How Can You Best Manage Contractor Safety?

contractor safety

Contractor safety is now more than ever on the radar for many companies because this type of working arrangement makes up 10% of the Australian workforce. Contracting and sub-contracting has been around a long time and is a key component in industries such as construction and logistics. However, managing contractor safety is often a difficult task. The problem is contractors bring with them varying degrees of occupational health and safety knowledge, training and experience. Given that the safety of your contractors is the principal organisation’s responsibility, how can you best protect yourself to make sure your safety records don’t slip?

In this article, we look at four strategies that you can use to manage contractor safety around critical hazards. Managing critical risks, such as working around operating mobile plant, handling chemicals and working at height, and understanding the effective control measures is a requirement of the Australian WHS legislation, OSHA legislation, UK Health and Safety Legislation, and other governing bodies. The safety hierarchy of controls advocates for the highest level of control to keep your contractors safe. They must understand the hierarchy pyramid and use the highest level of controls as far as is practicable.

A strong contractor safety programme is one that prequalifies contractors before they are hired and monitors and manages their ongoing safety performance. This can help to prevent workplace injuries, protect your corporate reputation, support compliance with government regulations, and avoid hefty fines and jail terms associated with violations.

1.  Induction Training

Onboarding or induction training communicates safety expectations and trains contractors to safely perform job duties before they come to work on your work sites. Interestingly, COVID-19 restrictions have seen a significant uptake of online safety induction training. What was once ‘death by PowerPoint’ or instructor-led is rapidly moving to online delivery for its adherence to social distancing, consistent content, low-cost, time-efficiencies and portability.

The role of the safety induction for contractors is to ensure they understand the work environment that they are about to enter. The challenge is to cover all the information as succinctly and thoroughly as you can and to make the training an engaging safety induction that your contractors remember and can apply. They need to know your expectations from day one.

Here is a list of the main areas that your safety induction should cover to ensure contractor safety.

  • Inform your contractors about the hazards and risks in your workplace
  • Link to your organisation’s health and safety policies and procedures and achieve a sign-off that they have read and understood them
  • Emphasise the importance of safe work practices in the work that they do and their responsibility to keep themselves and others safe while on your worksites
  • Stress the responsibility your contractors have in reducing incidents and accidents
  • Outline the procedures for reporting incidents and injuries and near misses
  • Instruct about the evacuation and emergency procedures for your workplace, including emergency exits, evacuation instructions, assembly points and the use of fire alarms and fire fighting equipment
  • Inform your contractors about first aid and other emergency contacts
  • Inform your contractors on the types of Personal Protective Equipment they will need to perform their work.

See our article, How to Create a Safety Induction That Trains and Meets Compliance.

The Tap into Safety Induction

Tap into Safety provides interactive online safety inductions for your employees and contractor safety with a focus on critical risks and control measures. The training is supported by a robust GAP analysis that shows you the gaps in your contractor’s safety knowledge. The inductions contain a customised video that details your organisation’s vision, mission, and values, information about your worksites, golden safety rules, policies, procedures and wellbeing programs, etc. From there we plug in our safety training courses from our Platform library to cover all high-risk tasks. Each course has an assessment to ensure that you meet compliance requirements.

For firms, on a limited budget who don’t need a customised video, we have two courses you can use right away that meet all your induction compliance requirements. These courses can also be tailored to suit your needs.

  1. General Safety Induction – this course covers training and assessment on PPE, Manual Handling, Signs and Barricades, Working at Height, Handling Chemicals, Slips and Trips, Confined Space, Heat Stress and Dehydration, Suspended Loads, Fire and Emergencies, Faulty Equipment, Noise, Isolating Energy Sources and Housekeeping.
  2. Fitness for Work – this course covers long working hours, fatigue, hydration, depression, stress, anxiety, illness, injury, the use of prescribed medication and illicit drugs and the inappropriate use of alcohol and other legalised drugs.

