Leadership Training Initiative for Construction Workers Strives to Create Safer Work Environments

Feb. 25, 2011
Colorado State University researchers, in partnership with construction organizations including the Mechanical Contractors Association (MCA) of Chicago, will lead a new initiative to enhance key leadership characteristics among construction workers that are critical for a safe work environment.

“Anything we can do to help meaningfully change safety practices in the workplace is a worthwhile endeavor,” said Stephen Lamb, executive vice president of MCA Chicago. “This project is particularly good because it is research-based, and is in conjunction with an institution that has a proven track record.”

Project LeAD – Learning, Assessment and Development – grew out of two projects, Proactive Management and Safe Talk, which developed multi-level safety communication and feedback training for construction foremen and workers. Designed to supplement technical safety training with skills on how to communicate about safety, these programs cover how to give and receive feedback on the job, how to share near-misses in a way that others can learn from, how to deal with conflict management situations at work and how to conduct jobsite training without interrupting work.

The topics, leaders said, were built based on several focus groups, surveys and mock trainings with workers and management. The training is 6 hours, and researchers found it is most appropriate for second- and third-year apprentices.

“Through the Safe Talk and Proactive Management projects, we learned that in order to influence safety, we have to have commitment from the top,” said Krista Hoffmeister of the Safety Management Applied Research Team at Colorado State University. “We learned that leaders play a critical role in the improvement of jobsite safety.”

The project is funded with a grant from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) through the Center for Construction Research and Training. The study is expected to result in a leadership training program that will include role playing, on-the-job practice, goal setting, personal assessment and feedback. The unions and mechanical contractors associations, as well as individual contractors, will play a vital role in the material creation, Hoffmeister said.

By the fourth year, Hoffmeister expects the leadership training program to be fully developed, with the fifth year dedicated to dissemination of the results and materials. The final leadership training will be made available to construction unions and companies throughout the country. The project investigators plan to make the training materials available online for others to use.

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