Construction Worker Shortage Make Jobsite Safety Even More Important

How To Work Safely When Shorthanded.

Just a year ago, the Associated General Contractors released results of a nationwide study that showed 83% of construction firms were understaffed in key crafts. Skilled workers such as carpenters, roofers, electricians and equipment operators are in severely short supply, as are laborers and even supervisory and management personnel. The AGC predicted the shortage in skilled construction workers would get worse in 2015.

They were right. In August, the AGC reported that 30% of American construction firms had actually turned down work because they didn’t have enough people to do the jobs. So what kind of experience have you had finding good workers this year? It’s time to take stock.

Last fall, the AGC scolded Congress for failure to support workforce development opportunities that would help relieve the shortage in skilled construction workers. They (and others) blame an education system that emphasizes college attendance to the point of excluding vocational training for the growing labor problem.

The situation is exacerbated by the fact that the Great Recession drove a large number of skilled, experience construction workers out of the industry in search of jobs that could pay them. Some simply retired. The bottom line is that they aren’t coming back. So contractors have to fill openings as well as bring in new people, if they expect to grow.

With the economy picking up, opportunity is there. Meanwhile, the fact is you’ll likely be short-handed again next season, regardless what type of construction work you do.

Do not let short-staffing lead to safety failures.

When you don’t have enough people, everyone tries to pick up the slack by doing more at once. While that’s laudable from a positive attitude standpoint, it can lead to accidents and injuries. And that will really slow you down.

So don’t let up when it comes to promoting – and expecting – safe working habits:

  • Keep up your training efforts. That includes daily toolbox talks and other site-specific safety reminders as well as lengthier education sessions. If people don’t know (or recall) how to do things properly, they’ll wing it. They will hurt themselves or someone else.
  • Everyone has to be more vigilant. Watching each other’s back is as important as offering to lend a hand. Use a spotter.
  • Use PPE, even if it does take a few minutes to don and cinch up the equipment.
  • Don’t make do with the wrong tool in order to save a couple of minutes. It will take more time and you don’t need the additional frustration. Frustration leads to inattention, and that leads to accidents.

Make safety Number One by starting every day (or shift, if necessary) with a jobsite walk-around. Check for clean-up that may have been missed – and remind your crew why cleaning up as you go ultimately saves time as well as preventing accidents. Point out any special areas that could present hazards during the work day.

Do the same for your machinery, performing a walk-around inspection of each piece of equipment before putting it into play. Catching and fixing small problems right away will certainly save you time, not to mention money. And problems with equipment can lead to jobsite safety failures, too.

You may be working smaller crews than you would like this next season, but there is no excuse for working less safely.