On-Boarding for Safety

Accident safety statistics in the construction industry have long pointed to a serious problem with an increased frequency of accidents on the job site for new hires. One CII member reported that they are seeing this borne out on a number of work sites. On one site over a recent two-week period there were 10 reportable safety accidents for employees with 6 weeks or less on site vs. 7 for those with a year or more experience. The statistics reflect the two ends of construction safety: those with little experience have higher risk – and those with experience over time likewise can have increases in accidents due to inattention, getting into routines and losing their safety focus.

In their monthly meeting this August, CII Safety CBA members noted that the stresses of COVID-19 are appearing as a factor in both office and construction sites, adding to increased safety incidents.  Worries about personal or family health or finances during this on-going crisis are causing workers to lose focus on common safety practices ranging from safety harnesses to the misuse of construction tools. This has been further exacerbated by COVID-19 infections, causing many companies to scramble to find replacement craft workers when a team is sidelined for several weeks when one or more members test positive or come down with COVID-19.
Addressing Safety During On-Boarding

 Here are a few actions being taken by Safety CBA members to address this problem:

  • Create and put in place a “Short Service Worker Safety Program.” Many CII member companies are reducing the impact of COVID-19 on their construction sites by creating work crew pods that only interact on site with those workers in their own group. Several CII members have found themselves having to replace those “pods” with other craft workers when a member of that group tests positive or comes down with COVID-19. Recognizing the inherent increased safety risks to new people on an established work site, one firm has created a “Short Service Worker Safety Program” as an integral part of their on-boarding of new workers to the construction site.
  • Assign a Mentor. Many CII members have long included in their on-boarding programs the assigning of a mentor to each new worker – someone with years of experience in the particular trade/craft skill set being applied. During COVID-19, companies have reported benefits from mentors helping new workers fully understand the importance of safety practices during the COVID-19 crisis. The mentoring phase ranges in length from five weeks or more and mentors have been assigned to employees who have been on site for some time but who have demonstrated “bad habits.”  For some companies even a new supervisor goes through mentoring.
  • “The Orange Sticker.” A common practice getting additional attention during COVID-19 is the use of identification stickers worn on the hardhats of new workers. This helps with mentoring and forms a source of pride in workers when after an evaluation period the sticker can be removed. 
  • Translators. Again exacerbated by COVID-19 and the need to swap out work teams, companies are finding the practice of bringing translators on board to aid in the on-boarding of new or substitute employees is paying dividends in safety training and in getting the points across of the effective use of PPE and social distancing on and off the job site.
  • Working with Subcontractors. Owners and EPC members of CII have long had in place good safety programs, but the same is less true of the subcontractors which are hired to work on a project. Strong attention should be paid to not just the safety record of subcontractors but also to what their on-boarding program entails. How well safety practices (and now COVID-19 protections) are integrated and executed by these subcontractors is of equal importance to their overall safety record.
  • Refresher programs. Especially true during the distractions of COVID-19, safety refresher courses both live and virtual are proving to be effective tools to keep job site and office employees as safe as possible. 
The CII Safety CBA hopes that the above practices provide some food for thought as your employees come back to work and as we commemorate National Construction Safety Week. The CBA also invites you to share any other practices with them which we could incorporate into future blogs. You are always welcome to join the Safety CBA in one of their upcoming meetings. They meet virtually on the second Wednesday of every month at 10 am Central. Contact information and a listing of future meeting topics are available on the CBA homepage

Stay Safe!

Date posted: September 15, 2020