Changing construction safety culture with “Cool or Tool?” app

The “Cool or Tool?” app raises construction workers’ awareness of what is and isn’t acceptable workplace conduct. It’s fun and takes only two minutes a day. 

Photo of screens of the Cool or Tool app

Photo credit: Builders Code

B.C.’s construction industry employs about 250,000 workers, including labourers and skilled tradespeople. In March 2019, several industry partners collaborated to launch the Builders Code, an initiative that provides B.C.’s construction industry with training and support to address bullying and harassment in the workplace.

One of the initiative’s latest resources to help industry is the Cool or Tool? app, a scenario-based game for construction workers that aims to create safer and more inclusive worksites.

You’ll recognize the characters in the app if you’re familiar with the Builders Code’s “Don’t be a tool” campaign. (Read more about the campaign in my 2019 post “Don’t Be a Tool” videos show how not to behave on construction sites.)

Unlearning what’s uncool

To learn more about the app, I spoke with Lisa Stevens, chief strategy officer at the British Columbia Construction Association, one of the founding partners of the Builders Code.

“Considering the sheer size of this workforce and the fact that we can’t take them off the worksite for training, we came up with the idea for the app,” she says. “It’s meant to be fun and engaging — a way for people to unlearn some of the things they are doing that they didn’t realize might not be so cool.”

Every morning, users will receive two short animations that depict real-life situations on a jobsite. They judge the actions as “cool” (appropriate) or “tool” (inappropriate). It takes about 2 minutes a day for 10 days — 20 scenarios in total.

Lisa says that the value of the app is in its light-hearted approach to a very serious topic: “We know that lecturing, blaming, and finger-pointing is never a solution. The way to bring people to the table and keep minds open is to approach it in a more positive way. Using a sense of humour makes it more comfortable for people to talk about and share.”

Encouraging employers to lead the way

Employers who want to use the app with their crews can get custom links to send to their workers. The employers can then access a dashboard to see what the participation level is like on their teams. Lisa adds that the dashboard isn’t meant to be a scorecard or to check who’s getting the questions right, though — it’s purely meant to see engagement.

“We’re here for those employers who are ready to lead the way and who understand that safety on a construction site is not limited to physical safety and physical hazards,” Lisa says. “Behavioural and psychological safety also play a key role in ensuring safety and productivity on a jobsite.”

The app is currently in its testing phase. If you’d like to participate in beta testing of the Crew Training App, send your request to theteam@builderscode.ca or register at builderscode.ca.

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