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Construction Safety Training Best Practices

By Melody Hollis, Education Services Manager & Maureen Mallach, Manager of Professional Services, HCSS

Construction sites and work can be hazardous if safety measures are not correctly put in place and if workers at the jobsite are not adequately trained. Skimping on safety training is not a good idea as it can lead to significant liability for the contractor. Even if your firm is under pressure to meet deadlines, putting safety training on the back burner is not wise.

Safety training is a whole new ballpark. It involves more than just selecting a software tool to manage safety. It involves detailed training from certified professionals, change management, and developing a safety culture.

Some Safety Management Software

Safety management software providers contract with certified safety professionals to deliver training on their software. These certified professionals are senior safety officials with decades of industry experience who can go beyond just reviewing a checklist of features of the product. They will address the company’s safety culture, working with employees to instill a corporate culture that focuses on safety.

Safety professionals who train others know and understand OSHA’s laws and regulations and other safety standards. They know how to create an effective safety program built around a safety culture and processes. They know what information to collect and how to use and analyze it to improve safety across the board.

Some safety management software offers pre-built safety meetings and inspections to promote ownership of safety within construction crews. Crew leaders can verify and update crew member skills and certifications, use relevant inspections as teaching tools, record safety meeting attendance and topics, track individual employee safety education goals, and track near misses, incidents, and observations to help spot leading indicators of potentially unsafe behavior.

Best Practices for Training

Deliver training that mirrors a company’s real-life business with all its complexities. In other words, provide real-world challenges that the participants can solve using their newfound knowledge and skills.

Don’t try to include too many things in training at once. For many students, complicated technology training can be a nightmare. Use the 80/20 rule, where training is focused on 20% of the main functions that employees will use 80% of the time. This focus speeds the training process and provides the most significant usage of the new system.

Keep communications flowing freely with employees to understand how the new software implementation is going, who benefits, and the overall impact on the business’ growth and competitive advantages. The more each employee understands how their efforts to change processes affect the company, the more likely they will invest time and energy into making those changes.

Offer training incentives for employees to encourage them to use the new software. These incentives can range from certificates and plaques to Starbucks gift cards or cash.

Provide a variety of training formats, from online to in class. Give employees the choice of when to take the training, allowing them to consider their current schedules. Give them plenty of advance notice of when training must be complete.

Ask for feedback from the trained people by sending out a survey throughout the implementation and training processes to ensure the vendor is on the right track. Then rely on the surveys to guide how the vendor is doing and what they can do better.

Offer virtual or in-person workshops monthly, which can be a forum for advanced users to pick the brain of the vendor engineers and other power users. A vendor may also offer introductory courses that cover all the essentials. For example, a workshop on construction bidding software would cover estimating, bidding, quoting, pricing, and reporting.

Ongoing online learning allows employees to train at their own pace. Giving each employee access to this learning environment will provide them with as-needed refreshers on performing specific actions with the new software.

Once the software is in place and the team trained, how do you know that the team will use it? This is where change management enters the picture.

Change Management

Change management is vital because it helps your workers gradually accept changes because of the new software. Even with a formal change management process, approximately 50%1 of all organizational changes are unsuccessful, so this has to be handled delicately.

Critical steps in the change management process include:

  • Preparing the organization for change
  • Crafting a vision and plan for change
  • Implementing the changes
  • Embedding the changes within the company culture
  • Reviewing progress and analyzing results

J.F. Brennan, a marine construction, environmental remediation, and harbor services company with job sites in all 50 states, implemented a safety program that accepts voluntary field observations submitted by employees from job sites and work areas. These observations are then distributed to the whole company to discuss.

Each week, the company has weekly, corporation-wide safety meetings to discuss the safety department’s observations. Everyone from the field workers to the CEO can call into the session. Because these observations can be submitted via mobile devices in real-time, discussions about what happened and the solution to the issue can occur quickly. Plus, people are more likely to take photos and submit them along with the write-up, providing more details on an incident or observation.

Creating a Safety Management Culture

Foremen and Safety Managers are always prepared for the unexpected when you use a safety management solution with hundreds of toolbox talks, comprehensive inspection reports, crew skill tracking, and safety trend reports that recommend if any specific training topics are needed. When you empower your crews to take on-site ownership of safety, you’re able to go beyond compliance and build a strong safety culture.

Additionally, by creating a strong safety culture, you can reduce your exposure to a fine, reduce workers’ comp costs, and eliminate costly claims while improving your EMR.

Building a Safety Culture

There are several steps a company should follow to start to build a safety culture within its organization. The steps are:

  1. Practice, practice, practice. Have supervisors practice reporting incidents into a safety management program to coach their teams on how to fill out quality incident reports without the stress of an actual incident. The more practice employees have done, the more comfortable they feel doing it.
  2. Be proactive, not reactive. Develop a process for communication about a safety issue. For example, with COVID-19, some contractors developed an approach to help employees who needed to support a sick child, provide them with places to go and get tested, and determine what to do to help. Whether giving a toolbox talk about watching out for school zones or staying six feet apart, the goal is to be proactive, not reactive.
  3. Teach crews how to advocate for themselves. Empower your construction crews to suggest safety processes and ensure they know how to advocate for themselves at work and in life. For example, in the case of COVID, teams should feel comfortable asking questions about the precautions being taken at the jobsite to keep workers safe from contamination, such as how to maintain safe distances, wear masks, and use hand-washing stations frequently.
  4. Recognize exceptional safety behavior. Recognize employees in front of their peers when they perform an unprecedented safety act. The public recognition empowers crew members to become safety experts in their way.

Software training is essential. When businesses invest in employee software education, they get a better return on the software they purchase. However, safety training is different and involves training on the features and functions of the software and a culture shift of the entire organization. Everyone within the organization needs to focus on safety for success. CS

HCSS is the trusted leader in construction software for estimating, field entry, project management, safety, digital plans, 3-D drone imaging, fleet management, and telematics. For 35 years, the company has used annual user’s group meetings to listen to customers resulting in innovative software to manage every part of the project lifecycle. With 24/7 instant support and a proven implementation process, HCSS has helped improve operations for over 3,500 companies ranging from $1M to billions in revenue across the United States and Canada (hcss.com).          

  1. https://www.gartner.com/en/human-resources/insights/organizational-change-management

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