Business News

GUEST BLOG: Reducing human error in the construction industry

By Business & Finance
26 September 2016
workers construction

By Ella Mason, freelance writer

Learning happens all the time. But sometimes, we need to undertake structured, formal learning in the shape of ‘training’.

In the construction industry, training couldn’t be more important, particularly where human error is concerned. It’s the very thing that causes accidents, risks quality and costs your company time, money and resources to set right. So, how can you implement better training to reduce the likelihood of problems arising? Here are some ideas:

Firstly, identify which processes your employees need training on and ensure they have the correct permits and qualifications to work in the construction industry. It’s essential that you’re able to offer relevant training to your employees, so consider using environmental, health and safety software in your work environment (such as the kind supplied by airsweb) to identify elements of your work processes where risks and incidents keep occurring, as well as near misses.

It will also help you to see which employees need licenses to operate particular kinds of machinery (for example), as well as ensuring that individuals have certificates to confirm they’re able to handle specialist equipment or work in hazardous environments. So, use software as the first step towards putting training in place to reduce the likelihood of issues arising in the future.

Secondly, make sure your training uses a practical and problem-centred approach based on real-life examples. Giving employees ‘context’ for their training will help to reduce the likelihood of problems occurring on the job as it gives everyone an opportunity to move their knowledge from ‘theory’ to ‘reality’. You can do this in a safe environment by simulating it (such as recreating a construction site in an online environment), or you could ‘buddy them up’ with a competent professional in the construction industry as a kind of ‘job shadowing’ exercise.

The key thing is that you make the training relevant to real-life scenarios. If you can make this connection, you’ll be far more likely to reduce the chance of mistakes happening when employees are making decisions in the real world.

The key thing is that you make the training relevant to real-life scenarios

Ella Mason

Ella Mason

Another effective way of reducing error is to let employees know what the most likely causes for mistakes actually are. By doing, employees will be more likely to anticipate when something is likely to occur and take pre-emptive action to stop a problem arising. For instance, your training could include the fact that error often occurs due to the slips or lapses where familiar tasks are carried out with such frequency and repetition that concentration dips: pressing the wrong button, reading the wrong gauge, or forgetting a step in a procedure.

The potential fallout from any incidents could result in financial and reputation damage to your business, as well as physical harm to your employees. Point out the ways in which problems arise if you want your employees to behave in such a way that avoids issues arising.

Finally, consider asking your employees to take an assessment at the end of their training. This could be a formal or informal exercise whereby you ask them to identify causes of mistakes, suggest management techniques for reducing their impact and sensible steps for preventing them in the future.

Assessments like these encourage a sense of personal responsibility (critical for reducing errors in future), and will also give you and your employees a sense for how much of the training they’ve understood. Just be sure to give them immediate feedback as doing so will help them to learn from their mistakes.

However, it’s impossible to entirely eliminate the chance of slip-ups happening – even the Health and Safety Executive admits that everyone makes mistakes, no matter how trained and motivated they are! So, make sure your training concludes by telling employees what to do if an issue occurs: a climate where employees are confident enough to reveal errors rather than hiding them will reduce the impact of ‘blame culture’ and facilitate the kind of changes you need to make to prevent problems from arising in the future.

reduce the impact of ‘blame culture’ and facilitate the kind of changes you need to make to prevent problems from arising in the future

About the blogger

Ella Mason is an experienced freelance writer.

She specialises in providing useful and engaging advice to small businesses.

Follow her on Twitter here.