The construction industry has suffered from a skilled labor shortage for years—and the COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified the problem. But as the labor force shrinks, construction demand is on the rise. This year, the United States federal government made $125 billion available for procurement, as mandated in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
The effect: a perfect storm for workplace injuries, with unique pressures pushing workers to cut corners on site.
A mobile safety program can help your company mitigate these pressures, but implementing one is often easier said than done. Here, we offer five tips for a smooth mobile safety program rollout.
1. Start with the basics
A full-spectrum mobile safety program uses several different tools—think mobile auditing checklists, digital safety trainings, and real-time incident management, among others. These tools work in tandem to build a culture of safety, and it can be exciting to watch that culture take shape.
However, the best program implementation doesn’t happen all at once. A gradual, targeted program rollout can keep your employees from being overwhelmed by the number of new tools at their disposal. They’ll have more time to learn about each program feature and adjust their processes as needed. As you continue your rollout, you might even notice growing excitement about the next piece of tech in the pipeline.
You’ll want to develop a rollout strategy to achieve maximum impact. Before you introduce new tech, follow these steps:
- Identify three to five high-impact areas. Could your auditing processes be more efficient? Are you struggling to track incidents when they happen? How well are your crews retaining safety protocols?
- Identify a few pain points in each area. For example, poor safety protocol retention might signal that your employees aren’t receiving regular trainings.
- Address the most pressing pain point with mobile tech. For instance, if poor forklift safety is causing workplace injuries to skyrocket, you might want to introduce regular mobile forklift safety training.
- Gather user feedback. Responding to feedback helps make sure your tech meets your employees’ needs every step of the way so you can expand successfully.
2. Show crews the tangible value of going digital
In the construction industry, safety has high potential for digitization—and digital processes will have a tangible impact on each crew.
As it stands, many contractors rely on paper-based processes that slow down work. For example, conducting a safety audit the traditional way involves completing a pre-job task form, filling out a paper checklist, and hand-delivering these documents to a supervisor.
These papers will eventually make their way back to an office filing cabinet, but it might take some time. A supervisor may need to drive off-site to reach the office. They might forget to put the documents in their car or could even misplace them altogether.
With so much potential for inefficiency, safety procedures can easily end up on the back burner. Poor efficiency isn’t just inconvenient, though. A slowly processed audit, for example, means that crews could be using unsafe equipment without their knowledge. That can lead to more workplace injuries and fatalities.
Mobile safety tech can drive process efficiency and lead to a safer work environment for your crews. When introducing mobile tech, make sure to highlight relevant features that crews can use, including:
- Reminder notifications for classes and trainings
- Real-time equipment tracking
- Video and photo capabilities
- Faster form completion
- Incident prediction through data analytics
3. Win over workers to drive mobile safety adoption
With mobile safety programs, your executives have the final say. But for full impact, you also need to win over crews on the ground. Safety protocols ultimately affect your crews the most, and frontline crew members have the best eyes and ears to understand major safety pain points.
What’s more, as crews learn more about each new safety tool, they might even develop unique applications and workflows.
When you prioritize mobile safety tool adoption among crews, you’ll make strides toward building a culture of safety. Construction is a collaborative environment, and workers can learn a lot from the examples that others set—both their superiors and their peers. When each crew member is familiar with mobile safety tech, they’ll help each other remember safety every day.
4. Lean into micro-learning for maximum impact
Have you heard of Miller’s Law? Named after the psychologist George Miller, it states that humans divide information into “chunks”—and we can only remember up to nine chunks per topic at a time.
In practice, the fewer chunks we have to process, the better we can remember them. And when it comes to safety, you need your crews to remember as much information as possible.
Apply this principle to your mobile safety program by avoiding hours-long information dumps when you can. Instead, break down safety protocols and trainings into small chunks. On a day-to-day basis, consider implementing five- to 10-minute toolbox talks to reinforce safety protocols before each shift. Also try using multiple media formats to adapt to different learning styles.
5. Use mentorship programs to lock in safety trainings
One serious effect of the labor shortage is that fewer skilled workers are on site to help guide new workers. But with demand on the rise, new hires need expert advice now more than ever.
To supplement your mobile safety tech, use mentorship programs that connect experienced workers and new hires. A mentorship program can help reinforce safety protocols over time and help close the skill gap that hiring difficulties create. Mentors are able to…
- Create a safe space to ask questions.
- Help workers feel more engaged and satisfied.
- Remind new hires that their voice matters—especially important in construction, where peer pressure often discourages workers from speaking up.
- Offer hands-on guidance to fill in training gaps.
In the world of safety, the work doesn’t stop
Workplace safety isn’t a goal you arrive at—it’s one that you’re constantly working toward. Workplace conditions and workforce composition change on a regular basis, and your company needs the right tools to adapt.
Thankfully, industry-specific mobile safety tech is available—and it’s part of a major leap forward for the construction industry’s digital transformation. With this tech at your disposal, your company will have the building blocks for a dynamic safety program that can weather any industry conditions.
Zach Pucillo is a district supervisor at KPA, which offers Environment, Health & Safety (EHS) and workforce compliance software and services for mid-sized businesses. Its all-in-one platform, Vera Suite, helps organizations maintain worker safety, streamline compliance, and manage risk. KPA’s consulting field team is located throughout the U.S. and performs more than 20,000 onsite audits annually across all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Canada.