Pandemic measures drive doubling of safety training outlays

Members responding to the Associated Builders and Contractors 2021 Workforce Development Survey invested $1.3 billion last year to provide craft, leadership and safety education to 500,000 course attendees, advancing their careers in commercial and industrial construction. Safety education accounted for 71 percent of the total workforce investment as per-person spending doubled, revealing an elevated focus on total human health during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“America’s economic engine is fueled by a workforce equipped with durable and transferable skill sets, and ABC members are dedicated to investing in essential safety education and professional development for craft and management professionals,” says Vice President of Health, Safety, Environment and Workforce Development Greg Sizemore. “Apprenticeship and career technical education provide the right tools to our nation’s workforce to not only build the places where Americans live, work, heal, play and learn, but also cultivate long-lasting and rewarding career opportunities.”

Among other key survey findings: ABC members invested an average of 8.4 percent of payroll on workforce development in 2020, up from 7.9 percent in 2019. Safety education outlays averaged $2,369 per employee, up from $1,147 in 2019. This was due primarily to repeated safety trainings required to comply with restrictions and keep workers safe during the Covid-19 pandemic. The percentage of contractor members reporting a severe labor shortage declined 3 points between 2019 and 2020, while those reporting a moderate labor shortage increased 5 percent. Compared to 2019, general and construction management contractors have increased their share of the total workforce development investment, growing to 58 percent in 2020 from 21 percent in 2019. Women in management/supervisory roles ticked up to 17 percent of the workforce in 2020 from 16 percent in 2019. And, approximately 70 percent of contractors reported partnerships with high school and college career and technical education internship programs.

ABC and its members recruit, educate and upskill the nation’s future construction workforce through a network of more than 800 apprenticeship, craft training and safety programs. In 2021, construction companies will need to hire 430,000 more workers than they employed in 2020, according to an ABC analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Every $1 billion in extra construction spending generates an average of at least 5,700 construction jobs. 

Management consultant FMI conducted the 2021 Workforce Development Survey to quantify the scope of ABC member training initiatives. Aggregated data were derived by calculating the average amount spent on education by each respondent and multiplying that by the total number of ABC contractor members.

ABC’s Greg Sizemore is one of 15 individuals appointed to the Department of Labor’s Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health, which informs the assistant secretary on occupational safety and health on construction standards. Members will serve two-year terms and represent the interests of the public, employers, employees, and state and federal government. The committee generally meets two to four times a year.

Chairing the ACCSH is North America’s Building Trades Unions’ Christina Trahan Cain, whose serves as executive director of Center for Construction Research and Training. Joining her and Sizemore on the Committee are members by sector or area representation:

Employee representatives: Cheryl Ambrose, United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the U.S. and Canada; Wayne Creasap II, International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers; Ryan Papariello, Laborers Health and Safety Fund of North America; and, David Wysocki, International Masonry Training and Education Foundation.

Employer representatives: Kevin Cannon, Associated General Contractors of America; Julie Carter, Roy Anderson Corp.; Fravel Combs, M.A. Mortenson Co.; and, Wesley Wheeler, National Electrical Contractors Association.

Public, State and Federal Government representatives: Christopher Fought, Merck; R. Ronald Sokol, Safety Council of Texas City; Christopher Scott Mabry, North Carolina Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Division; Charles Stribling, Kentucky Labor Cabinet Department of Workplace Standards; and, per U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary designation, Dr. G. Scott Earnest, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.


U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidance and expanded technical assistance surrounding the pandemic indicate strong footing for companies treating Covid-19 vaccination as a condition of employment. Federal EEO laws, the agency notes:

  • Do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for Covid-19, so long as employers comply with the reasonable accommodation provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • Do not prevent or limit employers from offering incentives to employees to voluntarily provide documentation or other confirmation of vaccination obtained from a third party. If opting to obtain vaccination information from their employees, employers must keep vaccination information confidential pursuant to the ADA.
  • Allow employers that are administering vaccines to offer incentives for employees to be vaccinated, as long as the incentives are not coercive. Because vaccinations require employees to answer pre-vaccination disability-related screening questions, a very large incentive could make employees feel pressured to disclose protected medical information.

The expanded technical assistance provides new information about how the ADA and Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act apply when an employer offers incentives for employees to provide documentation or other confirmation of vaccination when an employee gets a vaccine in the community or from the employer or its agent. The technical assistance answers Covid-19 questions only from the perspective of the EEO laws. Other federal, state, and local laws come into play regarding the pandemic for employers and employees.