BeSuper: Supervisor training in construction

Banner with photo of a tractor for the BeSuper in Construction Toolkit

Supervisor training to promote health/safety in construction

  • Proven interaction and team building skills were taught to supervisors who were guided to apply the skills to increase healthful and safe work practices & healthy lifestyle behaviors in employees/work crew
  • Supervisors used behavior tracking software (HabiTrak) on iPhone or iPod Touch to build new habit patterns to change employee work practices and life behaviors – such as safe work practices and healthy diet choices
  • Employees participated in weekly small group 'get healthier' education sessions to learn about healthier diets, exercise, sleep, strength building and more – in a card format
  • Training and materials in English and Spanish

Impact: Managers and supervisors are key to better health and safety in all organizations.  By learning the skills and techniques proven effective in office-based industries, managers, supervisors and lead workers in construction will more effectively teach and support safety and influence employee work practices and lifestyle behaviors to reduce injuries and improve employee well-being.

Access Training: To learn more about implementing the BeSuper toolkit visit, our website 


Materials and technology

BeSuper Toolkit Components
cTRAIN computer-based training, HabiTrak behavior tracking app, 'Get Healthier' Cards with take-home activity sheets
Pictures from the BeSuper! Research Project: One of partner facility, iPhone used for behavior tracking app and iPads for computer-based training portion
Pictures from the Project

To learn more about the toolkit components, such as the online training, behavior tracking and the Get Healthier Lifestyle Education activities or implementing the BeSuper toolkit in your organization, visit our tools and toolkit website,

We teach the supervisor to build a relationship with their employees that allows them to set work priorities that reduce overall life stress, leading to a healthier (less stressed) workforce that maximizes productivity and safe work practices.  The basic skills teach supervisors to interact with their employees one-to-one basis to establish a friendly relationship that includes a knowledge of home as well as work interests so that work priorities can support the employees non-work needs to reduce stress by accommodating competing needs. At the same time, the supervisor is taught to identify those work activities where safety and health need to be improved, to observe and measure those work activities, to explain and illustrate correct (safer, healthier) work activities or work practices, and to reinforce the correct practices and correct the unsafe/unhealthy ones. It is simply direct communication combined with observing skills and positive reinforcement.

Supervision is the key to implementing workplace programs to address these issues by educating employees and themselves about healthful lifestyles and safe work practices, and motivating their employees to adopt them. However, many supervisors are promoted due to technical knowledge, not supervisor skills, and they have little or no education or training in such skills.

This project promises to bring proven supervisor skills training to construction supervisors in both English and Spanish for both Latino and non-Latino supervisors. It is a translation project designed to package supervisor skills training in a computer-based/online delivered format, teach application of the skills to increase healthy lifestyle behaviors and safe work practices of employees in construction, and make the training available for dissemination.

The skills we teach have worked well in other settings but have not often been taught to construction supervisors, or at least no one has attempted to document the teaching and its outcomes in a scientific manner, and then published it. When we taught these skills to agricultural supervisors, they learned based on their answers in written tests, which we published, and they reported applying those skills in their employees.  However, the application of the skills we taught have not been tested in agriculture or construction.

Our piloting and the initial results of our pilot study have indicated that:

  • participants liked the intervention program (especially the get healthier cards)
  • everyone learned new knowledge from the training (large knowledge gains from pre- to post-intervention tests)
  • supervisors talked more with their crew or subcontractors (especially about safety)
  • employees reported important improvements in their lifestyle activities (e.g., bringing more lunches from home and eating less fast food)

Here's a sample of the report we will provide you with when we complete our intervention program.

We have developed a technology that allows supervisors to record or track their interactions with employees and the degree to which they reinforced appropriate behaviors (e.g., healthy work practices) or corrected inappropriate (e.g., unsafe) behaviors.  The recordings take a few minutes a day and are made on Apple iPhones or iPod Touches, and the results are shown in graphs to supervisors know if they are doing what we taught and if the targeted changes are happening.

