It’s a challenging task for any EHS leader to keep track of temporary workers, contractors, and their roles within your company. This article will explore best practices for selecting and managing contractors with a mature safety and health program.
Contractor safety management is a system of processes that help ensure contracted services support your company’s EHS performance goals.
Contractor safety management programs protect the safety and health of your team, your contractors, their subcontractors, and your reputation.
The construction industry has consistently faced shortages in skilled labor over the past several years. As host employers rely on contractors to fill positions, assessing contractor safety is of increasing importance to employers.
Contractors can face financial pressures and impending deadlines, which can lead to cutting corners or engaging in unsafe behaviors. In addition, contract workers may be undertrained and underqualified. A lack of communication and coordination means that they never acquire the needed skills or safety knowledge for the job. For example, 95% of contractors surveyed in the USCC/USG Commercial Construction Index for Q1 2019 expressed concerns over whether their employees had adequate skill levels.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)’s multi-employer citation policy means that both employers and their contractors are responsible for the safety of ALL workers throughout a job site.
According to the agency’s Safety and Health Regulations for Construction, “in no case shall the prime contractor be relieved of overall responsibility for compliance …”.
In addition, OSHA also clearly indicates that subcontractors are also subject to safety and health regulations, stating that “With respect to subcontracted work, the prime contractor and any subcontractor or subcontractors shall be deemed to have joint responsibility.”
It’s important for the employer to establish safety rules and clearly communicate expectations by incorporating safety specifications into bid documents. Make sure roles and responsibilities are clearly defined between the employer and contractor. Don’t put anything into the contract terms that you wouldn’t actually be willing to enforce.
Once you’ve received bids, you’ll need to determine what criteria you should use to vet prospective contractors.
The best solution is to develop a standardized pre-job safety qualification process. You might choose to examine key performance indicators such as a contractor’s TRIR and DART rates over the past five years. These rates can be calculated for organizations of all sizes and industries, so they serve as helpful benchmarks. TCIR and DART rates can also be compared to those of other companies in a contractor’s applicable NAICS code, so you can see how they measure up to their competition.
You might also choose to review information such as a contractor’s previous worker compensation claims, injury logs, training records, equipment calibration records, and environmental reports.
While these metrics will provide you with a good start, they might be telling the whole story. You can visit OSHA’s website to check if a contractor has had any OSHA citations in the past.
Before contractors begin work, employers should ensure that all workers receive consistent safety training. The National Safety Council (NSC)’s Campbell Institute recommends delivering standardized video-based training with competency-based quizzes.
Safety orientation meetings should also be held to introduce contractors to your safety goals and requirements. New hires should understand how they fit into your company, even if they’re only temporary workers. They should also be aware of what protective equipment they should use for their tasks and understand how to report hazards, incidents, and near misses.
These training sessions are also a good time to involve contractors in group discussions with your own employees. Remember that you likely brought these contractors on site because they have a good safety program. Getting their thoughts and feedback on safety can go a long way towards building a strong safety culture for all.
As with your own employees, you'll want to keep track of which safety training your contractors have received and when they were last trained. This can be difficult to track manually, especially for temporary contractors. In such cases, you may want to turn to safety training tracking software to assist you.
Once work begins, employers should conduct periodic safety assessments to make sure the established safety rules are being followed.
This can easily be accomplished through routine inspections and walk-throughs of work sites. It might be a good idea to also implement behavior based safety (BBS) programs so that key team members can observe the safety behaviors of workers.
The data you collect should help you make strategic choices of what to continue, start, or stop in order to improve your contractor safety management program.
While it's best to use data to drive decisions, tracking and reporting on large amounts of safety data can be very time-consuming. This is where implementing safety management software can help companies of all sizes to ensure each party involved in a project is committed to safety.
The more data is available the more accurate your analysis and decision-making will be. However, with more data also comes greater difficulty in managing and tracking specific records. Poorly managed data puts you at risk of incomplete or lost records, which will mislead your analysis and decision-making.
Managing safety data becomes a much more feasible task when it is all stored in a centralized database. While a spreadsheet may seem like an easy solution, it has several key drawbacks.
Programs such as Microsoft Excel, cannot be updated by multiple employees at a time, quickly bottle-necking data entry and management. Often times even finding a specific record in a spreadsheet can be time-consuming in itself!
Instead, with safety management software it's simple to properly manage your data. Multiple users will be able to enter data once, tremendously reducing the amount of time it takes to update records. You'll also be given ways to easily filter your data to search for specific records, without impacting other users.
These may only seem like quality-of-life improvements, but when there is plenty to be done in a day, the time it saves becomes invaluable. Once your data is managed in a centralized location, analyzing it will become easier as well.
With the right data, you can see what policies are working and what needs improvement. However, this can only be done when your data is in an easy-to-evaluate format.
Luckily, safety management software allows you to create custom reports to monitor the key contractor performance indicators. You'll be able to turn any number of safety inspections, records, and training into benchmarks for evaluating safety performance. You can then break down these benchmarks for easy comparison across job sites, contractor companies, or departments.
Such reports allow for quick and simple evaluation of contractors, allowing you to make adjustments before it's too late. The best part is no expertise is required, as creating custom reports with safety software is more simple and intuitive than a spreadsheet. These reports will also update in real-time as new data is entered into the system!
From determining pre-qualifications to evaluating performance, contractor safety management begins and ends with safety data. Software makes managing and acting upon that data more efficient, which in turn allows for better contractor safety management.
To learn more about the benefits of contractor safety management software, contact Vector Solutions today.