Lots of factors figure in when you’re trying to maximize productivity and profits for your company. Some play out in the office, others play out in the field. Construction workers waiting at the job site due to some delay or other problem is one on-site issue that’s easy to overlook.
But the costs can add up considerably over a week, a month, and a year. And often, it’s not too hard to prevent or at least significantly limit this sort of lost productivity and wasted overhead.
So, let’s take a closer look at this issue of construction workers waiting at the job site.
How Long Do Construction Workers Wait?
The amount of time crew members spend just waiting around unable to work can vary widely, including by area of specialty. But getting stuck waiting around is a nearly universal problem in the construction industry.
Some years back, the University of Michigan’s Center for Construction Engineering and Management completed a study to look at this problem. For a few examples of what they found, here are average times some workers spent idling at the job site over the course of one day because of holdups:
- Bricklayers: 45 minutes
- Carpenters: 62 minutes
- Roofers: 75 minutes
- Electricians: 80 minutes
- Plumbers: 83 minutes
The Cost of Construction Workers Waiting at the Job Site
Let’s say a worker loses one hour per day to waiting around (which is even less than the average of the above five examples). And let’s say this crew member makes $20 per hour. After a five-day workweek, that’s $100 of payroll wasted on one person. If this affects just five workers, you’ve lost $500 in one week to stalled labor.
Or, imagine that 10 employees who earn $10 per hour waste 15 minutes per day looking for items they need, just because things aren’t put back where they’re supposed to be. That’s 150 minutes per day and 12.5 hours—or $125—over five days. Maybe that’s not a staggering number, but it totals to around $6,000 over a year.
So, as you can see, this waste adds up quickly.
Common Reasons Construction Workers Get Stalled
Just to clarify, we’re not talking about workers voluntarily stopping work. We’re only talking about workers waiting because they’re unable to proceed, usually because they’re missing some necessary equipment, tool, material, or information.
Here are just some of the most common causes of construction workers getting stuck waiting around:
- Waiting on assignments or instructions
- Waiting on equipment, tools, or materials
- Late/absent coworkers or supervisors
- Inventory shortages
- Equipment downtime
- Fueling or adding fluids to heavy equipment
- Other workers behind schedule
- Job site inaccessible or not ready
How to Prevent Construction Workers Waiting at the Job Site
Some smart management strategies help limit this sort of wasted labor time. Here are some key steps to take to minimize this area of lost productivity and profits:
- Stress employee timeliness and following established break schedules—and enforce it
- Watch out for management or supervision holes when making schedules
- Make sure more than one person can open the job site and provide access to all areas
- Post important phone numbers where all employees and contractors can easily find them
- Create weekly plans and assignments for the following week
- Have detailed plans and assignments written out and made available every day
- Draw up master lists of all equipment, tools, and materials for each job
- Use inventory tracking and management software or apps
- Be proactive about preventive maintenance on heavy equipment
- Make sure operators perform pre- and post-operation inspections on heavy equipment
- Establish an effective fluid management system for heavy equipment
- Monitor for work falling behind schedule and assign more resources and address problems
- Prep the site for the next day’s work at the end of each last shift
- Take appropriate measures to prevent theft from your construction sites