Building safety culture at BCIT construction school

The B.C. Institute of Technology’s School of Construction and the Environment is reimagining how it makes health and safety an integral part of learning. 

Photo of a student using a piece of equipment in a shop, while her instructor and classmate look on.

Students and instructor at BCIT School of Construction and Environment
Photo credit: WorkSafeBC, used with permission

During the month of April, Construction Month celebrates B.C.’s construction industry. These essential workers have kept going through the pandemic, the heat dome, floods, supply chain disturbances, and more.

In 2021, there were over 212,000 workers in B.C.’s construction sector. To meet future demand, 11,331 workers will need to be recruited by 2029. (source: British Columbia Construction Association, 2021)

Today, many students are preparing for their future careers in construction trades. The School of Construction and Environment at the B.C. Institute of Technology (BCIT) wants to help its students build a health and safety foundation by improving its own health and safety culture.

Making health and safety a prominent part of learning

About three years ago, BCIT’s School of Construction and the Environment invited WorkSafeBC to do a safety audit.

Dave Dunn, associate dean in Building Design and Construction Trades, says they were always doing a good job when it came to safety procedures, but they realized that they could be doing more.

The audit identified some areas that needed improvement. “A number of issues came up, so we started unpacking them,” says Dave.

One issue, for example, was that they didn’t have adequate documentation to show that students had been trained to use hazardous tools and equipment. The school saw an opportunity to resolve that, and to also find a solution that could enhance the learning experience for students. They looked at using video as a training tool that would resonate with students.

Going digital

BCIT made a series of instructional videos that demonstrate the safe use of every machine in the shop. Each piece of equipment is labelled with a QR code that links to the corresponding safety video.

“A big part of what we’re doing now is that we show you how to safely use it, and then the student acknowledges that they’ve been shown how to properly use the equipment,” Dave says. They read and sign safety protocols before using any equipment.

Instructor Breena Jackson describes how the self-paced video feature helps students. “Not every student is going to understand a demonstration on the first run-through. Now they have the ability to consume the video at home, on their own.” Breena has found that students are watching these videos multiple times.

All these safety videos are available free of charge to anyone else who needs them. See Safety in Construction & the Environment for more information.

Students can also access virtual reality tours of the shops. The tours provide information about lockout and other safety procedures.

Improving training documentation and developing the new videos are part of BCIT’s commitment to meet and exceed requirements for health and safety in the workplace.

Thank you to Dave and Breena for speaking with me.

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