AGC Member Rosendin Electric Taps Technology to Train & Inform Workers, Improve Safety Industrywide
By Carol Eaton
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When it comes to promoting health and safety in the construction industry, few issues are as closely linked to that mission as the need to develop and train a skilled workforce. In California and across the nation, the shortage of skilled workers is a key issue facing contractors who struggle to keep pace with demand in a booming economy.
According to a national commercial construction outlook released on September 6, 2018 by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and USG Corporation, contractors see a direct correlation between workforce shortages and the impact to worker and jobsite safety. In fact, the lack of skilled workers was the number one factor cited by 58 percent of those contractors as impacting jobsite safety risks. (Q3 2018 USG Corporation + U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index.)
The gap between a growing construction market and a shortage of skilled workers means that today’s contractors are forced to do more with less. And along with that reality comes greater risk. To manage that risk, many successful contractors have focused on improving their safety culture. They are implementing strong jobsite safety programs and providing ongoing worker training and education, both internally and through the resources of AGC of California and other industry groups.
Recently as part of AGC of California’s strategic realignment, the Safety & Health Council was brought under the purview of the Construction Education Foundation (CEF). Founded in 2000, CEF was created to develop and strengthen the professionalism and effectiveness of individuals in the construction industry. Through CEF, the Safety & Health Council continues to focus on improving the health and safety of the construction industry by providing an array of educational services and programs and keeping members up to date on the latest regulations and trend impacting their companies.
An Innovative Approach to Safety
One AGC of California member specialty contractor that is active in the Safety & Health Council and has been recognized for its innovative approach to safety is San Jose-based Rosendin Electric. This year, AGC of America awarded Rosendin Electric its Grand Award for the “Specialty Division, Over 3 Million Work Hours” category in the 2018 Construction Safety Excellence Awards competition.
Rosendin Vice President of Safety Marty Rouse manages the company's corporate safety program and has helped develop a number of innovative programs and approaches designed to improve their jobsite safety efforts and overall corporate safety culture. The company has achieved bottom line results that include an incident rate well below the native average for an approximately 5,000 employee company.
Looking at the biggest trends in health and safety today, Rouse singled out the labor shortage as “what I see having the biggest impact right now” on the industry as a whole.
"A lot of the baby boomers are retiring, and folks are coming into the industry who may not have as much experience,” he said. “Our challenge is, what can we do as a contractor to ensure the new workforce gets the training when they need it, or before they need it?”
Tapping Technology to Improve Safety
Rosendin has taken a multifaceted approach to confront the workforce development and training challenge head-on. It has taken a leadership role nationally, sharing its own best practices in an effort to improve safety in the industry as a whole through a variety of forums. Rosendin’s strategy has included a focus on developing technology and training programs in-house to improve jobsite processes and to keep their workers armed with continuously updated safety information, both on the jobsite and in the office.
Recently, Rosendin developed a digital pre-task planning work plan (PTP WP) that is accessible as an app through workers’ iPads or other mobile devices. The app features speech to text features, permits, tool training and signatures - all easily accessed in the field at the touch of a button.
“What we have done is made it a one-shot deal, so the person in the field doesn’t have to leave and try to find the documents they need,” Rouse said. “Everything is geared to make it easier for guys in the field to get the information they need at their fingertips.”
The company also created various tool training posters that they introduce to workers at new hire orientations and post throughout their jobsites. The posters are accessible through mobile devices as well. With the click of a link on their iPad or scan of a tool’s QR code on any internet-connected device, users can easily download a Rosendin-developed training video illustrating how to properly use an array of different tools.
“A lot of the equipment and tools have evolved just like everything else,” Rouse said. Newer portable tools often have stronger torque than in the past, escalating the risk of potential injury. “As new technology comes out, you need to provide training on the tool to ensure a worker is going to use it safely,” he added.
The company is also in the process of developing training pods for their safety professionals to provide basic training on a variety of different topics,“not from the classroom perspective but from the perspective of being on the actual jobsite,” Rouse said. Rosendin additionally developed a craft safety pilot program that encourages craft workers to be more involved looking for safety improvements on Rosendin projects, giving craftworkers a bigger voice on safety issues. The feedback from the field on all of the efforts has been “very, very positive,” Rouse noted. “We don’t look at ourselves like we know everything; we want to continue to improve and do better.”
Improving Safety Industrywide
On a national scale, Rosendin Electric President and Chief Operating Officer Larry Beltramo started a large contractors’ group through the National Electrical Contractors Association that has brought together over a dozen companies or more to share ideas of safety innovations and best practices with one another.
"Not only do we want to improve safety at Rosendin, for our employees, but we want to improve the overall impact to the entire industry,” Rouse said. “It’s a two-sided coin; we have shared stuff we do at Rosendin, but we’ve also learned different things that other companies are doing that have helped us.”
Rouse said participation in AGC, through the CEF and the Safety & Health Council, also plays a key role helping the company stay better informed on safety regulations, trends and shared industry challenges. “It’s the lifeline of a successful company to be very much aware of changing standards and to implement them and train your
employees on those changes,” he said.
“I think the benefits of being part of AGC’s Safety & Health Council is learning more about the new changes coming to the state of California and being aware of the changes so you can prepare yourself and your company,” Rouse added. “Having the opportunity to be a voice within an industry group and to respond to those changes is important.”