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Safety concerns for inexperienced construction supervisors

23 October, 2012

Inexperienced workers are being promoted to supervisory roles within the civil construction sector without the specialist training required, according to a new study by Edith Cowan University (ECU).

ECU’s Centre for Innovative Practice (CIP) researcher Dr Susanne Bahn found due to the current labour supply pressures in Western Australia (WA), younger less experienced workers were being promoted to supervisory roles faster than ever before.

"These workers often come straight out of the trenches or off the machines into supervisory roles with little or no transition or training," Dr Bahn said.

"This can be a problem for the younger supervisor as they have received no additional training and are often ill-equipped to manage older experienced workers."

Dr Bahn interviewed supervisors from three medium sized civil construction companies based in the Perth metro area.

"Many of the supervisors said there was very little transition between their previous general working roles to that of supervisor, with only 35 per cent reporting that they had received any training," Dr Bahn said

The study found that 50 per cent of participants were undertaking training in a Certificate IV in Civil Construction, the industry standard qualification, with just one newly appointed supervisor currently undertaking specific training in supervision.

"Many supervisors commented that there was a lack of specialised training available for the civil construction industry and complained that training in WA was difficult to access and often too generic," Dr Bahn said.

"Providing training in supervision and frontline management can teach the younger supervisor key management skills, ensuring productivity and safety within the workforce."

The study found that training and development should be an integral part of a worker’s transition into a supervisory role and there is an urgent need for this to be addressed by the vocational education training centres within WA.

"If increased training in supervision and leadership was to occur, there is a likelihood that this would flow through the whole organisation and the level of safety could increase," Dr Bahn said.

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