Problem: Falls from heights account for 64% of residential construction worker fatalities and 20% of missed work days. We hypothesized that worker safety would improve with foremen training in fall prevention and safety communication.
Method: Training priorities identified through foreman and apprentice focus groups and surveys were integrated into an 8-hour training. We piloted the training with ten foremen employed by a residential builder. Carpenter trainers contrasted proper methods to protect workers from falls with methods observed at the foremen's worksites. Trainers presented methods to deliver toolbox talks and safety messages. Results from worksite observational audits (n=29) and foremen/crewmember surveys (n=97) administered before and after training were compared.
Results: We found that inexperienced workers are exposed to many fall hazards that they are often not prepared to negotiate. Fall protection is used inconsistently and worksite mentorship is often inadequate. Foremen feel pressured to meet productivity demands and some are unsure of the fall protection requirements. After the training, the frequency of daily mentoring and toolbox talks increased, and these talks became more interactive and focused on hazardous daily work tasks. Foremen observed their worksites for fall hazards more often. We observed increased compliance with fall protection and decreased unsafe behaviors during worksite audits.
Discussion: Designing the training to meet both foremen's and crewmembers' needs ensured the training was learner-centered and contextually-relevant. This pilot suggests that training residential foremen can increase use of fall protection, improve safety behaviors, and enhance on-the-job training and safety communication at their worksites.
Impact on industry: Construction workers' training should target safety communication and mentoring skills with workers who will lead work crews. Interventions at multiple levels are necessary to increase safety compliance in residential construction and decrease falls from heights.
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