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Coping with the Complexity of Safety, Health, and Wellbeing in Construction

Special issue call for papers from Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management

Guest Editors

Prof. Tarcisio Saurin (Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil)
Prof. Dayana Costa (Federal University of Bahia, Brazil)
Prof. Michael Behm (East Caroline University, USA)
Prof. Fidelis Emuze (Central University of Technology, Free State CUT, South Africa)

You are cordially invited to submit a paper to the special issue of the Engineering Construction and Architectural Management (ECAM) journal with the theme “Coping with the Complexity of Safety, Health, and Wellbeing in Construction”. This is an initiative of the Joint CIB W099 and TG59 International Safety, Health, and People in Construction Conference which will be held in the city of Salvador in Brazil from the 1st to 3rd of August 2018 (

In several scientific disciplines, complexity science (CS) is gaining traction due to the perceived limitations of the traditional scientific method, which tends to be reductionist and neglect contextual conditions in its quest for generalizable findings, which are often elusive. The term CS refers not so much to a theory, but rather to a perspective for theorizing and modelling systems. It is used here as an umbrella term that covers other systems-oriented approaches, such as system dynamics, network theory, social network analysis, soft-systems methodology, agent-based-modelling, and resilience engineering.

CS offers an alternative paradigm, by stressing the modelling of interactions between agents, which cannot be fully controlled, but at best influenced on the desired direction. Furthermore, system attributes such as diversity, evolution, and adaptive capacity, are key assets from a complexity perspective. CS also recognizes that some manifestations and types of variability may be beneficial, and indeed essential for the survival of systems.

In this sense, it is widely accepted that construction projects are complex socio-technical systems, and thus the use of CS as a lens for making sense and managing construction health, safety, and wellbeing (CHSW) is a topic of academic interest. However, in comparison with other highly complex domains, such as healthcare and supply chain management, the implications of CS for the management of CHSW are still largely underexplored. The potential implications permeate all dimensions of CSHW, such as the design and role assigned to procedures and rules, training, planning, performance measurement, and the design of products and processes. This Special Issue intends to advance the knowledge in this area by encouraging authors to interpret their current research in light of CS.


As the literature on CS is vast and multidisciplinary, authors are encouraged to focus on the literature that emphasizes the implications for HSW as well as on the literature that stresses the implications for project management and construction. In this respect, the references presented below may be a good starting point for those not familiarized with CS:

Baccarini, D. 1996. The concept of project complexity – a review. International Journal of Project Management, 14, 4, 201-204.
Bosch-Rekveldt, M., Jongkind, Y., Mooi, H., Bakker, H., Verbraeck, A. 2011. Grasping project complexity in large engineering projects: the TOE (Technical, Organizational and Environmental) framework. International Journal of Project Management 29, 728-739.
Cilliers, P. 1998. Complexity and postmodernism: Understanding complex systems, Routledge, London.
Clegg, C., 2000. Sociotechnical principles for system design. Applied Ergonomics, 31, 463-477.
Dekker, S., 2011. Drift into failure: from hunting broken components to understanding complex systems. Ashgate, London.
Gidado, K.I. 1996. Project complexity: The focal point of construction production planning, Construction Management and Economics, 14:3, 213-225.
Hollnagel, E., 2014. Safety-I and Safety-II: the past and future of safety management. Ashgate, Farnham.
Perrow, C., 1984. Normal Accidents: Living with High-Risk Technologies. Princeton University Press, Princeton.
Ramasesh R.V., Browning, T.R. 2014. A conceptual framework for tackling knowable unknown unknowns in project management. Journal of Operations Management 32: 190–204.
Williams, T., 1999. The need for new paradigms for complex projects. International Journal of Project Management 17 (5), 269-273.

Themes of interest for this special issue include, but are not limited to, the topics as follows:

  • Safe and healthy work as a positive social function
  • Prevention through design
  • Safety and health in developing countries
  • Ethical and moral challenges / social and societal responsibility
  • Zero harm vision
  • Education, training, continuous improvement, and learning
  • Workers’ conditions and quality of life
  • Communicating safety and health
  • Technology and safety and health
  • Ergonomics and human factors
  • Systems thinking applied to safety and health
  • Health and well-being
  • Employment and industrial relations
  • Integration of people and technology
  • Labour market and work


- Full paper submission deadline for authors: 15 September 2018
- Final version of papers to be submitted after review process: 15 December 2018
- Final papers to be submitted to Emerald: 1 March 2019

How to submit

Author guidelines, including formats and length limit, must be strictly followed and can be found on the journal web site at:

Submissions to ECAM must be through ScholarOne Manuscripts. Registration and access are available at:

Please submit to the relevant special issue, entitled: Coping with the Complexity of Safety, Health and Wellbeing.