Most people understand that construction isn’t the safest job in the world, especially when compared with an office job. The construction industry suffers more workplace accidents and fatalities, and has resulted in an increased level of scrutiny. Every year, new trends appear in the industry from safety training to technological advancements. And many of the trends make construction work easier and more efficient, so it is important that construction companies educate and train their employees to be safe on jobsites.
According to a survey by Dodge Data & Analytics, jobsite workers and supervisors agree that onsite training is more valuable than online or classroom instruction. In most cases, showing a worker how to do a job safely and correctly in an actual work setting is better than simply telling them how to execute their craft properly.
For new employees, there are two types of onsite training that should be incorporated into onboarding. The first is a walk-through of responsibilities.
This training will demonstrate how a new hire should perform the job and explain why certain procedures are in place. Offering the “why” can dramatically lower a new hire’s potential for cutting corners or inaccurately believing that they can come up with a faster, more effective way to do a task. The second type of training to consider is a buddy system, in which experienced workers spend time enforcing workplace procedures and policies, thus cutting down the risk of a new hire developing unsafe habits.
Training should be ongoing, especially as comfort sets in for seasoned employees. For instance, workers are most prone to injuries and fatalities around noon, when people may become less focused due to lunch or similar break times. Taking the time to introduce staff to new equipment or doing quarterly “refresher” courses can be great ways to offer continuous training that keeps experienced employees engaged, reducing the likelihood of accidents in the long run.
By educating and testing employees outside of their general orientation, site managers and superintendents can avoid indirect costs that are double those of direct ones. These indirect expenses can result from workplace incidents, such as time lost due to work stoppages and investigations, losses associated with recruiting and training new employees, and loss or damage to material property.
“When a worker is not trained correctly and supervised, he or she will more than likely not be as efficient in their work,” says David Stanton, Senior Safety Manager for D.E. Harvey Builders. “Efficiency costs money, and if a product is not installed correctly the first time, it must be taken out and re-installed. There are inherent risks and exposures involved, depending on those tasks are required to be done again.”
Safety observations play a large role in worker behavior. At the time the observation is made a peer to peer review of that observation and a solution should take place.
“Harvey Builders/Harvey Cleary noticed a trend in the summer of 2017 that most of our injuries were elbow to fingertip,” Stanton says. “Not only did we share this information with all of our contractors, but we also shared preventative measures to reduce those injuries. In addition, we placed hand signs and posters throughout jobsites in conspicuous places to enable workers the ability to be reminded as they worked in their active work areas. The result of sharing data reduced our first aids by 12% and recordables by 63% between 2017 to 2018. The technology of collecting data and real time reporting, coupled with peer to peer reviews and focused awareness and training can have a significant impact on reducing incidents on your jobsite.”
A myriad of new technologies are making their way into the construction market and helping to improve worker safety. Virtual reality (VR), wearables and drones are gaining acceptance on jobsites and leading to fewer injuries, consequently driving improved safety benefits and cost savings, and far outweighing the initial investment.
Virtual Reality. VR can help create a firsthand, experience-based training that workers and supervisors prefer. The technology can help capture images of existing project conditions and repurpose these images to display training environments that employees and supervisors can “walk through” to identify hazards and safety concerns. Companies such as Hensel Phelps have created this type of walkthrough to include questions based on a chosen safety manual so that workers are more familiar with hazards.
Wearables. Many construction companies are going beyond the common definition of wearables (such as smart watches) to deploy exoskeletons that support a worker’s body by conserving energy and avoiding any extreme strains. Exoskeletons work by transferring the worker’s weight onto the ground or other parts of their body instead of putting pressure on their back or their arms. Overexertion is one of the leading causes of disabling workplace injuries, accounting for nearly $14 billion in annual compensation costs, and can be largely overcome through the use of exoskeletons.
Drones. Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) provide project teams with accurate real-time jobsite data. They help supervisors understand the layout where tasks are being performed and where equipment is being used, and whether jobs are being conducted safely through photo/video feeds. According to Goldman Sachs, only 18 percent of contractors use drones today, and by 2020 it is forecast that one in four firms will use drones on the jobsite.
Achieving sustained improvements in one’s safety culture can be difficult, but these best practices and new technologies help reduce error rates and injuries on the job, improving overall job quality and employee safety.
Heigl, Casey. 7 Major Trends That Will Impact the Construction Industry. Construct Connect. 2018. Retrieved from: https://www.constructconnect.com/blog/construction-news/7-major-trends-will-impact-construction-industry/
Laquidara-Carr, Donna. Top Findings From the Safety Management in the Construction Industry 2017 SmartMarket Report. Dodge Data & Analytics. Retrieved from: https://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/ext/resources/files/news/Dodge_Safety_Webinar_30Jan18.pdf
Swigart, John. Best Practices and Technologies That Keep Construction Workers Safe. Construction Executive. 2018. Retrieved from: https://constructionexec.com/article/best-practices-and-technologies-that-keep-construction-workers-safe
Harrell, Lauren. Reprinted from BuildHoustonOnline.com, March 1, 2019, a publication of Associated Builders and Contractors of Greater Houston. Copyright 2019. All rights reserved.