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Now, more than ever, there is an increased demand for investment in quality training. The fluid nature of the workforce, a communication disconnect to the front line and high-risk environments all contribute to construction’s consistent ranking as one of the nation’s most dangerous industries. Traditional training has been more compliance-based than qualitative, but that’s beginning to shift as construction professionals are connecting the dots between the moral obligations of protecting the workforce and the financial rewards of doing so.

Despite the industry’s rapid growth and the alarming rate of serious injuries and fatalities (SIF) that occur, the industry as a whole has been notoriously slow to evolve systems and processes. What can contractors do to ensure they’re protecting their bottom lines, attracting the best trade workers and maintaining an efficient workflow—while prioritizing safety? It starts with embracing new technologies, such as exposure-based training.

Exposure-based training is the product of incorporating technological advancements informed by extensive research on human behavior in risky scenarios. Contractors have found that implementing this type of immersive training has increased crews' awareness of exposures and safety best practices, empowering them to feel prepared, informed and engaged before walking onto the jobsite.

Recent studies have revealed that workers agree training covers important information and is necessary to prepare them to be safe on jobsites, but they also feel training in its traditional format is insufficient. Much of compliance-based training covers regulations, such as how many feet of spacing should be placed between guardrails, but lacks practical applications to help workers understand and properly navigate hazardous situations.

Interview participants also noted that the best training occurs on the job, but finding veteran craftsmen that are available to train the next generation is becoming increasingly difficult. Exposure-based training allows workers to simulate these on-the-job learnings, but in a 3D project environment in which they’re not yet at risk. For example, a scissor lift “hazard hunt” simulation has workers identify all potential hazards on a jobsite such as tilt, unsafe conditions, and proximity to power lines and teaches them how to mitigate these risks.

Rather than using a slideshow, skills such as fire protection and prevention can now be taught as an immersive experience to identify the proper fire extinguisher based on the type of fire the simulator is creating, allowing the worker to apply the P.A.S.S. (Pull, Aim, Squeeze and Sweep) technique. These simulators allow workers to be placed in a worst-case scenario and learn how to engage hazards safely and efficiently before they’re in danger and without causing risk to the person, equipment or investment costs.

This mobile training improves a contractor’s bottom line through various efficiencies and improvements across quality, culture and time. SIFs are not only tragic, but also financially damaging. A company may have to absorb legal expenses, indirect costs such as the loss of productivity of individuals as well as expenses from events such as hospital visits or retraining. Moreover, construction sites that lack an effective safety culture will generate higher insurance costs. Insurance companies will audit a company’s past losses and more risk-averse companies with less losses will reduce their cost of insurance over the long run. Investing in enjoyable, quality training that protects a company’s workers sends a very powerful message that the company cares about its people. This increases morale which enhances recruiting ability and ultimately generates more income.

In addition to improving information retention, exposure-based training also saves time. It’s common practice to orchestrate safety huddles and jobsite analysis through word-of-mouth but, by the end of the day, many participants may not remember what was discussed or didn’t understand it in the first place. Mobile training eliminates a day-long, offsite training in which trade workers push a pencil in front of a forgettable, compliance-based PowerPoint presentation. Exposure-based training allows contractors to apply the lean construction concept to training, effectively determining where education is needed and delivering it on a timely basis. Mobile platforms allow for high-quality training that is targeted to the individual contractor’s needs and work scopes—and on the worker’s timetable. Further, the ability to store training records in a digital archive means managers won’t duplicate efforts training somebody in a course that they’ve received from a previous employer.

Construction is beginning to lean into a technological revolution that is not only improving contractors’ bottom lines but also helping save lives. Exposure-based training and other technological advancements have the potential to serve as the catalyst for a much-needed safety and efficiency revolution in the construction industry—saving companies, livelihoods and lives.

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