No construction project is quite like the next, but they do have one thing in common — unpredictability. Construction is always full of surprises. But with a little help from technology, strong leadership skills, and a focus on safety, your projects will go much more smoothly, and more importantly, keep your workers safe. In this article, we’re going to offer three pieces of advice and some resources to help you follow them.
#1: Gain access to technology.
The lightning-fast advancement of new construction gadgets and software is exciting, but it also opens the door for plenty of questions. When you read about the latest and greatest in construction tech, you might think, “Will this actually help me with my job?” or “Neat, but how much would that cost me?”
Investing in new technology can risky and cost prohibitive. The workaround? Hire a consultant who has already made the leap. Here are some examples of tech you don’t necessarily need to purchase yourself, but you might want to find a consultant who has.
Project management software
Construction project management software is a game-changer. When operated by someone who knows how to put all the features to good use, project management software can help senior-level staff communicate, share documents, shift schedules, track deliveries, and much more. And when data is organized, projects go smoothly — a benefit your whole crew will appreciate.
If you sub out project management services, look for consultants with experience using top software for construction. Here are a few examples of popular project software for construction:
Nothing gives you a bird’s eye view of a job site better than a great aerial photo. However, photographs provided by a local municipality or pulled from Google Earth are rarely up to date. Enter: drones. The initial excitement over the “futuristic” technology has finally settled, giving construction professionals the opportunity to explore ways to make unmanned aircraft systems work in their favor. The tiny airborne vehicles can scope out construction sites, identify potential hazards, help you keep tabs on workers out of eyeshot — and the list goes on.
There are strict Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines for drones, but smaller “hobby” drones can often fly without restrictions and still be extremely beneficial to construction companies.
Eager to see how a drone can assist on your next project? Contact us to talk to one of our licensed drone operators.
Wearable technology isn’t commonplace on construction sites quite yet, but given its strong implications for improving worker safety, it’s worth giving a shot.
Take the Spot-R clip for example. When a worker enters a worksite, they clip on the Spot-R, connecting them to a central network that you can supervise remotely. If one of your employees slips, trips, or falls, the clip senses the incident, alerting you immediately of their location. Additionally, workers can simply push a button on the clip if they get hurt or notice a hazard. In either case, using the clip will ensure you know about accidents or dangerous situations much quicker than you would using traditional methods like phone calls or word of mouth.
The Spot-R is just one example of wearable tech in the construction industry, and might not be practical in your situation. However, as wearable tech gains footing, chances are something already exists or is being developed that could be invaluable to you. To keep up, create a Google alert for “wearable technology construction” or sign up for a newsletter from a popular construction publication like Construction Dive.
#2: Constantly sharpen your leadership skills.
Throughout your career, you’ll probably experience your fair share of missteps. However, there’s a silver lining to mistakes of all sizes — invaluable learning opportunities.
An article from Harvard Business Review says, “To consider [small process failures] bad is not just a misunderstanding of how complex systems work; it is counterproductive. Avoiding consequential failures means rapidly identifying and correcting small failures.”
So, as soon as a failure is recognized and processed (the HBR article does a fantastic job of outlining the whole process), communicate the situation to your employees without placing superficial blame (“X happened because Y procedure wasn’t followed”). Use the resulting stories during a toolbox talk, send it out in an email, or chat about it in the field. Any way you choose to spread these failure stories, someone is sure to pull a valuable lesson from them.
Not all the stories you tell your workers have to be doom and gloom — teams can learn plenty from successes as well.
Ways to prevent turnover in new hires
The construction industry is booming, but also experiencing a severe shortage of skilled laborers. As such, it’s critical to retain current workers, paying special attention to new hires.
If you have a say in the hiring process, be selective of who you hire and also push for competitive compensation packages. Both are powerful ways to retain employees and ensure they’re a good cultural fit. Even without hiring power, you can still play a huge role in reducing turnover in new employees.
A couple tips:
- Each time a new face enters the team, establish an open-door policy. An open line of communication will help keep your new workers engaged, develop mutual trust, and increase employee retention.
- Leverage your workforce’s know-how. Partner entry-level workers with more seasoned staff who don’t mind showing them the ropes — that way, newbies don’t feel like they’ve been thrown into the deep end (or worse, a shark tank).
A network of subcontractors
Even with a highly experienced and skillful dream team, during some projects you’re bound to be faced with tasks that are time-consuming or require a specialized skill set to complete. That’s when a solid professional network of reliable subcontractors comes in handy.
These specialists often partner with construction professionals to move projects along:
- EHS consultants
Building a network doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s worth the effort. Once you find people you like working with, you can use them for multiple projects, bounce ideas off them, and know with confidence that you’ll get consistent, quality results every time.
A conference you attend every year
We just talked a big game about networks, but where are you supposed to make those connections? Conferences and trade shows are designed for networking, making them a great starting point for building a diverse network.
There are plenty of trade shows and conferences geared towards the construction industry. You might need to attend a few shows before finding an event you want to attend each year, but once you do, you’ll be able to make the most out of your time there. Aside from the obvious networking benefit of attending conferences, you’ll also learn invaluable information about the construction industry like emerging trends, technology, and how to grow your business.
#3. Maintain a strong focus on safety.
Comprehensive training programs
An EHS manager’s playbook wouldn’t be complete without the “T” word: training. A well-trained staff knows what hazards to look out for, how to report injuries and swiftly react to dangerous situations, and many other things that can help prevent accidents and appropriately respond when they do happen.
Before each project, refresh your staff on basic safety procedures and provide site-specific training when necessary. Training should never stop at an annual or even project-based refresher course — safety talks should become part of a daily routine. Toolbox talks are an excellent way to prioritize safety on a daily basis.
Basic first aid competency
Construction is an inherently dangerous industry. In fact, 2011 research from the Center for Construction Research and Training found that over a 45-year career, a construction worker has a 75 percent likelihood of experiencing a disabling injury and a 1-in-200 chance of being fatally injured on the job. With stakes that high, having basic first aid knowledge is an absolute must.
First aid is more than knowing how to clean out and dress a wound — although that’s important, too. At the very least, you (and others on your team) should know how to perform the following procedures:
- Perform CPR
- Stop someone from choking
- Administer an EpiPen
- Quickly stop bleeding and dress a wound
- Stabilize someone’s head, neck, and back, especially important after a fall
- Handle someone in shock
- Treat hypo- and hyperthermia
This list might seem daunting, but proper first aid can mean the difference between life and death in serious situations.
Knowing when to take a break
Last but certainly not least, effective EHS managers need to know when to take a break from the construction site. If you’re working long hours or night shifts, or doing physically and mentally demanding tasks every day, know your limits and learn to recognize signs of burnout or fatigue.
- Tiredness, even to the point of falling asleep against your will
- Reduced alertness, concentration, and memory
- Increased susceptibility to illness
Fatigue is an easy trap to fall into, especially when you have a strict construction schedule to keep. That said, try to keep things in perspective: no deadline is worth falling asleep at the wheel over.
EHS managers are loaded with responsibilities, especially on dangerous construction sites. If you need support, contact us to learn more about our environmental, health and safety, and surveying services.