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Chasing The Elusive ‘Zero Incidents’


A Study Of OMG Midwest Employees Shows They Prefer Face-To-Face Communication and Safety Training Where Small Group Discussion Can Take Place.

By Joe McGuire

 

This is the second of a two-part article about safety training focusing on a study of OMG Midwest employees. – Ed.

How employees communicate the workplace risks and hazards they identify to their co-workers is a major part of the risk-assessment process. Communication processes contribute substantially to actions employees take to mitigate risks and hazards. By identifying and understanding the preferred communication processes employees use in the workplace, training and educational efforts can be designed which will improve their ability to recognize and manage risks or hazards they encounter during the work day.

This study, modeled after one that was done in 2007 by Jim Joy, was undertaken to identify the communication process employees of OMG Central West Division use in the workplace. It was designed to measure that communication process employees perceived to be the most effective so that future training or educational efforts can be developed and delivered using processes that are most acceptable to them.

By delivering training that fits their preferred communication system, it its expected employees will understand, learn and retain information that is provided to them. When these occur, they will be more prepared to conduct quality risk assessments and act upon hazards they encounter in the workplace. Here are some of the study results:

When asked how they find out about changes to their and co-workers normal work duties or about operating different machines, 75 percent of supervisors and 53 percent of field employees indicated they were told by co-workers and not by managers or supervisors.

A high number (95 percent) of field employees, as compared to 88 percent of supervisors, indicated they received training on communicating issues or problems related to the site, plant or project.

Fewer, (90 percent) of field employees, indicated they had received any training on how to assess and control risk or hazards while 100 percent of supervisors indicated they had been trained.

When field employees were asked about receiving training on how to use or conduct T5s, only 60 percent indicated they had received such training and the same number said they had received written materials on how the T5 process works. On the other hand, 88 percent of supervisors acknowledged receiving training on T5s but only 75 percent of them said they had received written materials on how the process works.

Regarding current training delivery processes, this study found lectures by OMG Midwest supervisors or managers as well as written documents were commonly used to provide training to supervisors while lectures and power point presentations were typically chosen to provide training to field employees.

But when asked what their preferred way of having training presented to them was, 71 percent of field employees and 75 percent of supervisors chose Group Discussion. Both groups (83 percent) overwhelmingly agreed that their least favored ways to learn or have training provided was through power point presentations and lectures.

Field employees (75 percent) indicated safety issues at their plant, site or project were communicated verbally as opposed to using electronic, hand written notes or posted on a bulletin board. Supervisors also preferred verbal communication (94 percent).

The same number of field employees (75 percent) said verbal communication was their preferred way to communicate safety issues or problems; supervisors (94 percent) indicated this was their preferred process to use for communicating safety issues or problems.

All respondents (100 percent) indicated they:

  • Discuss safety concerns with co-workers.
  • Discuss new tasks before the start them.
  • Ask questions when they are unsure about how to do something.

On survey items 17 to 28, respondents were asked to rate various forms of communication as to what they believed to be:

  • Not effective = 1
  • Effective = 2
  • Most effective = 3

As done in the Joy study, each of these items was given a numeric value so that an average score could be obtained. By doing so the most and least effective form of communication could be identified. The closer the average response was to “3,” the more effective respondents believed the form of communication to be in that particular situation.

They were asked to rate the following communication processes:

  1. Conversation.
  2. Hand Signals.
  3. Notes on Bulletin Board.
  4. Telephone or Radio.
  5. T5s.
  6. Crew Meetings.
  7. Task Training.

Rate the following as processes to inform you of changes in operating procedures, co-workers, equipment or hazards at your plant or project.

  • Non-supervisors rated conversation and crew meetings as most efficient (Score 2.7) and notes on bulletin board (Score 1.6) and T5s (Score 1.9) as not effective.
  • Supervisors rated conversation (Score 2.8) and crew meetings (Score 2.6) as the most effective and notes on the bulletin board (Score 1.6) and telephone/radio (1.8) as not being effective.

Rate the following for providing you with the hazards of operating a new machine or equipment.

