Here are the top 3 reasons why the construction industry continues to have some of the highest worker’s compensation rates, musculoskeletal injuries and employee lost time:
1. High Physical Demands
2. Productivity Pressures/ Work Pace
3. Supervisors are technicians, not necessarily leaders.
The first two reasons should be familiar and there are some intuitive solutions for these; offer customized ergonomic training at the worker level and ensure messaging that supports a productivity pace that does not sacrifice safety. The third reason may not be as recognized as the first two, and the solution is not being well implemented.
Safety professionals in construction continue to struggle with changing worker behaviour, trying to impress upon the workers, the importance of following safe work procedures and using ergonomics to guide manual material handling, prevent injuries, workers compensation claims, and lost time.
Becoming a skilled bricklayer, concrete worker, drywaller, or other tradesman, requires training and many years of experience. Workers who demonstrate proficient skills, save time and get the work done quickly, are often promoted to Lead Hand, Foreman or Supervisor.
In other industries, supervisors are promoted and offered leadership training to ensure they demonstrate desired corporate behaviours that will lead their team to success. In construction, this is not a routine practice and instead supervisors are often the most skilled technicians, are able to follow productivity focused protocols, and provide direction to their crew....but do not necessary know how to lead, and therefore may not recognize the influence that their behaviour has on their crew. If the Lead Hand on the site is taking short cuts, not using the appropriate tools, not wearing PPE or following safety procedures in every instance, the message to the crew will be that these behaviours are condoned, regardless of the safety messaging they are sending their workers verbally.
Some construction companies have identified the leadership element and are promoting, hiring, and training supervisors with proven leadership skills and are successfully reducing their injuries. More research is needed to evaluate if leadership training for construction supervisors can be correlated to the reduction of injuries, but from what has been proven in the corporate office based workplace, it can change behaviour. This leadership tool, coupled with customized ergonomic training at the worker level and safety messaging that supports a productivity pace that does not sacrifice safety, will surely reduce costly musculoskeletal injuries on the construction site.