In the wake of the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) release that showed a rise in the number of construction industry fatalities, many industry associations are making pushes to remind workers to stay safe on job sites.
Couple the new statistics with the passing of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which allows OSHA to raise fines in line with national inflation rates, and the drive to make safety changes is stronger than ever.
The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) is the leading association for the construction industry and one of the frontrunners in the push for increased safety measures.
The AGC released “13 Proven Steps to Improve Construction Worker Safety,” urging commercial construction organizations to act quickly to improve workplace safety.
“The new safety measures were needed to address a growing influx of new and inexperienced workers that is contributing to an increase in the number of construction fatalities,” the AGC’s release stated.
The AGC said its recommendations are based on an in-depth analysis of effective safety programs performed as part of the Willis Construction Safety Excellence Awards.
“The AGC and Willis looked at what makes winning firms’ safety programs effective and then boiled that analysis down into easy to implement steps that are proven to improve safety,” the AGC said.
Among the steps suggested by the AGC, many involved new employees. The AGC suggests establishing a buddy system for all new hires that would assign experienced workers to serve as safety sponsors for new workers. The new hires’ training and understanding of performing their jobs safely would be evaluated after 30 days, and the sponsor would have to confirm that the worker is ready to work on his own.
Separate safety orientations for all new hires should be performed. These sessions should include photos of common and uncommon hazards, interactive hazard recognition, group discussions, company policies and procedures, and verification of worker skills.
Ongoing training is also a big push for the AGC, which suggests that managers and supervisors have the appropriate leadership and communication skills critical to instilling safety into the workforce. All supervising personnel would complete management training in order to help workers embrace the safety culture.
The AGC suggests instituting two separate Pre-Task Hazard Analysis training programs – one for the crew and one for first-line supervisors – that would help workers operate safely and train supervisors to ensure safety. Monthly safety training meetings, including 30-minute presentations from workers on predetermined topics are also encouraged to allow workers to learn from their peers in addition to supervisors.
Per the AGC, organizations are encouraged to send supervisors to Leadership in Safety Excellence certification courses, where they will learn the necessary skills to effectively communicate their company’s safety mission and culture. Targeted safety training to address all safety incidents is also encouraged, identifying safety incidents and details and addressing specific safety hazards involved to avoid future incidents.
The AGC noted that it is important that all training and materials be provided in the language of the entire workforce. More and more construction workers speak Spanish as a first language, and of the nearly 90 people who died on the job each week in 2014, 15 were Hispanic and Latino workers. Many times, these workers do not easily understand the safety message sent out to workers.
Train the Trainer instruction and other proper certification and credentialing should be provided to all personnel in a training position to help improve the effectiveness of the safety training provided. The AGC goes so far as to encourage retaining consultants to train the trainers on basic instructional skills and develop in-house training programs.
The AGC’s operating suggestions include creating task-specific “pocket safety guides” for workers that would assist them on the scope of their tasks for the day or the job. Laborers might receive single guides, while equipment operators might receive multiples depending on their tasks. The guides must be kept on each person and produced upon supervisor request, and workers should be required to verbally explain how to safely perform their key tasks.
Craft-specific safety mentoring programs are also suggested, with monthly meetings for veteran workers to assist newer workers in procedures, processes, and lessons learned. The senior mentors would summarize these trainings and identify areas for additional attention.
Easy-to-read badges that indicate each worker’s level of training are also suggested, allowing everyone on a project to be aware of the training and certification of those around them. And finally, all workers would be issued Stop Work cards to address safety risks. They could use these cards without fear of repercussion to temporarily stop construction on a project if a legitimate safety hazard is identified.
13 Proven Steps to Improve Construction Worker Safety From the AGC
1. Establish a buddy system for all new hires.
• During orientation, assign experienced workers to serve as a new hire’s safety sponsor.
• After 30 days, the sponsor and supervisor evaluate new hire’s application of training and understanding of how to perform assigned tasks safely.
• Both must sign off that worker is ready to work safely without a buddy, or the buddy process continues until the new worker has proven they can work safely.
