Construction Workplace Safety Training – Nearing 20 years of Program Development, Site Auditing, Investigations and Training

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Ontario Construction News special feature

A leading provider of safety training services since 2004, Construction Safety Workplace and Training (CWST) has evolved to meet the needs of its clients, adding customized services around compliance and planning to meet organizational and professional needs.

Craig Nicholson
Craig Nicholson

Director Craig Nicholson says CWST recently invested in updating its website, making it more user-friendly and all-encompassing. “I would speak with long-term clients who did not know all that we had to offer. Some of it comes from not knowing the right questions to ask, but it was also us about communicating better who we are and how we can support all of the industries that come to us for training or consulting needs.”

One of the most personalized and effective services CWST offers is its construction site consulting services, through which it assists existing health and safety resources on site. “There are many businesses migrating to Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems (OHSMS) like ISO 45001 and COR (certificate of Recognition) in the spirit of improving overall safety culture. A good OHSMS is a step in the right direction, but real safety leadership starts on the ground with the health and safety coordinator, supervisor and site super responsibly undertaking their duties and making safety part of the job. Many owners are shocked at how complex an OHSMS system can be, and that frequent audits are required.”

Two unique programs CWST offers are Heavy Equipment Training and Evaluations, and Commercial Equipment operation, through which users are educated on maintaining their CVOR (Commercial Vehicle Operators Registration) and performing daily inspections. The CVOR course is largely undiscovered and is assistive to mid- to smaller-sized companies with a few pieces of transportation-related equipment. Nicholson says taking the course can encourage drivers to consider safety from a new lens, noting the feedback from one client was: “I don’t know what you said, but they are taking the initiative and checking their own vehicles daily now.”

Other services include 3rd Party Workplace Harassment, Workplace Bullying and Violence Investigations, Occupational Health and Safety Policy and Program Development, and Health and Safety Auditing. Developing policies and programs specifically related to the workplace, worker conditions, workplace specific hazards, and setting standards for behaviour, comes from a company’s corporate values, its management and its workers.

“Many people want health and safety to be part of their corporate image but are overwhelmed by the challenge. Being involved in your processes as an owner, getting involved and checking in with all trades can help offset overhead or potentially minimize a conviction if someone is critically injured or killed at work. Safety makes good business sense but it’s only after an accident that we see what that really looks like and often becomes I should’ve, I could have or I didn’t.”

“There can also be gaps in knowledge when it comes to employers and supervisors knowing their obligations to employees and what the law requires of them when it comes to health and safety. No two jobs are identical, and days are never the same. We provide a comprehensive look at the environment, the kinds of work being done, and provide advice, planning and, of course, training as needed.”

He says CWST can also assist with clarity when it comes to viewing the perceived investment in various forms of equipment. For instance, the cost of a ladder compared with an elevated platform may seem obvious, but factoring in legal fees, a damaged reputation, lost time from workers, and potentially the cost of recruitment and hiring, far outweigh the equipment price tag.

Working across the province and beyond, CWST applies its nearly 20 years of experience in safety training to help business owners, supervisors and health and safety professionals ensure their teams have the training they need. The greatest misconception? That online training, or free training, can equip employees for potentially risky situations.

“I understand that you can get WHMIS training online in 20 minutes,” says Nicholson. “I also understand there is no guarantee the person actually taking that online test is the person doing the work, and there is nothing after to determine the success of the training.”

It is hard to imagine that tradesmen, who learn through a kinesthetic approach (hands on) are forced to sit through a classroom session, sometimes remotely, with limited engagement or interaction with the trainer. Further, there is no follow through to ensure the learning outcomes are achieved. “Any kind of training is going to shape someone’s approach to how they work, whether that relates to their use of tools or how they move about a jobsite safely. Unless you are physically there, 100 percent engaged, how can you learn with any degree of effectiveness?”

Nicholson says the notion of ‘free training’ not only devalues the intent of training – but also comes with an inherent risk of inexperience. “Real training is not about someone just reading over prepared slides. Most often that’s what Train the Trainer Courses are. Being a trainer requires a solid background in the subject, and a true understanding of the duty and responsibility of being a trainer. Effective training is based on real-life scenarios, connection, adaptability and an evaluation of the learning outcomes based on support by employers.”

During what has been challenging economic times, the construction industry has felt the double-edged sword of pressure to get work done, and a challenge in meeting workforce needs. While the idea of investing training dollars in what may be a dynamic and changing workforce may seem risky, that same investment can, in fact, help with retention. “When employees feel they know how to do a job safely, have been trained in using their equipment, when they feel the employer is supportive and concerned for their health and safety, they tend to look at the work from a different lens. Where that does not exist, the work may become a temporary stop in their employment journey until something better comes along.”

Nicholson says it is up to employers to shape the trajectory for health and safety, and that comes down to investment, connecting with the right providers, and ultimately, how they treat employees, including when it comes to ensuring their safety and comfort on the job.

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