No, that's not all, although promoting specific safe work practices (health protection) is the foundation. In addition, we teach supervisors to encourage healthy work practices like changing hands when doing repetitive motion tasks (such as painting) that can prevent hand and arm pain over time. Further, we are asking supervisors to reinforce healthier lifestyle behaviors such as healthy dietary practices of their choosing, in their employees.

The BeSuper! study was funded from 2011 to 2016 by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and is now available as a toolkit.

Science (research) tells us if we really made a difference that is reliable, and publication of the results tells others so they can use the same methods.  And it can convince companies to invest in this kind of training because the results are valid and can save the company money and help their workforce be healthier.

Partners for piloting were the apprentices of:
• International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW)
• International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) in Portland, Oregon

Partners that participated in the pilot study:
• InLine Construction
• Fortis Construction
• General Sheet Metal
• Mortenson Construction

Erin Slusser, InLine Commercial Construction
"The Wellness program was split into categories which we met weekly to discuss. These meetings were short yet informative. The cards we reviewed were educational and brought up good discussion topics for the group to talk over.  I believe that by breaking the program down into these roughly half an hour meetings, allowed our group to participate while not taking a large portion of the work day.  It was interesting to discuss these topics with my coworkers and it carried into our discussions throughout the day."

Alex Narath, InLine Commercial Construction
"The program was fun and there was lots of good information.
I particularly liked how the staff delivered the program.
I would recommend this to others including our main offices at InLine, Turner Construction, Hoffman Construction and Skanska Construction.
I really liked all of the information provided. I wish I had been held more accountable for the activities (I was bad!).
Thank you for choosing us to participate."

Mary Browne, InLine Commercial Construction
"I enjoyed participating in the study. It made me more aware of being a good role model to fellow coworkers and to also always be a good safety representative of Inline Construction. I especially enjoyed the weekly meetings and the camaraderie shared by our team. To have us go over the same material together made us all accountable to each other for our safety and wellness habits." 

Luis Arechiga, InLine commercial construction
"When we first were asked to participate in the program, I have to admit that I was a bit hesitant to be part of it; However, as the sessions progressed I felt more confident, comfortable and more engaged in it. My communication with my subcontractors and co-workers has significantly increased not only on the professional aspect but personal as well due to the fact that I have had that reminder on the weekly basis.

Being part of this program has opened my mind into the importance to a more balanced and healthy diet and really helped me to get out of that comfort zone that we tend to fall in such as reading food labels, and choosing healthier foods and drinks on a daily basis. Also has put that extra voice in me to exercise more and at the same time being more active engaging my loved ones.

One of the obstacles we encountered was that office personnel schedules are very different that we that work on the field all the time, such as myself having to transit from my morning work schedule to a graveyard one. This is a huge challenge for your program accommodating office employees and field employees and it showed, having our beginning crew being 10 plus employees and only a hand full remaining. It would be my recommendation to have these meetings separate with each other as the two departments operate differently, also would be a great idea to have the program in Spanish as there is as great number of Spanish speaking workers with limited English skills in the constructions world.

Overall I am satisfied with the results with this programs and definitely would recommend it for anyone to take who would have the opportunity and support from their companies to take advantage of this great informative and developed program, and definitely keep the gift card incentives as it will keep your participants more motivated to look forward to a new session."

  • Anger, W.K., Kyler-Yano, J., Vaughn, K., Wipfli, B., Olson, R., Blanco, M. (2018). Total Worker Health® intervention for construction workers alters safety, health, well-being measures. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 60 (8), 700-709. DOI: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000001290
  • Anger, K., Elliot, D., Bodner, T., Olson, R., Rohlman, D., Truxillo, D., Kuehl, K., Hammer, L., & Montgomery, D. (2015). Effectiveness of Total Worker Health interventions.  Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 20(2), 226-247.