  • Field employees indicated conversation (Score 2.8) and task training (Score 2.8) as the most effective communication process to provide information on hazards with new equipment or machines; not effective were notes on the bulletin board (Score 1.4) and T5s (Score 1.9).
  • Supervisors agreed conversation (Score 2.9) and task training (Score 2.8) were the most effective in this case and notes on bulletin board (Score 1.0) and T5s (Score 1.6) to not be effective.

Rate the following as ways to encourage co-workers to conduct risk assessments.

  • Conversation (Score 2.9) and crew meetings (Score 2.8) were rated as the most effective by field employees and notes on a bulletin board (Score 1.5) and T5s (Score 1.5) as not effective.
  • Supervisors selected task training (Score 2.9) and conversation (Score 2.8) as most effective and hand signals (Score 1.4) and notes on a bulletin board (Score 1.5) as not effective.

Rate how effective the following would be for making others aware of issues that were found and corrected during your shift.

  • Non-supervisors indicated conversation (Score 2.9) and crew meetings (Score 2.8) were the most effective in this case scenario and considered notes on a bulletin board (Score 1.5) and hand signals (Score 1.7) were not effective.
  • Conversation (Score2.9) and crew meetings (Score 2.9) were considered most effective by supervisors and not effective were hand signals (Score 1.1) and notes on a bulletin board (Score 1.3)

Rate the following on how effective they would be to give pre-shift information or assignments.

  • Conservation (Score 2.9) and crew meetings (Score 2.8) were rated as the most effective by non-supervisors while hand signals (Score 1.0) and notes on a bulletin board were considered not effective.
  • Supervisors indicated conversation (Score 3.0) and crew meetings (Score 2.6) were the most effective. Hand signals (Score 1.0) and notes on a bulletin board were determined to not be effective.

Rate the following as way to get information you missed when you were absent.

  • Field employees rated conversation (Score 2.8) and crew meetings (Score 2.7) as the most effective way to get information you missed; they rated hand signals (Score 1.3) and notes on a bulletin board (Score 1.7) as not being effective.
  • Conversation (Score 2.6) and crew meetings (Score 2.6) as the most effective in this case and hand signals (Score 1.0) and notes on a bulletin board (Score 1.5) to not be effective in obtaining missed information.

Rate the following for communicating with contractors, visitors, or others at your site, project or at you plant.

  • Non-supervisors indicated conversation (Score 2.9) and crew meetings (Score 2.3) as the most effective for dealing with others and notes on a bulletin board (Score 1.5) and hand signals (Score 1.7) to not be effective.
  • Supervisors found conversation (Score 2.8) and crew meetings (2.0) to be most effective and notes on a bulletin board (Score 1.1) and hand signals (Score 1.4) to not be effective.

Rate the following as processes to notify others of work that was not completed or goals not attained on your shift.

  • Conversation (Score 2.9) and crew meetings (Score 2.6) were selected as the most effective in this situation while hand signals (Score 1.5) and notes on a bulletin board (Score 1.6) were not thought to be effective.
  • Supervisors rated conversation (Score 3.0) and crew meetings (Score 2.4) to be most effective; the felt and notes on a bulletin board (Score 1.1) and hand signals (Score 1.4) to not be effective

Rate the following as ways to discuss situations where issues or problems have occurred in the past.

  • In this case, conversation (Score 2.9), task training (Score 2.8) and crew meetings (Score 2.8) were considered the most effective; hand signals (Score 1.4) and notes on a bulletin board (Score 1.6) were not considered to be effective.
  • Supervisors indicated conversation (Score 2.9), task training (Score 2.8) and crew meetings (Score 2.8) most effective and hand signals (Score 1.0) and notes on a bulletin board to not be effective.

Rate the following on how effective they would be at changing your mind about the hazards and risks associated with the work you are about to do.

  • Field employees suggested conversation (Score 2.9) and crew meetings (Score 2.7) to be the most effective in changing someone’s mind; notes on a bulletin board (Score 1.5) and hand signals are not effective in this situation.
  • Conversation (Score 3.0), crew meetings (Score 2.8) and task training were identified as being most effective by supervisors; hand signals (Score 1.4) and notes on a bulletin board (Score 1.4) were not considered effective.

