EHS Management

Why Partnering with Supply Chain Colleagues Is Critical to Your Business

Now more than ever, there’s a need for departments within organizations—including Safety and Supply Chain—to reach outside of their operational silos and work together to meet shared goals. Collaborative relationships benefit everyone involved, helping to create a stronger safety culture across the entire organization and mitigate risks associated with the use of third-party contractors.

Supply Chain Safety Management

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In this Q&A with Marcus Pettus, Safety and Supply Chain Product Manager at Veriforce, we hope to help environment, health, and safety (EHS) professionals gain a better understanding of why these relationships are important and how you can forge them within your organization.

Q: Leading organizations recognize the importance of a strong relationship between Safety and Supply Chain. Why is it important for these two groups to work hand-in-hand?

A: It’s sometimes perceived that involving Supply Chain adds a time-consuming layer of work, yet from my experience as a safety professional in the field, I can attest that it’s time well spent. Both groups have a vested interest in guarding their business against safety-related incidents and accidents involving contractors. It makes sense that they work closely together to help each other do their jobs.

For instance, at the beginning of a new contractor relationship, Safety and Supply Chain can partner to include safety criteria—such as a contractor’s OSHA safety statistics—as part of vendor prequalification and due diligence processes and to help set the tone that safety is a top priority for their organization. By leveraging safety performance data to hire safety-compliant contractors, Supply Chain teams mitigate risks of injuries or work stoppages and avoid costs by heading off safety-related incidents that are more likely to happen with contractors who have less than stellar safety records. Once contractors are hired, the two departments can work together to share contractor safety performance data that is valuable to their specific roles and leverage tools that both protect contractors and strengthen their organization’s safety record.

Q: How can safety professionals benefit from creating stronger ties with Supply Chain colleagues?

A: I can attest that safety professionals have a lot to gain from better communication and sharing of information with Supply Chain. Keeping workers safe can be challenging work. Safety teams can have complete confidence in their internal safety program, yet they feel blind to the safety capabilities of outside contractors because they are often hired by supply chain professionals who may prioritize cost and experience without even considering safety records.

Often a safety manager will recognize the need for a contractor management software solution to help close this gap. A strong relationship with Supply Chain gives safety managers a voice to advocate for implementing a software solution that best suits their needs—one that offers clear visibility into each contractor’s safety compliance and status, provides deep insight into the quality of a contractor’s safety program, and offers tools for making ongoing contractor safety improvements. The software’s data insights also enable safety professionals to focus their time on proactive, preventive site visits that involve conducting reviews or audits rather than reactive investigations after an incident occurs.

Q: And what are some of the biggest benefits to be gained on the Supply Chain side?

A: Supply Chain plays a key role in managing the risk that third parties introduce to their organization, yet they are often unaware of important vendor safety records or the safety training and awareness of the workers they hire. Working with Safety to incorporate a review of the contractor’s occupational health and safety record as part of their vendor prequalification process takes little effort and can be a powerful tool to add to their arsenal, helping them manage and mitigate risk. A close relationship with Safety can also save them the aggravation of having to reopen a bid process when they find out later that a contractor may not meet Safety’s requirements or needs replacement due to a safety-related incident that could have been avoided.

Q: Clearly, both sides have a lot to gain. How can they begin to form an effective partnership?

A: Fortunately, it’s not difficult or time-consuming to form an effective partnership between Safety and Supply Chain. The first step is to open up a dialogue with your supply chain colleagues about your common goal of risk management, communicate the types of contractor safety data you can bring to the table to help this cause, and discuss how using this information could fit into Supply Chain’s contractor prequalification process and workflows. An effective partnership means sharing information, so putting in place a strong contractor management software solution can be a helpful next step and a powerful way to continue engaging.

Q: Regardless of the size of an organization’s contractor workforce, there is a tremendous amount of safety-related data to manage and share. How can technology be leveraged as support?

A: A strong contractor management solution is one that is easily accessible to all stakeholders. The software provides real-time visibility into each contractor’s status, allowing quick identification of contractors that meet your safety standards, plus access to details needed to understand why a contractor is non-compliant.

These solutions make it easy to harness and access valuable details, such as safety stats, policies, audit results, questionnaires, and other pertinent documents. They streamline and simplify data submission and collection processes for both internal groups and contractors. More advanced solutions also provide valuable trending and predictive data that helps you evaluate individual contractor performance and the safety performance of your overall contractor pool, as well as make smarter decisions about which contractor you hire or where you target your limited safety resources.

Q: How can Supply Chain teams leverage the data?

A: In addition to including the safety data in vendor prequalification/due diligence processes designed to help mitigate risk and make smarter hiring decisions, Supply Chain teams can incorporate it into vendor scorecards or other vendor performance management programs and evaluation processes. An integration between your contractor management software and vendor management system(s) used by Supply Chain can make this easy. Doing this helps to reinforce that your company expects its contractors to remain focused on safety and improve over time. The data can even help Supply Chain colleagues find potential new contractors that are already part of the software provider’s network and vetted based on their safety performance.

For instance, one of our larger clients has a Contractor Committee—which includes representatives from upper-level management, Safety, Supply Chain, and Project Management—that meets quarterly to review data from its contractor management solution to assess contractors’ compliance and incident records. The data enabled them to pinpoint a contractor that was in need of serious improvement, and to proactively start looking for a replacement when they anticipated that they may need to cut ties due to ongoing safety concerns. The head start it gave them to hiring was especially beneficial because the work was highly specialized and in a remote location, making it a difficult job to fill.

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Q: What’s at stake if Safety and Supply Chain teams fail to find ways of working together?

A: I can’t overemphasize the importance of Safety and Supply Chain working together to be successful at improving contractor safety. The reasons are twofold. I’ve seen instances where Safety recognized a clear need for a contractor management software solution but failed to engage key internal stakeholders—like Supply Chain—in selecting and implementing a solution. Rollouts began and colleagues who interfaced with contractors were caught off-guard and having to scramble to adapt their department’s processes, or, at worst, they cancelled the software implementation. Then there’s what’s at stake if you aren’t working together to close contractor safety gaps at your company. When contractor safety is disregarded or poorly managed, there’s tremendous potential for worker injury, interrupted workflow, and damage to product quality. Preventable safety-related incidents, too, can significantly impact an organization’s financial security and its reputation.

An Imperative Partnership

Undoubtedly, strong safety partnerships help to protect your workforce and your company’s reputation and financial stability. By forming a business partnership with Supply Chain teams and, together, leveraging a comprehensive contractor management software solution to evaluate, monitor, and enhance your contractors’ safety compliance, you promote a safety-conscious workplace culture and mitigate risk for your organization. For more information about leveraging technology as support, visit Veriforce.com.

Marcus Pettus is Safety and Supply Chain Product Manager for Veriforce.