Dealing with new employees on construction sites.

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by Brad Humphrey

Working in the construction industry is inherently dangerous; it’s standard for employees to work at a height, in a hazardous area or with high-powered equipment. In an industry that exposes even seasoned employees at risk on a daily basis, it’s especially important to understand the increased risks to new employees. New-hire construction workers experience work-related injuries more frequently than any other type of employee. These injuries not only put your newest and most vulnerable employees at risk, but they can also impact the financial stability of your business. Employees in their first month on the job have more than 3 times the risk for a lost-time injury than workers who have been at their job for more than a year, according to research from the American-based Institute for Work & Health.

Since there are a variety of factors that impact new-hire safety in construction (organizational safety culture/climate, past experiences, worker attitudes and project scope), it’s essential that you take the time to recognize job site hazards and prepare new-hire employees for all types of work, equipment and risk. Any new employee coming into your organization for the first time will require an introduction to the way your organization values safety and conducts business. Every new hire deserves the opportunity to perform his or her job safely.

How can you ensure your new employees are given the best possible opportunity to work safe?

  1. Create strong visuals for learning. Take good pictures and videos of your workers performing work processes. Also, create videos of each of the hand tools and equipment your company uses and how to properly use them. Review these pictures and videos with new workers to ensure they are seeing things the way you want them to.
  2. Incorporate hands-on learning. Putting a picture into a laborer’s head is a great beginning. The real secret, however, is getting the employee’s hands actually working the tool or equipment or following the correct work process. Most of our construction workers today are hands-on learners so it will be wise for you to create a demonstration area at your office or yard. Have your new workers demonstrate their techniques under the careful eyes of those craftsmen who know your company’s preferred techniques and standard operating procedures.
  3. Provide personal coaching. You may want to pair your construction challenged worker with one of your better skilled workers for the first 30 days. Time spent this way early will gain you a more profitable return later.
  4. Turn new workers into trainers ASAP. Sounds crazy doesn’t it? Not really if you think about it. Most of us really don’t perfect our efforts until we are pressured to teach someone else. Then, all of that learning and experimenting must be brought to a final closure, as we are counted on to help someone else along.
  5. Be patient, listen and answer questions … repeatedly. No secret here, but it takes great patience with the construction challenged worker. Learn to “count to 10” or to chew a straw when training; remember, you will not win over a new employee or encourage him or her to improve if you are constantly yelling, swearing at them or taking over their efforts. Most new workers just have not had any familiarity with thinking mechanically, much less working that way.