people with less than five years overseas experience. When thesemanagers get more experience in overseas projects, their perception disparity on OHS performanceis not significant.4.2. Comparison within Subgroups by Project SizeThe comparison of OHS perceptions between design and construction teams is carried outseparately in two subgroups classified by project size. The results are presented in Figure 3.Figure 2. Comparison between design and construction teams in the subgroups by overseas experience:(a) people with 1–5 years overseas experience; (b) people with >5 years overseas experience. z ort value and p value are shown in the parentheses.The results in Figure 2 show that the perception disparity between design and construction teamsmainly lies in the subgroup of people with less than five years overseas experience. When thesemanagers get more experience in overseas projects, their perception disparity on OHS performance isnot significant.Sustainability 2018, 10, 4344 7 of 174.2. Comparison within Subgroups by Project SizeThe comparison of OHS perceptions between design and construction teams is carried outseparately in two subgroups classified by project size. The results are presented in Figure Sustainability 2018, 11, x FOR PEER REVIEW 3. 7 of 17Figure 3. Comparison between design and construction teams in the subgroups by project size: (a)project contract ≤ $100 million US; (b) project contract > $100 million US. t and p values are shown inthe parentheses.The results in Figure 3 show that the perception disparity between design and constructionteams mainly lies in projects with contract below $100 million US, especially on occupational healthperformance, while there is no significant difference in larger projects. As project size increases, thedisparity between design and construction teams tends be smaller, especially for the perception ofoccupational health performance.4.3. Comparison within Subgroups by Project IndustryThe comparison of OHS perceptions between design and construction teams is carried outseparately in two subgroups for power projects and non-power projects. The results are presented inFigure 4.Figure 3. Comparison between design and construction teams in the subgroups by project size:(a) project contract ≤ $100 million US; (b) project contract > $100 million US. t and p values are shownin the parentheses.The results in Figure 3 show that the perception disparity between design and constructionteams mainly lies in projects with contract below $100 million US, especially on occupational healthperformance, while there is no significant difference in larger projects. As project size increases, thedisparity between design and construction teams tends be smaller, especially for the perception ofoccupational health performance.4.3. Comparison within Subgroups by Project IndustryThe comparison of OHS perceptions between design and construction teams is carried outseparately in two subgroups for power projects and non-power projects. The results are presented inFigure 4.Sustainability 2018, 10, 4344 8 of 17Sustainability 2018, 11, x FOR PEER REVIEW 8 of 17Figure 4. Comparison between design and construction teams in the subgroups by project industry:(a) power projects; (b) non-power projects. t and p values are shown in the parentheses.The results in Figure 4 show that in power projects, there is significant difference on perceptionof OHS strategies in construction between design and construction teams, while there is no significantdifference in non-power projects. The perception disparity between the two teams is relatively largerin power projects.4.4. Comparison within Subgroups by Project LocationThe comparison of OHS perceptions between design and construction teams is carried outseparately in three subgroups classified by project location. The results are presented in Figure 5.Figure 4. Comparison between design and construction teams in the subgroups by project industry:(a) power projects; (b) non-power projects. t and p values are shown in the parentheses.The results in Figure 4 show that in power projects, there is significant difference on perception ofOHS strategies in construction between design and construction teams, while there is no significantdifference in non-power projects. The perception disparity between the two teams is relatively largerin power projects.4.4. Comparison within Subgroups by Project LocationThe comparison of OHS perceptions between design and construction teams is carried outseparately in three subgroups classified by project location. The results are presented in Figure Sustainability 2018, 11, x FOR PEER REVIEW 9 of 175.Figure 5. Cont.Sustainability 2018, 10, 4344 9 of 17Figure 5. Comparison between design and construction teams in the subgroups by project location:(a) Southeast Asia; (b) Islamic Area; (c) Sub-Saharan Africa. t and p values are shown in theparentheses.The results in Figure 5 show that the perception disparity between design and constructionteams mainly lies in projects located in Southeast Asia.Figure 5. Comparison between design and construction teams in the subgroups by project location:(a) Southeast Asia; (b) Islamic Area; (c) Sub-Saharan Africa. t and p values are shown in the parentheses.The results in Figure 5 show that the perception disparity between design and construction teamsmainly lies in projects located in Southeast Asia.4.5. Comparison within Subgroups by Firm SizeThe comparison of OHS perceptions between design and construction teams is carried outseparately in three subgroups classified by firm size. The results are presented in Figure 6.Sustainability 2018, 11, x FOR PEER REVIEW 10 of 174.5. Comparison