Construction and Human Resources

A case for construction manager-led safety training

July 13, 2016
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John Parker. Courtesy Elzinga & Volkers

Anybody familiar with construction safety will recognize the term “responsible individual” as the person on a job site, or within an organization, who is responsible for and knowledgeable of proper safety techniques.

Often, these responsible individuals are crew leaders and supervisors employed by the controlling contractor or construction manager on site. If it typically falls to the controlling contractor to manage the safety of the project site, who’s responsibility is it to provide safety training and education to the trades?

I would advocate that the construction manager should have an active role in the training and education of the trades on site, which will also positively impact their own businesses.

Safety training for employees is traditionally the responsibility of each individual organization. A construction manager-led program would not replace that entirely, but there are many direct benefits to supplementing the training that a trade contractor already provides its employees. CM-led training provides a platform for consistency for all companies that will be on the job site together. Trades will hear the same, consistent message and be aware of all job site safety practices, not just those that affect their area of concentration. CM-led training also allows the controlling contractor to provide specific information, regulations and rules to all of the trades at the same time, which should reduce the amount of time needed for enforcement on the site.

CM-led safety training can also have a number of indirect benefits for the construction manager. Investment in the training of your trade contractors will endear these organizations to you and connect your organizations on a new level. This connection will increase information exchange between organizations, opening yourself up to leads on new work, market conditions and intelligence about your competitors.

In difficult bidding climates, you may find that trades contractors will reserve workload capacity for you because of your investment in them. Many construction managers underestimate the advantage of being a “contractor of choice” by the local trade market.

So what does CM-led safety training look like? One example is the recent Alive365 event held in Grand Rapids by our firm, a construction manager with more than 150 employees.

The event featured a variety of free safety training sessions open to trade contractors from all around Michigan. The event started with a three-hour Symposium on Safety, featuring speakers from state regulatory agencies, trade associations and local universities. Daily trainings followed in many areas including aerial lift certification, CPR and confined space training. In total, Alive365 directly trained more than 450 individuals from 78 companies.

If your organization is interested in hosting CM-led safety training, there are a few necessary components to be successful. The first is a commitment from leadership. Without support from the leadership of your organization, your safety training program may lack the resources and commitment it needs to have a real impact.

Secondly, you must have a sincere desire to help your partners and invest in the industry as a whole. Construction managers that lack this emotional connection may come off as authoritative rather than as a coach or true partner in the process.

The recent Alive365 held in West Michigan is just one example of a CM-led safety training program, but there are many smaller ways in which your organization can impact the companies on your project site.

Consider forming a project-specific safety committee made up of individuals from each trade. This group can organize safety training on specific topics to be shared throughout the entire job site. A construction manager can also consider hosting recurring safety certifications, like powder-actuated tools and hazardous materials training, on their job sites.

As a CM, you would have a captive audience on your project site and can leverage the size of the group with training companies for better pricing. Even when the cost of training is shared among all of the companies, when the CM takes the lead and sets the example, safety training is more effective and project sites are safer.

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