CHICAGO - Project LeAD, an initiative to enhance key leadership characteristics among construction workers that are critical for a safe work environment, is drawing upon contractor and union expertise nationwide. The study is led by Colorado State University researchers, in partnership with numerous construction organizations, including the Mechanical Contractors Association of Chicago, the United Association, Mechanical Contractors Association of America, UA Locals 3 and 208 in Denver, UA Local 290 in Portland Ore., UA Local 597 in Chicago, Colorado Association of Mechanical and Plumbing Contractors, and the Plumbing and Mechanical Contractors Association in Oregon.

“Anything we can do to help meaningfully change safety practices in the workplace is a worthwhile endeavor,” said Stephen Lamb, executive vice president of MCA Chicago. “This project is particularly good because it is research based, and is in conjunction with an institution that has a proven track record.”

Project LeAD stands for Learning, Assessment, and Development, according to Krista Hoffmeister of the Safety Management Applied Research Team at Colorado State University. It grew out of two projects (Proactive Management and Safe Talk), which developed multilevel safety communication and feedback training for construction foremen and workers. Both projects were developed in collaboration with union apprenticeship programs, mechanical contractors, and general contractors.

Designed to supplement technical safety training with skills on how to communicate about safety, both programs cover how to give and receive feedback on the job, how to share near misses in a way that others can learn from, how to deal with conflict management situations, and how to conduct jobsite-wide training without interrupting work.

The topics, leaders said, were built based on several focus groups, surveys, and mock training with workers and management. The training is six hours; researchers found it is most appropriate for second- and third-year apprentices. Also, “Through the Safe Talk and Proactive Management projects, we learned that in order to influence safety, we have to have commitment from the top,” Hoffmeister said. “We learned that leaders play a critical role in the improvement of jobsite safety.”

The project is funded with a grant from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health through the Center for Construction Research and Training. The study is expected to result in a leadership training program that will include role playing, on-the-job practice, goal setting, personal assessment, and feedback. The unions and mechanical contractors’ associations, as well as individual contractors, will play a vital role in the material’s creation, Hoffmeister said.

Lamb said he expects the leadership training program to be fully developed by the fourth year, with the fifth year dedicated to dissemination of the results and materials. The final leadership training will be made available to construction unions and companies throughout the country. Project investigators plan to make the training materials available online for others to use.

The primary investigators of Project LeAD are Peter Chen, Ph.D., John Rosecrance, Ph.D., and Hoffmeister; they welcome others who are interested to participate. “There are a number of places where people can become involved,” Hoffmeister said. “They could be involved with many different aspects of the project, which is completely dependent on the time and interest they have.”

For more information on Proactive Management and Safe Talk, visit

Publication date:03/28/2011