Construction Job Communication Tips

Communication Failures on a Construction Jobsite

When the jobsite feels chaotic and disorganized, you can probably pin the blame on this likely culprit––miscommunication.  Failure to communicate can ultimately lead to serious jobsite accidents, project rework, and employee problems. The construction industry has established processes for communication over the years, but the various groups involved on a construction site come and go at different times and often have different priorities.

Effective communication is critical for collaborative work. According to Andrew Dainty, high levels of communication are needed to:

  • Achieve coordinated results
  • Manage activity
  • Motivate employees
  • Understand the needs of the workplace

As a contractor, if you are not meeting these goals, you need to determine where communication is breaking down and potentially endangering the project. These are some of the common communication mishaps found on jobsites: 

Not Listening

Can you tell how many workers are actually listening during those daily field crew meetings? If you don’t immediately capture their attention, they disengage until it appears you are finished. Why might that be?

  • They are in a hurry to complete a task
  • They are confused but don’t want to ask questions
  • You don’t give them a chance to ask questions
  • They don’t feel able to speak up about jobsite issues
  • They just can’t hear over the jobsite noise
  • There is a personal conflict

Delayed Notifications or Follow-up

If you don’t tell workers about an issue before it happens, they can’t be proactive. If you say you will look into something and never follow up, workers may stop coming to you.

Communication requires a level of trust; if you state you will take action and fail to do so, you are breaking that trust. You will lose an important element of the line of communication within your group and on the jobsite, which could lead to unreported conditions or ad hoc solutions created outside of the process.

If you don’t tell the site supervisor about the delay in transport for the remaining steel panels, the supervisor can’t reschedule workers to come at another time or work on another area. Everyone ends up waiting around and wasting time.

If the crane operator says people are ignoring the “no-walk” signs and you say you will look into it, someone can get hurt if you don’t follow up on the issue quickly. The crane operator may then decide that it isn’t worth asking you to do anything else and report you to OSHA.

Technological Problems

While email, voicemail, and texting have simplified communications in some ways, these activities have caused communications to become fragmented in others. Private group communications also limit access to information and create silos of activity and information. One group has one mandate, and that puts another out of the loop. Soon collaboration falls apart and everyone works in silos, isolated from others.

To combat this, everyone should have real time access to documents where comments and revisions can be made and viewed by all. There must be one streamlined method of communication that is updated with project information in real time for all to see or these one-off methods of communications become more harmful than helpful to project success.

So, What Happens When Communication Fails?

Employees may misread management decisions or react differently than expected. Managers may not understand employee needs. Both result in lower performance and higher worker turnover. 

Some misunderstandings result in rework, which could range from simply replacing a few lights to breaking up an entire concrete slab and performing a new pour.

Other miscommunication can result in safety violations, accidents, injuries, or death. A worker at height did not learn how to use his harness correctly because he did not understand the trainer. Another misses the message about an active crane area. There are hundreds of ways to get hurt or damage equipment on a construction site if you do not hear the reasons for why you need to be careful.

Solving the Communication Problem

The first step in resolving communication problems is recognizing you have them in the first place. Ask for feedback about what you communicated, especially in face-to-face situations. Have the other person repeat back to you what you said to make sure the information was received correctly. Pay attention to the other person’s reactions and look for indications that they are listening. 

Automate your communications whenever possible to provide real time updates via text or voicemail. Utilize software with version control histories during drawing revisions, and logs of document access and changes. Other good areas for auto-notifications include:

  • Changes in or expectations of severe weather 
  • Delays in shipping and transport of expected materials
  • Scheduling changes due to the unavailability of a particular sub that day

Customize your notifications to go to the right people, depending on the message. Limit them to those who need to know. If workers receive too many notifications, they may start to ignore them. 

The best option for eliminating your communication gaps is to invest in a software platform with a dashboard feature to monitor the status of a variety of areas on a single screen. If needed, you can dig into any details and clarify instructions with the people involved. 

A construction jobsite is no place for misunderstandings––too much is at stake. Clear communication not only reduces rework and mitigates accidents, it can also significantly increase the efficiency of the construction process. 

Figure out your communication failures, learn from them, and devise a way to keep everyone in the loop on everything from changes in deliveries to how the weather will impact the day’s schedule. 

Better communication also builds better teams, and enhances worker retention and attitudes at the jobsite.

Measuring Risk Construction Insight

Measuring risk in 2017, Construction insight!

Think of the insurance industry as your personal guide to forecasting the future climate of the construction industry. Tracking the insurance industry’s trends can give us a better understanding of the kinds of changes and risks that are to come in our industry to stay one step ahead of the game. 

On January 25, Marsh, insurance broker and risk management firm, held a webcast covering the risk environment in 2017 for companies and investors. Technology topped the list of areas seeing great change.  

“Tech is going to play a critical role in years to come. We’re going to see advances leading to greater economic productivity, innovative healthcare solutions, climate change solutions, and more,” explained Michael Rodgers, West Zone leader, Marsh Multinational Client Service. 

Areas requiring companies to exercise more diligence include robotics and artificial intelligence. These two technologies will lead to job losses for both blue and white collar workers. They are already raising questions about the liabilities companies will face as their use becomes more mainstream. 

As more of construction’s critical business moves to the cloud, companies should consider their levels of risk if they were disconnected from the Internet, and consider mitigating or insuring. 