2. Hold safety orientation sessions for all new hires, including temporary workers.
• Require every new hire – whether full time, permanent, part time, temporary, and/or labor-firm staff – to complete a safety orientation system before being allowed to work on a project. This orientation should be separate and independent from the general administrative orientation.
• The orientation system includes photos depicting common and not-so-common (lightning, weather) hazards on projects that trainees are quizzed to recognize.
• The orientation includes interactive hazard recognition and group discussion on controls.
• The orientation process covers company policies, procedures, and principles covering work rules and conduct.
• The orientation includes a verification of competency in the skill or craft the employee was hired to perform.
3. Ensure managers and supervisors have the appropriate leadership and effective communication skills critical to instill safety culture and concepts into the workforce.
• All personnel in supervisory or managerial positions shall complete initial management training so they can learn effective leadership and communication skills. This training and continuing leadership education should be an essential element of individual development plans for those in leadership positions.
• These skills are essential to getting workers to embrace an effective safety culture, including grasping and implementing appropriate safety concepts and procedures.
4. Institute two separate Pre-Task Hazard Analysis training programs.
• Create distinct pre-task hazard analysis training programs; one for the crew and one specifically designed for first-line supervision.
• These programs will help workers operate safely.
• These programs will train supervisors to effectively fulfill their obligation to ensure workers are operating safely at all times.
5. Hold monthly Lunch and Learn safety training programs.
• Organize and host monthly safety lunch and learns.
• Include 30-minute presentations from craft workers on pre-determined safety topics.
• Workers learn from their peers, not from supervisors – an effective means to acquire skills.
6. Require all foremen and/or superintendents to attend Leadership in Safety Excellence certification courses.
• Project leaders such as foremen and superintendents are critical to the success of the day-to-day performance and implementation of a company’s safety program.
• Providing them with the necessary skills to effectively communicate the mission is key to this success.
7. Hold targeted safety training to address all safety incidents.
• Identify safety incidents and details.
• Quickly follow up by communicating targeted messages designed to address specific safety hazards involved to avoid similar future incidents. The message can be communicated in bulletins, e-mail, team meetings, formal training, or other appropriate forums.
8. Make sure all training and materials are in the language of the entire workforce.
• Workforces may include workers with limited English skills.
• Offer safety training in English and other languages as the need arises to ensure understanding by all workers.
9. Train your trainers.
• Training others requires effective communication and training skills.
• Provide “Train the Trainer” instruction to all personnel responsible for training others.
• Training the trainer will help improve the effectiveness of the safety training provided.
• Retaining “science of teaching” consultants to train the trainers on basic instructional skills and/or to develop a program implemented in-house can greatly improve the Train the Trainer programs.
• Professional trainer certification and credentialing through OSHA and BCSP ensure adequate rigor in trainer education.
10. Create worker task-specific “pockety safety guides” for every task they are assigned.
• Laborers may get just one guide for the scope of their task. Others, such as equipment operators, may get several pocket guides.
• Guides must be kept on their person and produced upon request by supervisor.
• Workers are required to verbally explain the safe way to do their key assigned tasks.
• During morning meetings workers are called upon to lead the meeting using their pocket guide.
11. Establish craft-specific safety mentoring programs.
• Schedule monthly mentorship meetings where craft workers of varying tenure meet to help each other understand and discuss safety-related procedures, processes, and lessons learned.
• At the end of these meetings, the craft workers will summarize the results and share them with senior management to identify areas that may require additional focus.
12. Issue easy-to-read badges to all workers indicating their level of training.
• Issue easy-to-read badges (for example, badges that use QR codes or color coding) that identify each worker’s level of training and certification for operating equipment.
• Badges are issued to every worker on a project, regardless of whether they work for a general contractor or a subcontractor.
• Badges allow everyone on a project to be aware of every worker’s training and certification level so they can be assigned appropriate tasks.
13. Authorize all workers to issue Stop Work Cards to address safety risks.
• Issue every worker a “Stop Work” card.
• Instruct every worker that they can use their “Stop Work” cards to temporarily halt construction activity on a project if they identify a legitimate safety hazard.
• Make it clear to all workers there are no repercussions for using the “Stop Work” cards.