How to Select and Train Construction Workers

It’s important for management to develop a sound strategy for the selection and training of new workers. During the hiring process and in the initial stage of employment, errors made can have lasting implications on the worker and the company. A company should make decisions based on long-term planning to develop the types of workers needed to support the anticipated work.

There must be a consistent process developed for finding, interviewing, and selecting potential candidates for positions. It’s important that an employment policy be developed, that all management personnel be trained in the policy, and that procedures be implemented to ensure that the process is followed. Failure to follow a set process that assures compliance to applicable federal and state employment laws could place the company at considerable risk. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), American with Disabilities Act (ADA), and labor-related laws make the hiring process complicated. Since many vacant positions are filled on the jobsites, field management must have a thorough understanding of the job requirements, the corporate employment process, and the company objectives, if they are going to make proper hiring decisions.

When making decisions regarding skilled craftsmen or management positions, it is important that the individuals giving consideration to the candidates be able to compare the applicant's background with the present, as well as the future, needs of the company. Going through a vast number of applications to select the best candidates is not an easy process. The company should have a strategy to train the individuals making these decisions. A support network should be set up to answer any questions that might arise during the process and a reference manual should be available to help guide the management personnel in the field. The training of these individuals should not only cover the administrative aspects of the hiring process, but also what is proper when conducting interviews and dealing with applicants who are not selected. If these responsibilities are not performed properly, it could lead to unexpected liability. Finally, the individuals making worker selection must thoroughly understand and be able to fully explain the company salary and benefits structure.

Tips for Hiring Construction Workers

Companies usually require candidates that apply for open positions to fill out a basic employment application form. An interviewer must focus on discussing the applicant's technical and professional knowledge, skills/abilities, and experience - a company cannot discriminate in the hiring process. A candidate can be disqualified solely on the basis of not being qualified for the position, but this requires the development of a detailed description for each needed position. These job descriptions must be explicit in spelling out, not just the technical or skill requirements for the position, but also the expected physical requirements.

If there are to be tests for the qualifying process, such as pre-employment and drug screening, candidates must be notified in advance about the specifics of the requirements. Applicants should also sign a release for any background checks.

Physical examinations are a useful means to assess the physical capability of the worker, but they cannot be administered until after a candidate is offered a position. However, knowledge of any limitations can be helpful to a supervisor in determining work assignments to reduce the risk exposure of individual workers.

Tips for Training Construction Workers

Once an individual has been selected for employment, the training process, which is an important factor in providing for the long-term contributions of the worker, should begin. The new worker must get a thorough indoctrination of the company policies and procedures, particularly those related to safety. Research by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has shown that new workers are the most vulnerable to injury on the jobsite; therefore, training from the start of employment is of the utmost importance.

Some companies utilize the "buddy system" of pairing experienced workers with new workers as a means to assist in the familiarization process and protect new workers. This is a very effective way to build policy knowledge. All workers just starting with the company, regardless of their previous experience, should be treated as new workers for the purpose of indoctrination of the loss control program. Skill and experience levels can be taken into consideration when conducting the other aspects of training, since a novice worker will clearly need more training in fundamentals than an experienced worker. Still, safety programs can vary significantly from contractor to contractor and no assumptions should be made about the level of knowledge of any worker.

Management must provide information to first-line supervisors about the knowledge, skill, and experience levels of all workers, as well as indicate those who are new hires. This will alert the supervisor as to which workers will need additional attention and monitoring. Supervisors should maintain close contact until confident of the workers' understanding of the job, company requirements, and the expected work performance. All new workers, regardless of background, are going to feel uncomfortable in the initial stages of their employment. During this period, they will be the most vulnerable to accidents and additional guidance and patience is a must.

Workers should also be provided the necessary job-training requirements to perform their tasks. This is the responsibility of first-line supervisors, which, in turn, should provide better-quality work that is performed in a safer manner. Follow-up training, thorough pre-task training, toolbox talks, and periodic safety meetings should also be part of a company's strategy to train and maintain workers. Adequate and periodic skill improvement training sessions are an important tool in holding on to high-quality workers. All of these are important elements in promoting an overall successful loss control program.

Specialized training should also be given to the various levels of management on specific responsibilities. This also promotes effective loss control by assuring that management is just as skilled at overseeing the work as the individual workers are at performing the work.

Individual workers perform the physical work on the jobsite while management personnel provide the necessary control and coordination to direct the work. Workers are the crucial players in accomplishing the completion of a project. A contractor must develop a strategy for managing the process of selection and training of workers, which plays an important part in creating a safe and productive work environment.


MacCollum, David V., Construction Safety Planning. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1995.

Benntil, Kweku K., Fundamentals of the Construction Process. Kingston, MA: R. S. Means, Inc., 1989.

COPYRIGHT ©2004, ISO Services, Inc.

The information contained in this publication was obtained from sources believed to be reliable. ISO Services, Inc., its companies and employees make no guarantee of results and assume no liability in connection with either the information herein contained or the safety suggestions herein made. Moreover, it cannot be assumed that every acceptable safety procedure is contained herein or that abnormal or unusual circumstances may not warrant or require further or additional procedure.

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Related Topics: Safety Programs , Employee Safety , Protecting Your Business