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Mission Possible

BEHAVIOR-BASED TRAINING AIMS TO REDUCE RISK AND LIABILITY FOR CONSTRUCTION MANAGERS AND SAVE AS MANY LIVES AS POSSIBLE

BY LISA KOPOCHINSKI

There are many industries that are risky for its workers. But it probably comes as no surprise that construction has consistently been ranked as one of the riskiest industries in the country.

Signal Person Training VR allows learners to practice signaling virtual cranes without the expense of using time on a real crane. PHOTO COURTESY OF MINDFORGE

Yet, it has been one of the slowest to adopt new technologies. From pacemakers for cardiac patients to forward-collision warning in new vehicles, technology — when used correctly — can help save lives.

MindForge is a behavior-based training technology provider that is on a mission to make technology easier to adopt, faster to implement and to ultimately save lives on the jobsite.

Bill McIntyre is the chairman of the International Risk Management Institute (IRMI). With more than four decades of experience in the construction/insurance business, his son, Stokes McIntyre, who serves as president, says Bill has always been passionate about reducing serious injuries and fatalities (SIFs) on construction sites.

“A few years ago, he set out to create risk-based training that goes beyond compliance and leverages today’s technology to push that training and information down to the front-line workforce,” says Stokes.

“He formed an innovation lab to explore how we might accomplish and iterate on his vision, which became MindForge, a wholly owned subsidiary of IRMI. We are headquartered in Columbus, Ohio and have a team dedicated to researching and building solutions to tackle SIFs.”

For the first year, the MindForge team was devoted to conducting extensive research.

“After that, we focused on assembling our team of engineers, designers, writers and operations managers to create an innovative holistic communication and training solution that pushes beyond simple compliance,” recalls Stokes.

MINDFORGE AND CONSTRUCTION

Essentially, MindForge studies behavioral, motivational and systematic issues related to serious injuries and fatalities on construction jobs to develop exposure-based training programs that support safety and quality. The browser-based technology platform simplifies workforce communication and maximizes performance quality with tools that keep jobsites safe, efficient and connected.

Its training platform bridges the communication disconnect between organization and front-line workforce on its jobs, equipping workers with training modules that are designed to be interesting, efficient and lifesaving.

“Fluid workforces, high-risk project environments and a communication disconnect between the home office and front-line workforce all contribute to the challenges and dangers of the industry,” says Stokes.

“Currently, most communication in the workforce occurs through word-of-mouth by people who aren’t professional orators — which results in the loss of critical information. This method of communicating often leaves the front line in the dark and not empowered to do their best work.”

He says that, in addition, many contractors haven’t taken into account how our brains work when training and supporting their workforce.

“There are concepts of the fast brain and slow brain that describe how we’re naturally and subconsciously swayed by bias. MindForge considers our brain function and helps workers identify biases that might put them in harm’s way. Exposure-based training simulates ‘hands-on’ experience that instills situational awareness and allows workers to learn and retain relevant information, but in a 3D environment where they’re not yet at risk.”

Stokes sees the biggest benefit of MindForge as the establishment of a solid line of communication to the front line that allows project leaders to push timely information and training to the workforce in an efficient manner.

“The workers benefit the most as they have the most at stake — their lives and livelihoods — but the construction company benefits massively in the form of productivity gains. For more than two years, we’ve been working with a group of contractors on a pilot program to test our training products and software on these partners’ jobsites to get feedback on our training content and technology. While we’re just getting started, the feedback we have received has been overwhelmingly positive to date.”

Berglund Construction, a fourth-generation family-owned company and a Chicagoland AGC member, recently entered into a partnership with MindForge. The company rolled out the MindForge platform in December.

“We are undertaking a large, highly complex project outside of our typical geographic reach, which requires hiring crews of tradespeople who have never worked with our company before,” explains Berglund Construction Project Manager Jeff Berglund.

“We had been looking for effective and creative ways to communicate safety and quality expectations to our new crews, and the MindForge platform offered us that ability. MindForge has gone above and beyond our initial expectations, offering a comprehensive safety solution for not only tracking training, but our day-to-day safety documentation. The ability to add our own content is a bonus.”

Berglund says a common false assumption about tradespeople is that they are anti-technology.

“This may be why software solutions haven’t typically targeted them. At our roll-out of MindForge, all the tradespeople were excited to download a new app on their phones and try out a new technology. We fielded several questions about how it works, and some of them were already offering ideas for innovative ways to use it on the project.”

Pepper Construction — a general contracting and construction management firm and member of AGC-Indiana — which has served the non-residential, private and government sectors since 1927, also entered into a partnership with MindForge recently.

Pepper Construction Safety Director Dave Murphy says this is because the company saw tremendous potential in the delivery of high-quality training directly to its tradespeople.

“While working with MindForge over the last few years, we’ve simultaneously been working with students from Purdue University on virtual reality training. The advancements both groups have made are impressive, and we see the potential impact these programs could have on the industry. MindForge has expanded their catalog to include training with gaming technology that can be delivered to our folks on their smartphones.”

Murphy says while Pepper Construction is still in the process of rolling out the MindForge platform beyond its safety team, the transition of employee training records from the old system to MindForge was easy and quick.

“We are now putting together teams of people in a phased roll-out of the training. We have planned an all tradesperson meeting for April to get some initial feedback and to outline our future plans.”

PLATFORM BENEFITS

Murphy says the biggest benefit of the MindForge platform for his company and the construction industry is that high-quality training can be directly targeted to the individual users’ needs and work scopes.

“Training can be a challenge due to logistical issues and turnover in the construction industry. Freeing ourselves from having to gather groups of people together for traditional training sessions and moving into a mobile environment that delivers training when it’s needed on the employees’ timetable is very appealing. I’m also a big fan of the portability of the training records. I don’t have to train somebody in a course that their last employer just gave them. This is good for the industry as a whole.”

Berglund concurs and adds that the construction industry has seen several new innovative technology platforms take hold in recent years.

“All of these software solutions are intended for use primarily by college-educated managers, who oversee construction projects. MindForge is differentiated by its focus on tradespeople as the user group. One of our industry’s biggest unsolved challenges is communicating effectively with the people who are actually putting the work in place. MindForge is striving to tackle that challenge.”

WHAT’S NEXT?

“The workers benefit the most as they have the most at stake – their lives and livelihoods – but the construction company benefits massively in the form of productivity gains.”

~ Stokes McIntyre, President, MindForge

As for what the near future holds, Berglund says, “We are using this first project as an opportunity to optimize the use of MindForge.”

“Ultimately, I envision MindForge rolling out companywide as a way to share knowledge between management and tradespeople and track how well we are doing that. This organization-wide learning will raise our performance bar and offer opportunities to keep getting better.”

For Pepper Construction, Murphy says he wants to evaluate the complete package — from the training database to the course content — as well as ease of use and the value add that MindForge has generated.

“The ultimate test is if the tradespeople adapt to new technologies and training methods and that it makes a difference in daily safety. I think it will!” Adds Stokes, “We hope to continue to develop our existing partnerships and expand platform rollouts within each of these companies, as well as acquire new partnerships throughout the nation. We also aspire to roll out MindForge content in trade schools to help young workers enter the industry prepared to do their best work, safely.”