By Brad Kneeskern
Construction professionals operate under the watchful eye of numerous federal, state, and local government agencies committed to ensuring the utmost safety on job sites. Employers in the construction industry are acutely aware of the potential risks that accompany safety violations, from hefty fines to, most importantly, the safety and well-being of their employees.
The problem—as anyone who’s ever tried organizing a construction safety meeting in the field will tell you—is the logistical nightmare of getting everyone up-to-date with their training and certifications. Furthermore, even if you manage 100 percent attendance at one session, how do you keep each employee engaged or prove their participation? Are you confident their other certifications haven’t expired? What if their friend signed their name on the sign-up sheet?
Issues like the above are alarmingly common in the construction industry but aren’t always noticeable in the moment, particularly for larger teams and companies with many employees to track. Technology can help mitigate safety and compliance hurdles and provide the foundation for long-term solutions to industry-wide challenges.
The snowball effect: Why growing companies must act early
Leading a small team of employees drastically differs from managing dozens or hundreds of workers. It can be easier to identify and address emerging issues quickly, and trust and communication are streamlined since fewer levels of management separate leadership from field employees. The same is true on the other end of the spectrum. For instance, you’re much more likely to actively participate in a company safety meeting if you’re one of five employees as opposed to one of 100.
While firms on the rise may feel like their safety and compliance programs are under control, seemingly minor problems can grow exponentially as the construction business scales. For this reason, organizations should implement solutions long before small issues develop into perfect storms for worksite safety risks and noncompliance penalties.
Unraveling safety and compliance barriers
Engagement and accessibility
Both new and seasoned employees must comply with standards and stay up-to-date with training, regulations, and certifications from various agencies. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) alone has 15 high-level categories for general safety and health provisions under construction’s US Code of Federal Regulations.
To qualify for jobs and remain compliant, construction professionals are subject to hours upon hours of training sessions that, while vital to a safe workplace, are frankly not always that engaging. Motivating employees to complete additional — even the required — work can feel like delivering bad news. However, they’re much more likely to actively pay attention and participate if they receive individualized instruction and the materials are easy to access.
A learning management system (LMS) gives construction companies needed flexibility when it comes to workplace training and maintaining construction HR compliance. An LMS is used to house and deliver training and can work on a computer, kiosk or mobile device. Employees can complete required training and update certifications from their preferred devices 24/7, and the LMS records completion and any certifications without any additional administrative work from the employer.
In addition, agencies like OSHA want companies to succeed and have taken measures to make the process easier for workers. For OSHA safety requirements specifically, companies can pair their LMS with approved training developed by industry experts, such as ClickSafety. These courses are already OSHA-approved and are automatically updated.
The construction industry relies heavily on bilingual workers, with Spanish leading as the most common foreign language spoken by construction workers. Digitizing the training experience with an LMS allows employees to receive training in their preferred language. Removing language barriers ensures employees receive the most impactful instruction and can continually explore professional development opportunities without needing a translator or separate non-English sessions.
Consider a construction firm that recently held a mandatory company-wide OSHA-10 training. Let’s also say they had perfect attendance, and everyone properly completed the necessary documentation to update their certifications. That’s one mandatory certification that’s now up-to-date. What about the others?
While individual employees are responsible for tracking their expiration and renewal dates, it’s the construction company that will be penalized — taking a hit to both its bottom line and brand reputation — for each non-compliant employee.
An LMS allows users to efficiently track training completions and certifications for compliance and even set up alerts to notify employees and employers of upcoming expirations. Required training can be assigned and accessed through the employee portal 24/7, ensuring that every person on a job is educated on the best practices and regulations to keep the workplace injury-free.
Recording safety incidents
Accidents happen, and there’s no denying that construction can be a potentially dangerous job, which is why added safety measures and training are so vital. When safety violations, injuries or fatalities do happen, it’s crucial to report the incident adequately.
Using cloud-based solutions to transition from manual to digital recordkeeping can streamline data collection and empower decision-makers to improve job site conditions by analyzing real-time safety data and trends. Companies can also adopt software that allows supervisors to record in-the-field conditions electronically. This encourages more accurate reporting since the information can be filled out in the moment rather than at the end of the work day, potentially hours after an incident occurred. It can also enhance project-based performance reviews by enabling supervisors to identify areas for improvement and give regular feedback on safety.
In addition, storing reports and training certifications in the cloud instead of a filing cabinet makes it easier to access documentation if OSHA comes calling. This digital solution significantly reduces the risk of misplaced files or clerical errors.
A safer future
Safety isn’t taken lightly in the construction industry. In fact, the consequences for violations and noncompliance are only getting steeper. This year, OSHA increased the maximum penalties for serious and other-than-serious violations from $14,502 per violation to $15,625 per violation. The maximum penalty for willful or repeated violations also increased from $145,027 per violation to $156,259 per violation.
Maintaining and enforcing strict safety standards has long presented challenges for both construction firms and their employees, but technology is cleverly evolving to simplify and streamline safety processes. Now, companies need only open their eyes to the underlying challenges hurting their efforts and implement long-term solutions to ensure their sites are as safe as possible.
Brad Kneeskern is Vice President of Account Management at Arcoro, a provider of HR management solutions for the construction industry. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.