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The Importance of Task-Specific Safety Training in the Construction Industry

Task-specific safety training is an important piece of the safety puzzle in construction that is often overlooked. Construction laborers often perform a variety of different tasks during a given day, and each of these tasks can present their own hazards.

Task-specific training goes hand-in-hand with several other elements of an effective safety program. These include pre-job risk assessments, step-by-step Job Safety Analysis (JSA), safety toolbox talks, the use of control banding and the hierarchy of controls and effective incident investigations. Used together, these tools can prepare workers and supervisors to recognize hazards and correct them as they happen.

OSHA Safety Training Requirements

Federal OSHA training standards require employers to conduct new hire training, safety training, standard-specific training and task-specific training. On average, construction companies spend about 3.6 percent of their budgets on injuries, but only 2.6 percent on safety training. For every dollar spent on safety and health programs, employers save about five times that amount.

Between 2011 and 2019, 1.9 million new workers entered the construction industry. During that same time period, construction worker fatalities climbed by 41 percent. With the recent passage of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, construction work will only increase, meaning new workers and new hazards.
Here are several ways task-specific safety training can be developed and implemented on your site:

  1. Assess when additional training is needed. Task-specific training must be delivered when employees and supervisors face new tasks on the jobsite. Consider whether changes to the work environment could eliminate or reduce risk for all workers, then assess workers’ knowledge before work begins.
  2. Identify workplace safety training needs. Effective training programs address gaps in workers’ knowledge about proper procedures or equipment usage. Identify the specific training required to address the knowledge gap.
  3. Identify safety training goals and objectives. Learning objectives must be clear and measurable so the effectiveness of the training can be evaluated. Training content should be based on workers’ most important needs. Training objectives should spell out the desired skill or behavior using specific, action-oriented language.
  4. Create a training program that includes these four characteristics:
    • Accurate. Training materials should be prepared by qualified individuals and updated as needed.
    • Credible. Training facilitators should have a general safety and health background or be a subject matter expert in a health or safety field.
    • Clear. Training programs must be clear and understandable to the participant and in a language they understand.
    • Practical. Training programs should present information, ideas and skills that participants see as directly useful to their work.
  5. Conduct safety training. Begin with an overview of what the training will include. Ensure training is related to the workers’ experience. Encourage participation during discussion to keep employees engaged and motivated. Hands-on practice and real-life examples help workers retain information.
  6. Audit and improve the safety training program. Gather feedback from workers anonymously and look for ways to improve future training sessions. Each step of the training program should be examined to determine what gaps exist.

Training within the LIUNA Network

The LIUNA Training and Education Fund has invested time and resources to be prepared for the next wave of apprentices and the challenges that come with new projects and new technology. As one of the only trade organizations to receive independent, third-party accreditation for its curriculum, training provided by the LIUNA Training and Education Fund is second to none. In LIUNA Training programs, LIUNA members are engaged learners, receive quality hands-on training and acquire the skills they need to succeed and stay safe on the job.

Today’s construction workforce includes workers from multiple generations that differ widely in experience, knowledge and training. Task-based training that makes use of video technology and smartphones can help close knowledge gaps for workers and create more productive and efficient teams.

Investing in task-specific training is time and money well spent. For more information on task-based training in construction, contact the LHSFNA’s Occupational Safety and Health Division at 202-628-5465 or visit us at lhsfna.org.

[Ryan Papariello is the Fund’s Safety and Health Specialist.]

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