Skill Level Intermediate
- Welcome back, Jim Rogers here, continuing my discussion on issues facing the construction industry. And in this episode of my weekly series, I'm continuing the safety topic, and I'll be talking specifically about the types of training and policies that I think are needed by project management personnel. In my previous episodes, I discussed safety issues and safety training, and I talked about two different types of training that our craft workers need to have. In this episode, I'm gonna look at what type of training is needed for the people who manage the project site and the trades, rather than those individual workers.
When you manage the project site, you need training that is more closely related to that general hazard awareness training that I described in previous episodes. You don't need task specific training, because you don't directly manage workers at that task level, you manage subcontractors. Don't get me wrong here, you still need training. You cannot just put this all off on the trades. Remember that one of the reasons the construction manager's job exists is to coordinate the trades and resolve issues that arise between them.
That means you need to understand the safety issues, so you can work to resolve problems or avoid them in the first place. Your training should consist of hazard identification and rules and regulations. You most likely need this to cover a broad range of topics, too, everything from excavating and trench safety, to fall protection and electrical safety. Now why do you need all of that? Well let me stop for a minute, and give you my perspective on who's responsible for safety on a construction site. To me that answer is simple. Everyone's responsible for safety on a construction site.
And if you've followed this series, you might remember me alluding to this a few times, when I discussed having everyone being able to report near misses and the usefulness of having this aggregated data. If you work for the general contractor, and you're responsible for managing the trades on your project, you need to be prepared to manage their safety, as well as their quality and productivity. Do you need to be able to tell every trade exactly how to do their job correctly? No, of course not, that's why you hire subcontractors or trade contractors that are experts in their field.
But you do need to be able to spot when they're doing something that's unsafe, just like you're expected to recognize when their work's not up to the quality standards on the project. And you definitely need to be able to spot when the work is causing safety concerns for another trade. Don't fall into the way of thinking that says you'll leave the safety issues to the company's safety officer, either. That's poor management. I've already established here in this series, that safety, quality, and productivity are inextricably linked, and that when you neglect one of these elements, the others will suffer.
When you're walking your project, you need to be prepared, trained, and equipped to handle all three of these elements, not just two. When you spot a trade contractor doing something unsafe, you need to say something. From a personal and emotional standpoint, you don't want to walk by and look the other way, only to hear later that someone got hurt, and you might have been able to prevent it if you'd stopped and said something. From a business and project standpoint, you don't want a serious injury to slow your project, and you don't want the negative press and attention.
And you really don't want people thinking you have an unsafe job site, because the good workers will do everything in their power to stay away, and believe me, they do that. Those really good workers, the ones you want manning your project, they don't like to work in places that they see as unsafe. They will go somewhere else, leaving you with either a shortage of workers, or a job site full of the workers that create more problems than they solve. Don't look the other way. Get trained in hazard recognition, and do your best to stop any unsafe behaviors you see on the project every time you're on the site.
Remember my lesson on near misses and tracking leading indicators, too. If it's a small issue, say something, correct the behavior, record it, and then move on. But if it's something you want the trade contractor's management to follow up on, have a system in place like I've discussed several times before in this series, that allows you to record the issue, and then assign it to someone for followup. If it's an issue that needs work stopped to prevent a possible incident or tragedy, be prepared to stop the work.
This is where your training really comes into play, because it's tough sometimes to be the one that stands up and says you know what, this is not safe, and you have not convinced me that you have the knowledge or the tools, or the equipment out here to make it safe, so I'm shutting you down until I'm convinced the operation will be corrected and done safely. In fact sometimes that's really difficult. It stops work, and probably costs someone some money. But none of that matters if the alternative is a serious injury. That will stop work longer, it'll cost more money, and it'll have a lasting emotional effect.
In the next segment, I'll take a deeper dive into this issue of safety for project management personnel, by looking at some examples of how to solve safety issues that one trade causes for another trade. Until then, keep learning, as you continue on your path to become a better construction management professional.