A recent survey of construction companies that conduct an in-depth indoctrination of new employees into the safety culture, systems and processes experience nearly 50 percent lower incident rates than companies that limit their orientations to basic safety and health compliance topics.
Anecdotally, we know that investing in the workforce pays off for employers. But do we know how much of that investment is returned to the bottom line?
According to the results of Associated Builders and Contractors’ 2019 Workforce Development Survey, ABC members invested $1.6 billion to educate their employees in 2018, up from $1.1 billion in 2013. The 45 percent increase in spending resulted in nearly twice as many course attendees - more than 980,000 - receiving craft, leadership and safety education to advance their careers in commercial and industrial construction.
Companies that conduct an in-depth indoctrination of new employees into the safety culture, systems and processes based on a documented orientation process experience nearly 50 percent lower incident rates than companies that limit their orientations to basic safety and health compliance topics. The safety management system becomes even more valued when the CEO or senior leadership delivers that introduction to the company’s safety culture to new workers and certain core values are shared with new hires, including:
- Safety commitment, expectations and responsibilities
- Workplace safety rules specific to the site and hazards
- Hazard, injury and emergency communication and reporting procedures
- Protective gear/safety skills demonstrations
- Assignment of a safety mentor to each new hire until orientation is complete
- Performance evaluation and recordkeeping.
With businesses in the United States shelling out $1 billion per week for injuries and illnesses causing six or more days away from work - often the types of injuries that are predominant in the construction industry - reducing injuries by even 10 percent could have a positive impact on the bottom line.
The members of ABC recognize the value of training and workforce development in general and safety training specifically, says Greg Sizemore, ABC’s vice president of health, safety, education and workforce development. “The increase in spending on education demonstrates ABC member contractors’ commitment to developing employees, which is producing results in recruiting and retaining a skilled, safe and productive workforce. With more than 90 percent of members reporting a worker shortage and construction spending at near-record highs, this is the time to invest in our people, expand career opportunities and secure the workforce of the future.”
ABC member contractors invest an average of $117,679, or 8.3 percent of payroll, on workforce development and education annually. Safety education accounted for the greatest share of spending at 48 percent, or $1,306 per employee. ABC contractor members provided safety education to nearly 600,000 course attendees in 2018.
Trade/craft personnel accounted for more than two-thirds of those receiving education. On average, member construction firms invest in trade/craft education for 122 employees per year at a per-person cost of $2,377. The vast majority of ABC member contractors — 85 percent —se on-the-job training as part of their workforce development program for trade/craft employees. In addition, the number of employees enrolled in U.S. Department of Labor-registered and industry-recognized apprenticeship programs at member companies has doubled since 2013.
Overall, 30 percent of education was targeted at senior leaders, project managers and field managers/superintendents. The use of online education doubled from less than 10 percent in 2013 to more than 20 percent in 2018.
ABC estimates that 8.2 million people were employed by the U.S. construction industry last year, and an additional 500,000 people will need to be hired in 2019 to meet the current backlog of construction projects — which stood at to 8.8 months in February 2019, according to ABC’s Construction Backlog Indicator — and future spending expectations. ABC’s latest Construction Confidence Indicator found that nearly 70 percent of contractors expect to increase staffing levels in the next six months.
Sandy Smith is global content lead for Intelex Technologies Inc. An award-winning journalist, Smith has written about occupational safety and health and the environment for 25 years and was the content director for EHS Today and SafetyOnline.
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