within Subgroups by Firm SizeThe comparison of OHS perceptions between design and construction teams is carried outseparately in three subgroups classified by firm size. The results are presented in Figure 6.Figure 6. Cont.Sustainability 2018, 10, 4344 10 of 17Figure 6. Comparison between design and construction teams in the subgroups by company size: (a)small-sized contractors with overseas revenue < $400 million US; (b) medium-sized contractors withoverseas revenue $400–800 million US; and (c) large-sized contractors with overseas revenue > $800million US. t and p values are shown in the parentheses.Figure 6. Comparison between design and construction teams in the subgroups by company size:(a) small-sized contractors with overseas revenue < $400 million US; (b) medium-sized contractorswith overseas revenue $400–800 million US; and (c) large-sized contractors with overseas revenue >$800 million US. t and p values are shown in the parentheses.The results in Figure 6 show that (1) for large-sized contractors, the perception disparity betweendesign and construction teams mainly lies on Q1 and Q2; (2) for small-sized contractors, the disparitylies on Q3 and Q4; and (3) while for medium-sized contractors, there is no significant differencebetween the two teams.5. DiscussionIn most circumstances, design teams tended to score OHS performance in international projectslower than construction teams (see Figures 1–5). A potential reason for this is that the technicalbackground of design managers tends to make them stricter than construction team members inassessing the OHS performance. This accords with the findings of Zhao et al. where they concludedthat design engineers have higher construction risk perceptions than construction professionals .In practice, construction managers are at the front line of OHS management, while at the same time,they also face the pressures of delivering the project to tight schedules and budgets. This can lead toconflicts between productivity and OHS . From the results of this study construction managersfrom Chinese contractors tend to emphasize productivity over OHS. Wu et al. have pointed outthat Chinese contractors are not necessarily proactive and strategic in their management of OHS .An interviewed senior safety manager stated:Sustainability 2018, 10, 4344 11 of 17“There are a lot of emergencies in overseas projects. HSE (occupational health, safety andenvironment) management serves project implementation and doesn’t belong to productiveinput. In most of projects, it is kind of passive management.”One team has a higher perception of OHS risk, while another one does not give enough priorityto OHS management. Their perception disparity indicates that potential OHS issues exist and there isroom for the contractors to enhance their OHS management.The results from Figures 1–5 also show that the score of Q1 is lower than that of the other threequestions. It appears that OHS requirements are not fully considered in design schemes. This resultis owing to that in practice, OHS management tends to be the responsibility of contractors but notdesigners. Although it is agreed that work in the design stage is also an important factor for OHSperformance in construction [9,24], there is still a lack of improvement in OHS through design in theconstruction industry .5.1. Overseas ExperienceThe perception disparity between design and construction managers mainly lies in the depthof experience (see Figure 2). The difference between the groups was far less as people get moreexperience. Figure 2 also shows that there is not much difference regarding the mean scores betweenless-experienced construction team and more-experienced construction team, while the mean scoresbetween design teams is a little different. Less-experienced design team scores a little lower thanmore-experienced design team. Similarly, Chen and Jin found that older workers tended to have agreater acceptance of their company’s safety management than younger workers . A possiblecause for this, refer Figure 2 is that, when design managers get more experienced, they become moresatisfied with the OHS performance. Meanwhile, the design managers have more communicationwith the construction managers and understand more about their OHS practice, which helps decreasetheir perception disparity.5.2. Project SizeThe perceptions of occupational health between design and construction teams in small projectsis significantly different (see Figure 3). The results indicate that there are more perceived risks aboutoccupational health in small projects. Table 1 also shows that small projects have worse perceivedOHS performance than large projects. This is in accordance with Jannadi and Assaf’s finding. Theyassessed safety levels on construction sites of large projects and small projects and found that safetyin large projects were better than small projects . Generally, large projects tend to have a betterOHS management system as with there are more resource inputs compared with small projects.The contractors also pay more attention to large projects. An interviewed labor union chairman, whenasked to introduce their management activities regarding employees’ psychological health, said:“We built ‘Staff Home’ and held sports and recreational activities. Our people can takeexercise and play basketball and table tennis. As for large projects, we also organized manylearning and training activities.”When studying factors for occupational injury in a high-speed railway construction project,Bena et al. also found safety risks are higher among workers with shorter contracts . From thisperspective, employees in small projects tend to have shorter work