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McGriff, Seibels & Williams

Leadership Skills to Turn Your Foremen into Jobsite Safety Leaders

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Foremen and lead workers who have the skills to be effective jobsite safety leaders are the linchpins to creating a strong jobsite safety climate — a key indicator of injury outcomes. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of needed safety leadership training. To help address this gap, CPWR - The Center for Construction Research and Training with funding from NIOSH, developed The Foundations for Safety Leadership (FSL); a two-and-a-half hour safety leadership training module designed to teach foremen and lead workers five critical safety leadership skills and how to put them into practice.

Two key drivers led CPWR to recognize the need for such training. The first was discovered at a 2013 CPWR-NIOSH workshop where 70 construction stakeholders worked together and decided on eight key leading indicators of a strong jobsite safety climate, one being site supervisor safety leadership. The second came from a 2012 McGraw Hill — CPWR survey showing that many construction companies, regardless of size, require their new foremen to take the OSHA 30-hour to learn leadership skills. However, the OSHA 30-hour course didn’t have a leadership training module until the FSL became an official elective on January 1, 2017. Since then, over 10,000 workers have participated in the FSL and it has demonstrated it can meet the industry’s needs and desires.

The FSL is the result of a rigorous 18-month development process. Beginning in September 2014, researchers from CPWR and two Colorado universities worked closely with a 17-member curriculum development team that included OSHA 10- and 30-hour outreach trainers, construction workers, safety and health professionals from small and large companies, representatives of building trade unions and construction trade associations, consultants and OSHA staff to make sure the final leadership module would meet the needs of foremen as well as those who would conduct the training. The final module contains foundational material plus seven real-world animated scenarios designed to teach these 5 critical safety leadership skills:
The likely benefits of your foremen and lead workers participating in the FSL training include:
  • Strong safety climate
  • Reduced hazards and injuries
  • Increased morale and sense of teamwork
  • Increased productivity due to improved job site communication
Here are some typical comments from contractors’ whose foremen participated in the FSL training:

"I would have to say just the participation in the class lets the foremen know that the owners and upper management are on-board with safety, by actually giving them the time to do what they have to do to perform the job safely."

"I think they're more aware when they do their morning huddle.... I also see them take a little more time when they're talking about the work that they also cover the safety implications of that work. [They] try to get more input from the employees on their crew instead of just giving instructions."

"It’s a rare occurrence that construction leaders thank us for training, but that’s what we received from our supervisors after the FSL training. What’s even better is that they have been able to improve their communication and engagement with their team."

Trained foremen have also had a lot of positive feedback about skills they learned, particularly 3-way communication and engaging crew members:

"I never took it as seriously as I do now ... You know, having the people explain back to you what you told them. I mean, that really really has helped a lot. Instead of just giving somebody some information, sending them off blindly to do the job, and then you know, getting mad ‘cause they didn’t do it right. That way you know, they can explain to you back exactly what you said to them and if they didn’t get it the first time, you know, you can talk about it, have an opportunity to get it right."

"It also makes them feel like they’re, part of the, you know, the planning. So for the specific task, I think that it is a great tool. Something I’ve done a little bit of but really really try to do a lot more of ‘cause of the training."

If you want to incorporate the FSL into your ongoing training, you can download all of the teaching and supporting materials at no cost at https://www.cpwr.com/foundations-safety-leadership-fsl. If you send your foremen to the OSHA 30-hour course, encourage them to ask the trainer to teach the FSL as one of the electives.

For more additional information about the FSL, you can contact the FSL project lead: Dr. Linda M. Goldenhar, director of research and evaluation at CPWR — The Center for Construction Research and Evaluation, at lgoldenhar@cpwr.com.  

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