HSE Inductions on Construction Sites

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HSE site induction…We’ve all done them right? Having a strong HSE induction program in place is one of the most important aspects of a successful HSE campaign. Unfortunately the reality is that many sites fail in properly inducting new employees resulting in them not being fully aware of what to expect on site, what the high risk activities are or even worse, what to do in case of emergency. Over years of both attending inductions as well as facilitating them I have identified a few aspects that are the biggest culprits responsible for the failure of induction programs.

Too Generic

Ask yourself the following question…. How many times have I reviewed my HSE induction material during my last project?

Most large construction firms have a generic HSE induction program that is utilized on all their construction sites. This type of induction will cover your basic risks such as PPE compliance, Signage, HCS, Working at heights etc. The important thing to remember is that your site is an ever-changing entity with risks and hazards constantly moving up and down the ranks. So how can you still present new employees with the same induction 8 months after you started the project?  You may have had accidents/incidents, your manpower has increased and new systems of work may have been implemented…so it does not make sense to still be conducting the same induction, does it? Each induction should as a minimum contain the following supplementary information (in addition to the usual PPE, signage etc.)

-         Current Manpower on site

-         Stage of the project.

-         Site Specific HSE Goals and Objectives.

-         Top 5 High Risk activities as well as a 30 day look ahead.

-         Injury Statistics and lessons learned.

-         Cardinal Site rules. (Very Important! These are the “fatal non compliance's” that will result in you being removed from site immediately.)

 Incompetent/Inexperienced facilitator.

You can have the best material available but if you do not have a facilitator with the knowledge and the skill to convey a message effectively, then you have lost the battle. The attendees must be engaged and encouraged to take part in discussion. Having someone mumble through slides or reading from a booklet is not only ineffective but does not do much in instilling a sense of seriousness when it comes to the safety of employees on your project. The saying “First impressions last” is especially true when it comes to site inductions. It is imperative that the first interaction with new employees is both a positive one and one that leaves the attendees with a clear understanding of the seriousness of safety on your project.

Lack of Management Commitment

Not too long ago I attended a construction site safety induction within a reputable petrochemical company. I was asked to conduct a routine HSE audit on one of our teams that were busy with a small job on the project. We were about 20 attendees and consisted of mostly artisans and riggers. Although the content of the induction was pretty average, the presenter was good in making sure we were engaged.  About 10 min into the induction a man opened the door, looked at the presenter and pointed to his watch.  The door closed and the induction went into overdrive. The presenter rushed through the slides at a blinding pace and it was clear that he was anxious. Another 5 minutes passed and the door opened a second time with the same man showing “5” with his right hand and closed the door, clearly very agitated. I would estimate we skipped about 10 or 12 slides and the induction that was supposed to be 1 hour was completed in about 20 minutes. I found out later that the man interrupting the induction was actually the client construction manager.  It is a sad reality that we still have managers such as this one in charge of construction sites.

It has been proven over and over that the key to any successful HSE campaign is management commitment. The main message that we all received during this induction was that safety is not a priority and the job needs to go on. It would have been better to not conduct the induction at all than to leave people with this message.

Finally…the message I would like to share with all my HSE colleagues is that it is imperative to instill the correct HSE tone on your project from the word go. Don’t just conduct your HSE induction because your HSE plan states that it needs to be done. If the wrong message is conveyed to new employees during induction you will have a very long and hard road ahead trying to change their perception.