contracts and this may lead to a lackof OHS consciousness. In this respect, contractors should pay more attention to OHS in small projects.5.3. Industry SectorThe results in Table 1 demonstrate that power projects have better OHS performance thannon-power projects. One possible explanation is that these Chinese contractors are specialized inpower construction and have been working on it for decades. However, the OHS perception disparitySustainability 2018, 10, 4344 12 of 17between design and construction teams in power projects is greater than that in non-power projects(see Figure 2). In general, power projects tend to be more complex than non-power projects. Althoughthese Chinese contractors are good at power construction, they should also pay attention to the OHSissues in power projects. A potential management implication is that they could get design teaminvolved in the OHS management.5.4. Project LocationThe disparity of OHS perception between the two teams also varies in different regions.The disparity mainly lies in Southeast Asia. This is mainly related to the cultural, governance orinstitutional differences regarding OHS work in projects among these areas . Manu et al. alsopointed out the dire situation of OHS management in emerging countries and investigated OHSpractices in Malaysia, Vietnam, and Cambodia . On the whole, the contractors perceived that OHSrequirements from clients and governments in Southeast Asia are lower than those in Islamic Area andSub-Sahara Africa. A marketing director in headquarter of a Chinese contractor delivering projects inMiddle East and Africa said:“In the Middle East, e.g., Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Dubai, they adopt the most high-endEuropean and American standards and have tough requirements for contractors. In Africa,although with underdeveloped economy, they govern in line with Europe and America andhave high requirements for contractors.”A safety director involved in a hydropower in Sudan said:“HSE requirements in the project are very strict. If found there is oil leakage in equipment, it isrequired to stop the equipment first and then make a four-step report including (1) the reason,(2) how to deal with it, (3) request for the acceptance of dealing measures and results and (4)subsequent preventive measures.”A chief engineer with two projects experience in Southeast Asia, however, said:“Occupational health requirements in Southeast Asia is a little weak”.This is in accordance with interviews with two experienced safety managers from thesame company:“In Southeast Asia, like Cambodia and Laos, the clients, government and supervisorsbasically didn’t govern the health and safety management issues of contractors.”In areas with high OHS requirements, like Sub-Saharan Africa and Islamic Area, the disparitybetween design and construction teams is small, while in the areas with low OHS requirements,the disparity is large. When OHS requirements are strict, the contractors have to pay more attention toOHS management. In dealing with challenges from high OHS requirements, Chinese contractors tendto hire foreign OHS experts for OHS management to meet local requirements. A technical directorfrom Engineering Department of a Chinese contractor said:“We will hire foreign safety directors, especially in areas with high HSE requirements, tohelp (1) establish HSE management plan, (2) communicate with clients and (3) make processdocuments. These safety directors have a high management level equivalent to deputyproject manager.”The contractors pay more attention and input more resources to OHS management in theseareas. This facilitates a culture of emphasizing OHS on sites, and further helps reduce the two teams’perception disparity on OHS performance.It shows that OHS management strategies of the contractors depend on the levels of requirementsfrom outside. In essence, it demonstrates the passive OHS management habit of these contractors.When asked about the OHS management strategies, the director of a Chinese contractor’s departmentof safety, quality, and environment said:Sustainability 2018, 10, 4344 13 of 17“HSE management’s priority is to meet the requirements of clients. It depends on therequirements of clients. Generally, it is kind of passive management.”Chinese contractors should be more proactive and strategic on OHS management ininternational projects.5.5. Contractor SizeThe perceived disparity between design and construction teams is found in large-sized andsmall-sized contractors, but no significant difference exists in medium-sized firms (see Figure 6).In large-sized contractors, the disparity lies on OHS process management including consideration ofOHS requirements in design and OHS management strategies in construction, while in small-sizedfirms, the disparity lies on the overall performances of construction safety and occupationalhealth. The results indicate the complex relationship between firm size and the two groups’perception disparity.The disparity lying on OHS process management for large-sized contractors may result fromthe complex organizational structure and inefficient decision-making procedure in large companies.A deputy general manager of a large-sized contractor said:“Management system in our firm is norm, but not efficient. The administration system istoo huge in state-owned enterprises. Decision making needs a lot of paper work and takes along time. This on the hand helps make sure the correct decision and improve risk ability,on the other hand would decrease the efficiency and raise the management cost.”This inefficiency may increase design and construction teams’ perception disparity on OHSprocess management.On the other hand, the perception disparity on overall OHS performances in small-sizedcontractors is a little strange. Moreover, the results in Table 1 show that the perceptions of theoverall OHS performances (Q3 and Q4) from small-sized contractors are greater than those fromlarge-sized contractors and medium-sized contractors. Some studies on the relationship between OHSperformance and firm size are as follows:• Sunindijo claimed that: Large organizations have better safety performance as “they have theresources and leverage to develop and implement robust safety management systems” .