Measuring the Impacts of Safety Knowledge on Construction Workers' Attentional Allocation and Hazard Detection Using Remote Eye-Tracking Technology

Sogand Hasanzadeh, Behzad Esmaeili, Michael D. Dodd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

114 Scopus citations


Although several studies have highlighted the importance of attention in reducing the number of injuries in the construction industry, few have attempted to empirically measure the attention of construction workers. One technique that can be used to measure worker attention is eye tracking, which is widely accepted as the most direct and continuous measure of attention because where one looks is highly correlated with where one is focusing his or her attention. Thus, with the fundamental objective of measuring the impacts of safety knowledge (specifically, training, work experience, and injury exposure) on construction workers' attentional allocation, this study demonstrates the application of eye tracking to the realm of construction safety practices. To achieve this objective, a laboratory experiment was designed in which participants identified safety hazards presented in 35 construction site images ordered randomly, each of which showed multiple hazards varying in safety risk. During the experiment, the eye movements of 27 construction workers were recorded using a head-mounted EyeLink II system. The impact of worker safety knowledge in terms of training, work experience, and injury exposure (independent variables) on eye-tracking metrics (dependent variables) was then assessed by implementing numerous permutation simulations. The results show that tacit safety knowledge acquired from work experience and injury exposure can significantly improve construction workers' hazard detection and visual search strategies. The results also demonstrate that (1) there is minimal difference, with or without the Occupational Safety and Health Administration 10-h certificate, in workers' search strategies and attentional patterns while exposed to or seeing hazardous situations; (2) relative to less experienced workers (<5 years), more experienced workers (>10 years) need less processing time and deploy more frequent short fixations on hazardous areas to maintain situational awareness of the environment; and (3) injury exposure significantly impacts a worker's visual search strategy and attentional allocation. In sum, practical safety knowledge and judgment on a jobsite requires the interaction of both tacit and explicit knowledge gained through work experience, injury exposure, and interactive safety training. This study significantly contributes to the literature by demonstrating the potential application of eye-tracking technology in studying the attentional allocation of construction workers. Regarding practice, the results of the study show that eye tracking can be used to improve worker training and preparedness, which will yield safer working conditions, detect at-risk workers, and improve the effectiveness of safety-training programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number04017024
JournalJournal of Management in Engineering
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Industrial relations
  • General Engineering
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management Science and Operations Research


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