Essential Training; Tools of the Construction Trade

In difficult economic times many firms in just about every industry look to cut costs. The construction industry is no exception and it has been particularly hard hit during the recession.

When it comes to cutting costs (in most industries) areas that often fall directly under the spotlight are those that offer less tangible benefits - areas including training and development frequently finds themselves the subject of this scrutiny. This is true in most industries and in construction, where it’s difficult to build anything without solid, physical supplies training can be seen as an area that is easily mothballed. However, apart from potential skill shortages, this can also lead to far more serious consequences.

Simple Mistakes Cost Lives

While most construction firms take the safety of their workers and the public with the utmost seriousness, the need to cut costs and shave the training budget can have a big impact in this particular area. It doesn’t take more than a couple of clicks to find examples online of injuries and fatalities in the construction industry. Most of these cases figure the word ‘avoidable’ somewhere in the reports.

Spot checks on construction and refurbishment sites are increasingly common (the HSE is running an initiative focussing on small builds and refurbishments this month). Inspectors' reports also often feature cases where simple safety precautions have not been implemented. In the most serious cases, resulting in the deaths' of workers, it’s often noted that adequate training and simple safety procedures have not been in place.

Supervision and Safety

Everybody working on a construction site should receive some safety training. New employees should receive a health and safety induction that includes an element of safety training. This helps to raise awareness, which in itself can help to keep a site safe.

Younger employees should be a focus of health and safety training, a combination of lack of experience and possibly a willingness to take more risks, can often mean that they are particularly vulnerable to accidents in the workplace.

For supervisors and managers on construction sites professional health and safety training is an essential investment. These individuals in particular will be responsible for overseeing the day to day safety of the site and for monitoring risks and minimising them.

For supervisors the Site Supervisor Safety Training Scheme (SSSTS) is the most appropriate – the CITB course takes a couple of days to complete, is offered by providers across the country and will only cost a few hundred pounds. Slightly more expensive and lasting five days, the Site Management Safety Training Scheme (SMSTS) is more suitable for management level professionals. Although similar to the supervisors course it covers Health and Safety in more depth and includes a more detailed focus on legal aspects.

Putting the ROI into Training

While the initial outlay of the training can be the issue for some firms (especially the smallest) it’s important to understand the implications of poor site safety and training. Apart from the obvious repercussions of the worst case scenario, the costs can run to hundreds of thousands, putting even moderate sized firms out of business.

Even if a construction firm is lucky enough to dodge the statistics (unlikely, given the number of injuries on construction sites) the chance of an inspector calling should be enough to consider proper investment in training.

Fines for problems found by HSE inspectors can run into the tens of thousands, even where no accidents or injuries have occurred. Compared to the low cost of effective training, the cost of no training can be truly exorbitant.

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