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Lack of Training’s Costing the Construction Industry – Here’s How to Tackle It

Toby Graham /

In its educational booklet on how to prevent the top three most common construction injuries, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health stated that worker inexperience and lack of training are at or near the top of the list when it comes to causes. Training is at or near the top of the list of solutions.

Construction employers have traditionally faced many logistical challenges in administering training.

  • Employees are on a job site rather than at a central office where they have access to a computer.
  • Not all employees are at one job site or under one roof.
  • Employees go directly from home to the job site and don’t stop at a central administrative center.
  • Not all employees have Internet access or a way to complete the training from home.
  • Not all employees speak English as a first language.

Employers also have challenges specific to orientation and new-hire training.

The sheer number of hazards in construction make training a logistical nightmare. Your company might have to address double the number of subjects as an auto dealer, for example. The most minimal orientation training takes half a day or longer.

It takes even more time to train in-depth on specific subjects like fall protection, excavation, scaffolding, and confined space entry—a type of training known as competent person or qualified person training. OSHA requires there to be a “competent person” onsite, who can identify the hazards, knows how to correct them, and can act accordingly. We’ll talk more about hazard identification in the next section.

The Cost of Insufficient Training

Human suffering is the most obvious cost. Workers get hurt and die because they are insufficiently trained—especially those that are younger and more inexperienced. They are the ones most in need of training, which points to the need for a more thorough orientation.

For employers, there is the cost of sick time and lost productivity. We discussed those costs in more detail in the previous section on “On-the-Job Injuries.”

For society, there is the cost of treating the resulting injuries. On average, 12% of full-time workers do not have health insurance, but more like 40% to 50% of construction workers are uninsured. Many of them (95% in one study) are also not entitled to workers’ compensation insurance. That’s because their full-time “employers” are misclassifying them as independent contractors. These uninsured and often underpaid workers are unable to pay for their own treatment costs and do not receive sick or vacation time. Society is left to pick up the tab.

How to Tackle Insufficient Training in the Construction Industry

Lack of proper training and education is an industry-wide problem, and you can’t fix it by yourself. But you can do something. Stop thinking of it as an “administration” problem and start thinking of it as a “risk-mitigation” problem.

Move some training online. 
Face-to-face training—or even training someone has to drive to the office to take on a computer—doesn’t work in some circumstances. It’s clunky, time-consuming, and expensive. For many topics, employees should have access from their mobile devices so they can train from home or the job site on their phones or tablets. Online training offers videos and possibly more interactive training than face-to-face training. It can also solve the language barrier problem by offering the same training in different languages. Face-to-face training that’s job-specific and site-specific is still valuable, but consider how much more training an employee could get if it were online.

Train new hires before they go to the job site.
 Require new hires to complete orientation before setting foot on the job for the first time. Make that training count. Make it specific to their type of contracting work. Electricians should have different training for scaffolding work than a plumber, for example.

Use toolbox talks as training opportunities. Though there is no OSHA-required interval for safety meetings, you should schedule them as warranted by the risks associated with that job, jobsite, change in conditions or hazards, and level of worker experience. Use the job hazard analysis as the basis for your content (see recommendations in the next section, “Inability to Identify Hazards”).

Build the cost of training into your budget and bids.

KPA Helps Keep Your Workforce Safe

Keeping workers safe is crucial for any company, but the stakes are particularly high in construction, given that the industry is responsible for one in five job-related deaths. That’s where KPA can help. KPA’s got the training, tools, and talent to protect both your employees and your bottom line. Let us show you how >>

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