The estimated loss to construction businesses from damage to equipment, materials and delays as a result of incompetent, minimally trained workers is between 11 to 18 percent. In contrast, workers trained to a genuine level of competence create significant gains for employers, generating higher profit margins of 10 to 20 percent. Simply structuring a training program around compliance does not add to safety or the bottom line, according to Wade Tuggle, director of safety and quality for Eckhert Electric, and a member of the AGC Safety & Health Committee.

Formulating a realistic budget for training to improve both the strengths and weaknesses of employees requires consideration of what people already know and how many novices need to become journeymen. If people can optimally perform, the work environment, safety and profits improve.

CIS has a mission to help both operators and their employers monitor and archive operator documentation. The company’s Qualified Crane Operator Evaluation program, launched in late 2017, covers what that operator is doing in the context of the work performed, the machine used in the performance, the type of work being done, and evaluation and documentation of these factors. An employer can look at the results and clearly see an operator’s strengths and weaknesses.

Debbie dickinson head shot

Debbie Dickinson, CEO at Crane Industry Services, LLC

In most cases, the overall operational budget for training should include the costs associated with contracting an outside training consultant, providing space and/or equipment and taking personnel from the field. Consider the costs to employ each person and the return on investment he or she represents. If a crane operator can only perform at fulfilment level, the organization is losing money on every labor hour spent employing minimally trained personnel.

Start with a plan for what to accomplish in training. If ownership can convey what’s needed to achieve ideal performance, the instructor can train workers toward achieving that goal. Here are more tips for creating a training program on a budget:

Identify the crane and rigging skills needed for an average day on the job. Depending on the nature of the business, the skills of an ideal team will vary. Consider utility plant construction vs. crane rental vs. commercial building or tree service. What are the necessary skills for the work being performed? Identify which employees already have those skills. Knowledgeable, skilled individuals can, at a minimum, set a good foundation with trainees – if they have a solid plan from leadership about what to train, to whom and how much time to spend on that training.

Incorporate bite-sized assignments to open people’s minds to more in-depth training. Exposure before the professional trainer ever arrives maximizes the time with the trainer. Once a foundation is set, workers can get information via supervisors or peers and understand it as a group. Once in-depth training is completed, it’s a matter of reinforcing training activities as part of the evaluation process to determine whether workers are retaining and applying the skills relevant to qualification for the work being performed.

Training in numbers makes the most sense, especially for larger companies. More effective crews have nearly the same knowledge and ability. Imagine a military operation: How important to safety and success is every person’s ability to perform? Precision work requires team work, coordination and a mutual understanding of how and what to do.

Having the space to train onsite increases the value of training. It’s less expensive to have one trainer travel to a site than 10 crew members travel to the trainer’s facility. However, if you can’t afford to take eight to 10 people out of your workforce for several days, send a couple people from different groups or locations to keep operations smooth and avoid negative impact.

Consider investing in simulation training to reinforce that training groundwork. Beyond the high-end models that give an incredibly realistic experience, there are less-expensive desktop simulators that provide a safe environment for operators to practice their craft and allow trainers to customize the training to fit both the jobsite and the operator’s level of experience. New technology, which has come down in price, simulates precise placement of loads, power-line proximity and work zones, and sends out audible and visual alerts for a variety of issues. Simulation technology is affordable for just about everyone.

Always aim for optimal performance where training is concerned. How much does it cost the company, if during a particular job, there is a half-day delay? What is the cost of lost productivity over a period of month? What would delays or losses mean to the project schedule or the crew’s labor rate? What is the cost when contractors and other crafts are delayed because your employees are not as well-qualified? There can be heavy consequences for the company or crew responsible for a deadline that wasn’t met. What difference would that make to your bottom line, or your future? There are few things more time-consuming and costly than a crew not equipped to perform its best.

 

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