From time to time new people will join your construction team. They may be permanent additions, or only helping out for a day or two. Sometimes they’ve come from another supervisor, even from another project, but often they’ll be new to the company. Supervisors and project managers are always busy, so regrettably most will give the person the briefest greeting, point them in the direction of where the crew is working, then expect them to get on with the job.
Unfortunately, on one project we had a subcontractor’s employee fall to their death. They had only started on the construction project and with their company that morning. Nobody had explained the hazards of the project to the new employee, no one had checked to see if they could work at heights, nobody was checking what the new employee was doing, or looking out for them. The employee did a silly thing and instead of climbing down from the elevated working platform using the ladder, they rather clambered through the handrails and tried to step across the gap between the platform and the second floor of the building – slipping and falling to their death.
Sometimes new employees are given tasks which they aren’t capable of doing, which could result in mistakes and poor quality. But equally bad, is when a skilled person is given menial tasks because the project manager or construction supervisor is unaware of their skills and capabilities. This not only demotivates the person, but it’s a waste of money because a less skilled person on a lower wage could do the task equally well.
Of course, the first thing with any new employee in construction is to ask for proof that they’ve attended the project induction. Then talk to them for a few minutes to understand what experience and skills they have. If necessary ask to see their qualifications – particularly check licenses and never assume that if the person was operating a vehicle or machine elsewhere on the project that they have a valid license to operate the equipment.
If the employee has come from another supervisor ask that supervisor about the employees abilities, strengths and weaknesses.
Check that the person has a reasonable command of the language used on the project – will they understand your instructions and will they be able to communicate with the rest of the project team. Explain what you are doing and how the person will fit in the construction team. Tell them where they’ll find tools and materials for their tasks. Explain your expectations of your team. Then introduce the person to others in the construction team, particularly those they will be working with. Ask one of your older hands to look out for and help the new person. Finally, later in the day, ask the responsible person how the new person is doing and if there are potential problems that you should know about.
Sure, this all sounds like it will take 10 minutes of time that you can ill afford to spare, but that 10 minutes will more than pay for itself if it’s helped prevent an accident. It will help to utilise the person efficiently and effectively. It will ensure that they fit into the team quicker. It makes the new employee feel like a valuable part of the construction team and not just a body filling a gap.
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The opinions expressed in the attached articles are those of the writer. It should be noted that projects are varied and different laws and restrictions apply which depend on the location of the contractor and the project. It's important that the reader uses the supplied information taking cognisance of their particular circumstances. The writer assumes no responsibility or liability for any loss of any kind arising from the reader using the information or advice contained herein.
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