'In the air' and below the horizon: migrant workers in UK construction and the practice-based nature of learning and communicating OHS

Dylan Tutt, Sarah Pink, Andy R.J. Dainty, Alistair Gibb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Local, tacit and normally unspoken OHS (occupational health and safety) knowledge and practices can too easily be excluded from or remain below the industry horizon of notice, meaning that they remain unaccounted for in formal OHS policy and practice. In this article we stress the need to more systematically and routinely tap into these otherwise 'hidden' communication channels, which are central to how everyday safe working practices are achieved. To demonstrate this approach this paper will draw on our ethnographic research with a gang of migrant curtain wall installers on a large office development project in the north of England. In doing so we reflect on the practice-based nature of learning and sharing OHS knowledge through examples of how workers' own patterns of successful communication help avoid health and safety problems. These understandings, we argue, can be advanced as a basis for the development of improved OHS measures, and of organizational knowing and learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)515-527
Number of pages13
JournalConstruction Management and Economics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Communication
  • ethnography
  • migrant workers
  • occupational health and safety
  • tacit skill

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