Rate the following for communicating to others that your risk assessment indicates they should take the appropriate actions to control the hazards associated with the task.

  • Non-supervisors indicated conversation (Score 2.8) and crew meetings (Score 2.7) to be the most effective in this case and hand signals (Score 1.7) and notes on a bulletin board (Score 1.8) to not be effective.
  • Supervisors found conversation (Score 2.9) and crew meetings (Score 2.8) to be most effective; and they believe hands signals (Score 1.0) and notes on bulletin boards (Score 1.2) not effective in this situation.

Rate the following as ways of letting a co-worker know what he or she is doing appears to be unsafe and might result in an accident or getting injured.

  • In this situation, non-supervisors rated conversation (Score 2.9) and crew meetings (Score 2.6) as the most effective communication processes to use; they believed notes on a bulletin board (Score 1.6), hand signals (Score 2.0), telephone/radio (Score 2.0) and T5s (Score 2.0) to be not as effective.
  • Supervisors rated conservation (Score 3.0) and task training (Score 2.4) to be the most effective in this case; they found notes on a bulletin board (Score 1.0) and hand signals (Score 1.4) to not be effective.

A quick review of the data generated by this survey indicates non-supervisory or field employees and supervisors agree that face-to-face conversation, crew meetings or task training are the most effective communication processes to use when:

  • Informing employees of changes in operating procedures, co-workers, equipment or hazards at the site, plant or project.
  • Providing or identifying hazards associated with operating a new machine or equipment.
  • Encouraging co-workers to conduct risk assessments.
  • Making others aware of issues that were found and corrected during their shift.
  • Giving pre-shift information and assignments.
  • Getting information they may have missed when they were absent from the job.
  • Communicating with contractors, visitors and others who are on the site or project.
  • Notifying others of work that was not completed or goals not attained during the shift.
  • Discussing situations where issues or problems occurred in the past.
  • Changing someone’s mind about the hazards and risks associated with work they are about to do.
  • Your risk assessment indicated they should take appropriate actions to control the hazards associated with the task.
  • Letting your co-worker know what he or she is doing that appears to be unsafe and might result in an accident or getting injured.

The data generated from this survey, for the most part, support the findings of Professor Joy’s 2007 study. Field employees and supervisors responding to this survey indicated the most effective communication processes used in the workplace are face-to face conversations, crew meetings and task training. Notes on T5s, notes on bulletin boards, radios, telephones and hand signals were the least or not effective communication processes to be used with the situations described in each of the survey items.

Previous research on this topic conducted by Joy found there is a correlation between the effectiveness of training and preferred communication processes. In his study, Joy found conversations and meetings were the preferred ways for supervisors and non-supervisors to communicate in the workplace. On the other hand, T5s, emails, telephones, bulletin boards and hand signals were the less effective in these situations and lower on the list of favored ways to communicate with others in the workplace.

Conclusions

When the effectiveness of operating programs, initiatives, best practices or employee training is questioned, companies sometime conduct evaluations or assessments. Eliciting employee written or verbal feedback and conducing written surveys are methods typically used to gather data which can be used to evaluate them.

This survey was undertaken to determine the communication processes employees in the construction industries prefer use in the workplace. By finding which forms of communication employees prefer to use in the workplace, training programs can be developed and delivered to them using processes with which they are most comfortable. Providing employees with training which they want or need and delivered by way of their preferred communication processes will increase their level of engagement.

This study also found employees prefer training processes that are delivered face-to-face and in small group format. A substantial majority indicated a dislike for using power point presentations and lectures for training in which they were required to participate.

The current study involving OMG Midwest employees produced the essentially the same results. The data shows they prefer face-to-face communication and training where small group discussion can take place.

For the past 30 years, Dr. Joe McGuire has worked in the construction aggregates industry dealing primarily with the planning/zoning process, environmental permitting, compliance issues and educational/training, while also participating in many aggregate mine-development and permit requests at the county level, which required involvement in the public hearing process.