All you need is to hyperlink from your portal, LMS or website to our platform and your contractors can complete their safety induction online. You will receive a report of their results and they will receive a completion certificate. That way you know they are ready to start work immediately.

2. Contracts and Expectations

Contracts with your contractors should outline your organisation’s expectations. Your contracts must state compliance with federal, state and local regulatory requirements, along with your company’s health and safety requirements. This may include participation in the company’s safety prequalification programme which may be administered through a third-party provider. You may also require your contractors to maintain an acceptable safety score in their contractor management systems.

3. Track Contractor Safety KPIs 

Tracking contractor safety through measuring their key performance indicators (KPIs) are metrics most company’s use.  However, collecting lost-time injury rates, for example, is a lag indicator of safety performance and incidents can be manipulated to ensure a lost-time injury is not recorded. Also, another major drawback of only using lagging indicators of safety performance is that they tell you how many people got hurt and how badly, but not how well your contractor is doing at preventing incidents and accidents.

Whereas, leading indicators are focused on future safety performance and continuous improvement. These measures are proactive and report what employees are doing regularly to prevent injuries. Leading KPIs include training records, audits, and sensor data, and recognise that it’s not only the human factor that creates risk. Leading indicators should:

  1. Allow you to see small improvements in your contractor safety performance
  2. Measure the positive: what people are doing versus failing to do
  3. Enable frequent feedback to your contractors
  4. Predict future problems or safety issues
  5. Increase constructive problem solving around safety issues
  6. Make it clear what needs to be done to improve

Visible analysis of KPIs that represent adherence to your safety requirements can help decrease serious incident rates by holding your contractors accountable for them. Regularly schedule meetings with your contractors to discuss performance metrics. You should discuss any incidents that occur along with their root causes and corrective actions, to encourage continuous improvement.

See our article, How to Improve Safety Performance.

4. Safety Performance Audits and Post-Project

Regular on-site inspections, job site walk-throughs and annual audits are effective ways to monitor contractor safety performance. These can be conducted by internal resources or some organisations leverage an outside vendor to perform these audits, supplementing their internal resources to give them more eyes in the field.

The purpose behind performing a safety audit is to determine compliance with Work Health and Safety obligations relating to employee and contractor safety. Evidence of compliance is the first order of business, but safety audits can also help you to:

  • Identify risks in the workplace, as well as the severity of those risks and whether the highest levels of controls are in place
  • Reveal strengths and weaknesses in safety processes and procedures
  • Show where and how to make recommended improvements
  • Ensure that adequate resources are available to manage workplace health and safety and that you’re using those resources efficiently and effectively
  • Assess whether safety processes and procedures are legally compliant
  • Eliminate unsafe practices and remove or effectively control hazards.

The results of contractor safety audits and post-project evaluations can also be shared with your supply chain. These metrics help you to monitor your contractor’s performance, your relationship with them, and to inform your decisions regarding inclusion in future bid invitations.

See our article, How to Prepare for a Safety Audit.

To Conclude

Contractor safety is an area that needs continual monitoring especially when they undertake high-risk work. However, managing contractor safety is often a difficult task. The problem is contractors bring with them varying degrees of occupational health and safety knowledge, training and experience.

There are four strategies that you can use to manage contractor safety around critical hazards. The first is to provide a safety induction to communicate safety expectations and train contractors to safely perform job duties before they come to work on your work sites. Many organisations are moving to online delivery for its adherence to social distancing, consistent content, low-cost, time-efficiencies and portability. The second strategy is to state your safety requirements in your contracts. Your contracts must state compliance with federal, state and local regulatory requirements, along with your company’s health and safety requirements.

The third strategy you can use to manage contractor safety is to measuring KPIs including lagging data such as lost time injury rates and leading data such as training records, audits, and sensor data, that recognise that it’s not only the human factor that creates risk. Finally, regular on-site inspections, job site walk-throughs and annual audits are effective ways to monitor contractor safety performance.

This article is available on the Tap into Safety Podcast.

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