Community participation in construction during rural infrastructure projects in developing countries is encouraged by many non-governmental organizations. The health and safety aspects of this type of development model have not previously been adequately researched, however. The aim is to identify the socio-cultural factors that motivate community members to participate in construction activities which they perceive as hazardous during a case study of a water and sanitation project in rural Ghana. This is a step towards understanding how health and safety can be more effectively managed during community development projects. A qualitative approach has been taken, using interview, observation and reflection. It was found that the communal culture of the local context resulted in community members feeling pressurized to participate in hazardous construction activities. Local customary laws further compelled individuals as they were concerned they could be fined or arrested should they not fulfil their communal obligations. Further work is required to determine the boundaries within which findings apply but it is likely that there are implications for others managing community construction projects both in Ghana and further afield.