Some of these concerns come from the industry’s increasing use of the technologies found in self-driving cars. Construction uses many of the same global positioning systems for placing locations and mapping. It also uses computer vision technology in autonomous or semi-autonomous equipment. These technologies pose unique liabilities that are crucial for construction companies to consider. If, for example, two pieces of autonomous equipment get into an accident, who is liable? Is it the manufacturer? Or is it the software developer who wrote the code?  

While very broad definitions of artificial intelligence could include software that uses algorithms to deduce the best materials for a foundation under specific soil conditions, the AI on the very near horizon comes much closer to human “thinking,” augmented by computing power. 

Examples include:

  • Model-based estimating
  • Energy modeling and prediction
  • Predicting structural damage from seismic events
  • Site and urban planning

As AI continues to interface with the core processes of businesses, it will begin to operate in areas that increase risks to individual privacy, collaboration across teams, recruiting, and daily operations. When AI begins making humanlike judgements that people rely on when making decisions, the risk scenarios expand quickly.

Trending Coverage

Property insurance is staying buyer-friendly, and there are new entrants to the market, said Duncan Ellis, Marsh’s US Property Practice leader. Ellis said he expects the marketplace to remain competitive in 2017, but predicts the rate of reductions will level off. 

Insurers are monitoring terrorist activities across regions looking at past, present, and potential future terrorist activity. In the U.S, property insurers are continuing to offer terrorism policies with broad coverage and competitive pricing. But, policy pricing will reflect a particular area’s exposure to terrorism. 

Ellis said it’s a good time to try to lock in favorable premium prices currently offered in the property insurance market. Look at multi-year aggregated and non-aggregated deals as well as alternative structures such as parametric insurance models.

Inland flooding is also continuing to be a loss leader, so companies should consider their exposures, look at modeling results, and use parametric non-indemnity to cover exposures.

The Cyber Challenge

“Cyber has long been viewed as a third party privacy event, meaning the theft of sensitive information that’s sold or used on the dark web,” said Ellis. “Cyber is moving now to be more viewed as equally important from a first party point of view, especially when looking at time element coverage such as business interruption, and or contingent business interruption…”  

Ellis explained these types of losses are coming without physical events, marking a significant change. Historically, claims were triggered by physical events causing physical damage leading to the business not being able to continue its operations. 

Cyber policies, and balloon cyber policies generally cover malicious network attacks relative to Internet service providers, but do not address third party suppliers of products that get compromised and can’t supply the mission-essential products the insured need to continue operating. There are endorsements for first party issues that can be added to all-risk programs, and some insurers include wording to cover first party cyber events within their policies. 

The cyber insurance market remains favorable for buyers, and is expected to continue in 2017. The greatest risks lie with companies that hold a significant amount of third party data, such as retail and healthcare.

As more of construction’s critical business moves to the cloud, companies should consider their levels of risk if they were disconnected from the Internet, and consider mitigating or insuring.

Workers Compensation 

“With such a competitive landscape insurers are finding it more and more difficult to secure the rate increases that they’d like to get,” said Stephen Kempsey, Marsh’s U.S. Casualty Practice leader. “The growth for the carriers needs to come from new business, so as a result, insurers are continuing to expand their appetite, and even some of the more challenging risks may have multiple suitors vying for their business in 2017.”

He emphasized, however, that factors in each state will affect insureds’ renewals. He cited difficulties stemming from court rulings in Florida as one example. Another factor affecting rates is limited marketplaces which are continuing for:

  • Large employee concentration risks
  • Professional employer organizations
  • Monoline placements
  • Workers compensation risks related to adverse experience

Kempsey also said the changing workforce is capturing more attention of insurers. Remote workers and independent contractor status remain under close watch by insurance companies.

General Liability Stays Favorably Priced

The general liability marketplace remains favorable for people buying insurance. Classes of business that will find challenges in 2017 include construction in New York because of labor law claims, new business models like those in the sharing economy, residential real estate, and companies with wildfire exposure. 

Kempsey also pointed out that insurers are paying closer attention to policy wording related to exclusions. New technologies used in business cause insurers to transfer risk related to unknowns, to other policies. He cited cyber-related exclusion as one example where insurers are transferring those risks to cyber policies instead of leaving them in general liability. Insurers are also excluding drones, production of genetically modified organisms, and traumatic brain injury.  

Auto continues to be the most challenging of the primary general liability lines. The frequency and severity of auto losses mean that insurers are not writing policies for certain risks, like long haul trucking. Better rates are possible by purchasing multiple coverages from one insurer. Sharing economy transportation claims are being looked at more closely to determine when a claim belongs to a personal auto policy or commercial policy. Autonomous vehicle coverage is another gray area in terms of assigning liability.  

While the excess casualty lines are generally favorable for insureds in 2017, there is an exception for very large umbrella policies where some insurers are reducing their exposures. To counter, insureds might need to add new partners to their towers, or change existing structures.    

Regulatory Remains Uncertain

There’s a lot of uncertainty about what a Trump presidency will actually mean, but there are a number of specific issues that unquestionably will have to be addressed,” Spore said. “The bottom line is while we can speculate about Trump’s administration and future direction, the reality is that in many ways the practical consequences in the change of administration remains to be seen.” 

He said there is a strong possibility the judiciary will shift, leading to more conservative outcomes in cases. Besides, the Supreme Court vacancies, there are many vacancies in the federal judiciary. Cabinet appointments and other key administrator appointments will also affect the insurance regulatory landscape.