How to prevent the safety practices of contractors and suppliers from derailing your safety program

In vetting contractors and suppliers, companies consider factors such as technical capability, management quality, past experience and performance, reputation, proposed work methods, and costs. Often occupational safety and health falls towards the bottom of the list.

The National Safety Council’s Campbell Institute conducted a study that looked at the practices of 14 member or partner organizations with exemplary safety records (injury rates 6.5 times lower than industry averages, and lost workday rates 6 times lower than industry averages) to identify best practices for contractor and supplier safety. It identified five crucial points along the contractor lifecycle where evaluation and monitoring is critical:

  1. Prequalification: Companies sometimes focus on the Experience Modification Rate (EMR) because it may impact the opportunity to bid, but it’s important to look beyond this. All research participants assessed contractors on multiple safety statistics, including EMR, Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR), fatality rate, days away from work, restricted or transferred (DART) rate, and other OSHA recordables for a given time period, typically the last three years. Many requested additional information such as environmental reports, written safety programs, permits, licenses, and continuous improvement programs.
  2. Pre-job task and risk assessment: Before a contractor begins work, Campbell members recommend that an organization have a method to evaluate the risk of the work to be performed (typically per a risk matrix) to place contractors in a predetermined risk category. This process helps owners and contractors understand the scope of work and provide an opportunity for additional written safety programs to be put in place, when the risk is high. In addition, they require subcontractors to adhere to the same safety standards as general contractors.
  3. Training and orientation: All research participants require safety orientation and skills training of contractors in order for them to be approved for work. All also require special permits or training for specific kinds of work, including (but not limited to) confined space entry, electrical work, hot work, energy control, forklifts, elevated work, etc. Some Campbell members even provide specialized safety training such as HAZWOPER, hazard identification, PPE, LOTO and fall prevention.
  4. Job monitoring: Depending on the risk profile of the job and the contractor, monitoring might include daily checklists, preshift safety talks, weekly walk-through inspections, or monthly and yearly assessments. Some Campbell members also require contract employees to submit safety observations (a set quota per month) or utilize mobile applications to report non-compliance or unsafe conditions. All research participants are in agreement that the maintenance of incident logs is crucial to monitoring contractor safety during a project.
  5. Post-job evaluation: While not all the participants had a post-job evaluation in place, all agreed it was a good idea. Those that did tended to look at safety, customer service, and the quality of the finished work and to use those factors in determining the contractor’s eligibility for future contracts.

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Author | Speaker | Certified Risk Manager | Certified Work Comp Advisor

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