• Hasle and Limborg claimed that: Employees from small contractors face higher risks than thosefrom larger ones, as “small enterprises have difficulties in controlling risk” .• Fabiano et al. investigated the relationship between accident frequency and firm size based onindustrial data from Italian industry and found that: Accident frequency tends to decrease as firmsize increases .• McVittie et al. reviewed records of the Workers’ Compensation Board of Ontario data and foundthat safety performance is better as firm size increases .• Bena et al. investigated organizational factors for occupational injury in a high-speed railwayconstruction project and found that: Larger firms had a higher injury rate .Most of the studies, except Bena et al., claimed that large firms have better OHS performance asthey have more resources and have stronger capability of risk control [27,30–33]. However, this paperprovides a contrary result.To explain the results of small-sized firms’ “better” performance and their perception disparitybetween design and construction teams, it is necessary to consider the potential disturbance from otherkinds of subgroups (see Figures 3–5) and consider the distribution by project characteristics withineach kind of contractor subgroup. From the perspective of project size, large-sized contractors tendto perform more large projects than small-sized ones. The data from large-sized contractors involve16 respondents from small projects and 47 ones from large projects, while the data from small-sizedSustainability 2018, 10, 4344 14 of 17contractors involve 36 ones from small projects and 46 ones from large projects. The subgroupof small-sized contractors has a higher small project rate. However, small projects tend to haveworse OHS performance than large ones (see Table 1), and the significant perception disparitybetween design and construction teams exists only in large projects (see Figure 3). The perspectiveof project size distribution fails to explain the “better” performance and perception disparity ofsmall-sized contractors.From the perspective of project industry, the subgroup of small-sized contractors involves 48 datafrom power projects and 34 data from non-power projects, and the subgroup of large-sized contractorsinvolves 45 data from power projects and 18 data from non-power projects. Large-sized contractorshave a higher power project rate. The inefficiency of large-sized contractors discussed above andthe complexity of power projects can explain the perception disparity between the two teams fromlarge-sized projects. However, the lower power project rate of small-sized contractors can’t explain theperception disparity between the two teams and the “better” performance of small-sized contractors.From the perspective of project location, the distribution of the subgroup of small-sized contractorsis: Southeast Asia (24), Islamic Area (21), Sub-Sahara Africa (21) and other regions (16). In thesubgroup of large-sized contractors, it is: Southeast Asia (26), Islamic Area (7), Sub-Sahara Africa (15)and other regions (15). In the subgroup of medium-sized contractors, it is: Southeast Asia (1),Islamic Area (30) and Sub-Sahara Africa (36). Reviewing the small perception disparity of the twoteams in Islamic Area and Sub-Sahara Africa (see Figure 5a,b), the region distribution can explain thesmall perception disparity between the two teams from medium-sized contractors (see Figure 6b).However, the perspective of project location distribution can’t explain the results from small-sizedcontractors. The small-sized contractors performed more projects in Islamic Area and Sub-SaharaAfrica, while the Q3 and Q4 perception in these regions is a little worse than that in Southeast Asia(see Table 1). This fails to explain why the small-sized contractors have a “better” performance.In summary, the “better” performance and perception disparity of small-sized contractors arenot attributable to the distribution disturbance from other kinds of subgroups. Bena et al. raisedsome potential causes when explaining the finding that large firms had worse OHS performancethan small firms, such as under report of occupational injuries by small firms, types of ownerships ofthe contractors, different levels of worker training, working in the most dangerous stages for largecontractors . When comparing the results in Figure 6a,c, it is found that the design team fromsmall-sized contractors has a similar perception of Q3 and Q4 with that from large-sized firms, whilethe perception of Q3 and Q4 from construction team in small-sized contractors is a little greater thanthat from large-sized firms. “Under report of occupational injuries by small firms” and “different levelsof worker training” may provide an explanation for small-sized contractors “better” performance.Construction managers from small-sized contractors may display excessive optimism on their OHSperformance, and tend to give a balloon score. A construction manager from a large-sized contractorconfirmed their emphasis on OHS training and education, when describing their safety