Are your contractor safety management practices putting you at risk? It’s possible. Contractor and temporary workers who are injured sometimes sue their host employer, seeking damages beyond workers’ compensation—and in some cases they have been successful. In addition, a contractor incident on your site can cause injury to your employees, or even if it doesn’t result in any injury, it can cause damage to your facility and delay production. Even if these losses are insurable (they aren’t always), they pose, at the very least, a huge headache—one that could have been prevented.
It’s just one more case where prevention is better than a cure. In order to prevent this particular headache, it may help to have an understanding of the factors that can cause it.
A recent review of literature conducted by The Campbell Institute (a nonprofit research foundation operated under the auspices of the National Safety Council), identified the major factors affecting contractors that can compromise worksite safety:
- Financial pressure. When financial and deadline pressures are emphasized over safety and health, there is a temptation to cut safety corners. Among the commonly cut corners is workers who don’t report and don’t receive treatment for minor injuries, for fear of being replaced on a job and not rehired for the next job.
- Poor communication. Poor communication can lead to preventable mistakes. Contractors may receive less training or training that is insufficiently site- or task-specific. They may also find themselves in environments where no one is clearly responsible for performing hazard assessments, periodic inspections, or day-to-day supervisory activities, putting them in situations they are ill-prepared for, without the tools they need to work safely. Inadequate instructions, poor information flow, and insufficient task planning and hazard identification are reported as root causes of fatal accidents among contractors more frequently than they are for tasks that are not contracted.
- Inadequate safety standards and enforcement. Contractors sometimes have lower standards for safety, and practice less diligent enforcement, than site owners. If this is not identified and corrected, the contractor can create hazards that affect not only contractor employees but other workers on-site. Permanent employees may be injured in accidents caused by a contractor, or they may observe lax safety practices among contractors and become lax themselves.
- Inconsistent requalification procedures. Some companies do a good job with the initial prequalification of contractors, but then they fail to regularly requalify them once they are qualified. Without regular requalification, companies hiring a contractor will not know whether the contractor’s training and certifications are up to date.
In order to address these factors, the Campbell Institute and other nonprofit safety organizations and industry groups recommend that organizations create a contractor safety management program. Tomorrow we’ll look at some best practices that can be used to set up such a program.