10 Topics to Cover When Training New Construction Workers

Tom Whitaker is the Founder & CEO of Harness Software. He is passionate about the convergence of construction and technology. Particularly when it comes to safety on the job site. Tom is a father of three boys and lives near Toronto, Canada.

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Best In Class

Last Updated
May 06, 2021

Prior to 2017, New York City was suffering through what some experts called “an epidemic of construction fatalities”. The city was experiencing a building boom. But construction workers in America’s largest city weren’t being properly trained and they were being injured and killed on the job in record numbers. In 2017 alone there were 12 fatalities on NYC construction sites. The vast majority due to falls. A staggering number jolted the city into action.

Later that year, New York City passed a new law (Local Law 196) that mandated a set number of safety training hours for EVERY person working on a construction site. The total number of required hours ranges from 30 for low-level trades workers to 60 for supervisors. There are several approved courses that workers are obligated to complete from a general OSHA 10 certificate to more in-depth fall protection training.

The motivation behind passing this law stems from the fact that properly trained workers are less likely to get injured or killed on the job and the statistics are proving that to be true. A study conducted on the impacts of Local Law 196 reports that injuries in 2018 were lower than those in 2017 and lower again in 2019, in relation to the increase in the number of active construction projects.

Lack of training isn’t just a problem in New York. All across America, young construction workers are being injured and dying on the job.

As CEO of Harness Software, I’ve seen first hand what top trade contractors across North America do to provide their workers with the training necessary to stay safe and be productive. We’ve provided our clients with effective tools to deliver the right training but more important than any training tool is the training content. And that’s what we’re going to discuss in this article.

What to Include in a Construction Worker Orientation

The most important measure you can take to prevent workplace injuries is a detailed new hire orientation for each worker. The OSHA Alliance Program explains that a proper orientation should cover at a minimum:

1. Overview of Management Commitment to Safety and Employer/Employee Rights and Responsibilities:

  • Explain management’s commitment to safety and health and safety and health written policies
  • Describe the employer’s responsibilities (e.g., General Duty Clause of the OSH Act)
  • Explain the employee responsibilities/rights, the scope of work, and job expectations

2. Explanation and Review of the Company’s Safety and Health Program/Policies including:

  • Review the hazard communication program, including how to find Safety Data Sheets
  • Review the incident reporting and investigations program
  • Identify the company’s competent persons, when required, and their specific roles
  • Review the employee accountability policy
  • Review the drug and alcohol policy
  • Review the discrimination and anti-harassment policy
  • Review the workplace violence prevention policy
  • Review the property damage policy
  • Explain how employees can provide feedback to the company

3. Overview of Applicable Safety and Health Regulatory Requirements, including Employee Workplace Rights:

  • Provide an overview of OSHA requirements/right to file a complaint
  • Explain that employees have a right to a safe and healthful workplace, and to how to report unsafe workplace conditions (e.g., proper chain of command/protocol) and include a statement that there will be no retaliation for reporting them
  • Review applicable state, regional, and local municipality requirements, ordinances, codes, etc., pertaining to safety and health, as necessary by local management and/or the joint employer and worker safety and health committee (if applicable)

4. Explanation of Site-Specific Information:

  • Explain the identified safety and health hazards present, or anticipated hazards on the site (e.g. falls, electrical, confined space, hazardous materials)
  • Explain the unique hazards or special challenges specific to the employee’s specific job, or scope of work

5. Overview of Hazard Identification, Assessment, and Correction:

  • Review how to identify and correct hazards, including when employees have the training, knowledge, and skills to do so
  • Review the Job Hazard Analysis (JHAs)
  • Review identified hazard assessment tools (e.g., inspections, checklists, and reports)
  • Encourage participation in the joint employer and worker safety and health committee
  • Inform employees on how they will be informed of hazard abatements and corrections

6. Overview of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

  • Explain the mandatory/required use of PPE (e.g., hard hat, gloves, goggles, safety vest)
  • Explain that PPE will be tasked according to the scope of work
  • Verify that training on specific PPE, including proper use of safety harnesses, was conducted in a manner/language the employee understands
  • Review the company’s respiratory protection, hearing protection, fall prevention, and other PPE programs, when appropriate

7. Overview of the Verification/Evaluation Process

  • Ensure the information provided has been clearly presented and understood in a language that employees understand (i.e., written, oral, or work practice evaluation)

8. Overview of Reporting Protocols

  • Explain how to report incidents, such as near misses, and include a statement that there will be no retaliation for reporting them
  • Explain that accurate reporting of incidents will be emphasized to continuously improve worker safety and the company’s safety and health program
  • Explain how employees will be provided the results and follow-up actions of incident investigations

9. Explanation of Employee Participation

  • Explain that employees should participate in the safety and health program and how this participation will benefit them and their fellow employees
  • Ensure that front line employees will be included in the safety and health committee (when applicable)
  • Explain that the safety and health orientation will be interactive and encourage employee participation (e.g. worker voice)
  • Ensure that employees have sufficient time for questions and answers
  • Ensure that employees will be given additional training as needed for safely fulfilling their duties

10. Overview of Emergency Procedures:

  • Explain the emergency procedures (medical, spill, fire, evacuation, etc.), including the location of first-aid supplies, fire extinguishers, rally points, etc.
  • Identify where emergency contact numbers may be accessed

How To Make A New Worker Orientation Effective

If your eyes glazed over while you read that list of included topics, you’re not alone. It’s a ton of information to cover. The problem is, if the information isn’t delivered effectively, the new hire is likely to miss some important information that could potentially save their life.

Even worse, they could tune out altogether and the opportunity to foster your company’s commitment to safety will be lost. You can avoid both situations by ensuring your content is delivered in a way that keeps the new worker focused and engaged.

Some ideas to help better the delivery of your safety program include:

  • Varying your delivery techniques (instructor-led, self-directed reading, discussion-based)
  • Using teaching aids (videos, images, graphs, brochure takeaways, etc)
  • Making it hands-on (demonstrations, practical opportunities, and quizzes)

We do a deeper dive into the specifics of these suggestions in our article 5 Ways to Make Safety More Engaging for Construction Workers.

How to Document When Orientations Are Completed

The last but not the least important step is to document the Onboarding Session as complete. In the eyes of all the governing bodies, if it wasn’t documented, as far as they are concerned, it didn’t happen.

Some companies opt to record the training in a spreadsheet, others hand out actual paper certificates. The strongest record though is a digital one. We recommend using technology such as a safety management system to record and track all training certifications for all your employees. To read more and even watch a demo about how Harness helps companies track training, click here.