education inprojects in Madagascar:“When project managers arrived on the site, there was a three-day training about safetyand health organized by local environmental engineers. We should pass the training testbefore job assignment. At the construction stage, (1) before work, we had 10 min safetyeducation and had special training for different types of construction work; (2) during thework, there were supervisors reminding workers to wear masks and gloves; (3) after work,there was a review about the one day’s work performance and the offenders would becriticized by name.”The training and education in small-sized contractors, by contract, is not so regular. The relativelylow levels of training in small-sized contractors may cause the construction managers to inadequatelyidentify the OHS issues.Sustainability 2018, 10, 4344 15 of 176. ConclusionsThe paper investigated the perceived variation of OHS performance between design andconstruction teams of Chinese contractors working on international projects. Previous studies(e.g., from Zhao et al.; Marin et al.; Gyekye and Chen and Jin) have noticed that different peoplemay perceive OHS in different ways [10,11,14,19]. Some scholars (e.g., Zhao et al., and Lingard et al.)found that design managers tend to have a higher perception of OHS risks than constructors [10,12].However, there is a lack of research to explore whether design managers and construction managersevaluate OHS performance equally in international projects of Chinese contractors.A comparative analysis was undertaken based on the data collected from 52 design managersand 160 construction managers from 16 Chinese contractors. The findings reveal that design andconstruction teams can have different evaluations of OHS performance and the assessment of OHSperformance varies under different conditions. The findings indicate that the variation of OHSperformance evaluation between design managers and construction managers is not only relatedto their different mental ways owing to professional disparity, but also can be mediated by theirin-progress communication or affected by project and organizational conditions. Contractors aresuggested to incorporate views from people with different occupations to achieve a comprehensiveevaluation of OHS on sites.The OHS performance of Chinese contractors in small projects is relatively poorer than theperformance in large projects. The OHS performance of Chinese contractors in Islamic Area areperceived to be poorer than the performance in Southeast Asia and Sub-Sahara Africa. There isalso significant difference between design and construction teams regarding the assessment of OHSperformance in Southeast Asia. The findings suggest that the contractors should give greater emphasison proactive OHS management instead of passively responding to external requirements. In addition,when delivering the more specialized projects, e.g., power projects, the contractors tend to havebetter performance on OHS management with regard to their rich experience in power construction.The contractors are suggested to pay more attention to the OHS management in newly-entered sectors.It is also perceived that there is a lack of enough consideration of OHS requirements in designschemes in the international construction projects. As for the potential significant impact of design onOHS, scholars and practitioners should pay more attention to it.There are also some limitations in this study. The four questions in this study only provided anoverall assessment of OHS performance. Future research can incorporate more questions to providedetailed investigation of OHS across different aspects and stages during project delivery. This studyonly focused on the views from managers with different roles. Future research can combine the viewsof people with different management levels. In addition, we classified the project region accordingto geography, while some countries in the same region can have different economic, political orlaw conditions . The results in this study just provided average OHS performances of Chinesecontractors in the regions. Future studies can conduct more specific analyses with more data. The dataused in the paper were of the respondents’ perceptions that could be only partial reflections of theirbehaviors. Future research can conduct more direct observations and case studies to obtain a directdescription of their behaviors. The paper also indicates research directions of how to integrate OHSmanagement requirements and emphases of different teams, e.g., design and construction teams,during the project delivery, and how to balance the quality, time and cost of OHS management byusing the method of multiple-criteria decision-making (MCDM) [34–37].Author Contributions: Conceptualization: Z.L., W.T., C.F.D., L.Z., F.K.P.H., and R.Y.; data curation: Z.L.; formalanalysis: Z.L., W.T., C.F.D., L.Z., and F.K.P.H.; funding acquisition: W.T.; investigation: Z.L.; methodology:Z.L., W.T., C.F.D., L.Z., F.K.P.H., and R.Y.; project administration: W.T.; resources: Z.L. and W.T.; software:Z.L.; supervision: W.T. and C.F.D.; validation: Z.L., W.T., C.F.D., L.Z., F.K.P.H., and R.Y.; visualization: Z.L.;writing—original draft: Z.L.; writing—review and editing: Z.L., W.T., C.F.D., L.Z., F.K.P.H., and R.Y.Sustainability 2018, 10, 4344 16 of 17Funding: This research was funded by National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant nos. 51579135,51379104, 51079070), State Key Laboratory of Hydroscience and Engineering (grant nos. 2013-KY-5, 2015-KY-5),and the Major Science and Technology Research Project of Power China (grant nos. 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