Contractor Safety: Why Proactive Risk Management is Crucial
Blog | November 28th, 2022

Contractor Safety: Why Proactive Risk Management is Crucial

At ComplianceQuest, we published a Whitepaper on the following topic: ‘Current Challenges in EHS Process and Benefits of Moving from Reactive to Proactive Approach’. In the paper, we touched upon the following aspects:

  • The importance of having a proactive and reactive approach when it comes to safety management
  • The value of digital transformation and how a connected EHS system can be a game changer
  • Understanding common challenges faced by EHS leaders and what steps can be taken to address these

Are you Passing off Contractor Safety Responsibilities to a Third-Party?

One major challenge faced by health and safety teams, especially in sectors like construction and manufacturing, is dealing with contract-related safety processes. After all, contract workers are expected to constitute nearly 50% of the workforce in the next decade, with one in every five jobs expected to be performed by them in the United States. These contract workers will come from different backgrounds and skill levels, making it challenging for employers to assess each contractor before employing them.

The following are some of the key challenges when it comes to contractor safety:

  • Contractors are, often, not given enough safety-related training. They are, sometimes, not updated on SOPs and new processes that may have been added to a particular workflow.
  • Companies do not have complete control over which contractor gets assigned by the staffing agency. This makes it difficult to plan for training and proactive risk mitigation.
  • Some of the most high-risk tasks are performed by contract workers. This includes working at a height, performing hot work, electrical work, etc.
  • High-risk tasks are often given out to a contractor, who in turn gives them out to a sub-contractor. This makes it difficult to track who is responsible for the safety of the worker.

Let us consider this example: A 27-year-old contract worker at a food manufacturing plant met with an unfortunate and fatal accident while cleaning a machine on the shop floor.

After investigation, the company realized that the incident had happened because of the following reasons:

  • The worker, who was employed by a staffing agency, was cleaning the machine while some of its parts were rotating and the machine was energized
  • On investigating further, they realized that the staffing agency hadn’t offered necessary training and SOPs weren’t shared with the contractor
  • The company didn’t take the necessary precautions to make sure the staffing agency was following safety norms

This is one of many deaths reported of contract workers who are often not provided the required training or not informed about the risks when they take up a task on contract. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have elucidated safety rules to be implemented by contract worker agencies and host employers.

Designing a Robust Contractor Safety Program

The point is simple: businesses need a robust contractor safety program to ensure both contractor safety and the quality of the job done.

Ensuring workplace safety for both contract and permanent workers is essential. As OSHA says, “Whether temporary or permanent, all workers always have a right to a safe and healthy workplace.”

To ensure this, enterprises must create safety management that rests on the following three pillars:

Safe People: Treat all your staff, whether it is a contractor or full-time worker, equally. Make sure anyone performing a high-risk task is trained on the latest SOPs. Plan proactively to mitigate risk.
Safe Systems: Implement a connected EHS system where people, processes and software are truly integrated. Data and visibility of risks associated with contractor tasks are important.
Safe Place: Put up signages; Setup initiatives like a Safety Day to address near-misses and observations; Fix spills and other risky areas within the workplace

Prequalification of contractors before hiring them becomes a first and crucial step. This involves assessing the contractor’s qualifications, capabilities, certifications and safety record before onboarding them. Onboarding many contractors for specific job types provide the enterprises with a fallback option in case the regular contractor is not available to take up the task.

Additionally, it is important to ensure all contractors performing a task are updated about the latest SOPs and have a clear understanding of the risks involved.

From a systems’ perspective, make sure the EHS workflows include processes for proactive risk management, incident management, Permit to Work, etc. Ongoing risk assessments and audits are crucial to drive continuous improvement.

Be it a shopfloor or construction site, the place must be designed and planned with a safety-first approach. For instance, if the work has an inherent risk of fire, the place must be kept clean of any inflammable materials and fire extinguishers provided.

The workplace must generally be kept clean to avoid slips, trips and falls, and to allow free movement of people and things. Signages should be put up clearly to indicate the use of hazardous materials and equipment. Lockout/Tag out should be followed during maintenance to prevent injuries.

The success of the three pillars of safe people, safe systems and safe place needs to be measured by tracking key metrics on an ongoing basis.

With a solution like ComplianceQuest EHS solution, it becomes easy to track all key data and metrics. CQ EHS is designed to enable a data-driven, collaborative process wherein several stakeholders from across departments come together to ensure workplace safety, including the safety of contract workers.

Reviews and approvals, documentation, training, risk assessments and permit-to-work are some of the other functions that can also be digitized and automated, helping to improve compliance in a cost and time-effective manner.

To know more about how ComplianceQuest EHS will help your organization improve Contractor Safety Processes, request a demo:

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