Are contractors the weak link in your safety chain? If you don’t have an effective contractor safety management program, you may not even know. Your contractors could be bringing personnel onto your site who don’t have the training and certifications you would normally require. The contractor—or the contractor’s personnel—may have only a cursory understanding of your site, their jobs, and safe work procedures. They may not understand what their responsibilities are. And if something goes wrong as a result, the headache of putting it all right again could belong exclusively to you.
But you can prevent safety issues created by contractors with a good contractor safety management program. Here are some ways to create an effective program.
Elements of an Effective Program
Various nonprofit safety organizations and industry groups have researched and aggregated best practices for contractor safety management, including the Campbell Institute (founded and operated under the auspices of the National Safety Council), the American Society for Safety Engineers (ASSE), and the American Petroleum Institute (API). A program organized along these recommendations should work for suppliers, project contractors, and regular contractors (like delivery drivers and groundskeeping services).
The recommendations have a lot in common, including:
Prequalification. Before you put the contract out for bid, any potential bidders should complete a prequalification process that includes health and safety requirements. Depending on where the work will be done, you may wish to use a third-party prequalifying agency; organizations with international operations often find these most convenient for the prequalification of potential contractors and vendors. During prequalification, you or your prequalifying agency can assess a contractor’s:
- Basic EHS metrics, like their experience modification rate, recordable incident rate, and days away from work, restricted or transferred (DART) rate
- Their technical qualifications and competencies
- The quality of their service
- Their financial ability to fulfill a contract
Planning. It’s important to have a clear idea of the scope of work and a basic EHS risk assessment. The assessment can then be used to categorize potential contractors based on the specific hazards of the job. It can also be used to determine what additional requirements and specifications should be included in the bid package. For example, if a job will require fall protection, contractors submitting bids can be instructed to include their fall protection plan and documentation of worker training.
Orientation and training. Because inadequate training is frequently identified as a root cause in contractor fatality investigations, it should receive special attention. Although many organizations require the contractor to provide training, it is a good idea to provide at least some training at your worksite. Site-specific hazards, emergency procedures, and safety requirements should be covered, at a minimum, before contractors begin working on-site. Once contractors begin work, they should participate in safety activities on-site, including preshift safety meetings and job safety briefings.
Monitoring and assessment. While the work is ongoing, don’t take a hands-off approach. Monitor the progress of the work—more hazardous work should be more frequently inspected—and if any issues are identified, make sure that they are promptly addressed. Consequences for uncorrected problems should be clearly defined and used to identify and, if necessary, remove contractors with high rates of safety infractions or reportable incidents.
Performance evaluation. Once the job is finished, evaluate the contractor’s performance. Was the work done safely, on time, with acceptable quality? Were identified issues dealt with promptly? The postjob performance evaluation can be an important piece of information to have when evaluating a contractor for future work.