Starting a Contractor Safety Program

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Organizations without strong contractor safety programs may experience legal complications and financial losses.Companies use contractors, suppliers, and other vendors to help them achieve their business objectives, but often struggle to encourage contractor safety programs that identify risks and opportunities for improvement.

Organizations that do not have strong contractor safety programs put themselves in danger of legal complications, financial losses, and organizational disruptions. Developing safety guidelines and procedures in accordance with Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) regulations can safeguard human life – a leading priority for safety officers, project managers, supervisors and others in charge of contractors.

“Not only must owners be concerned with potential risks to their employees, tenants, or property, but they must also be concerned about the risks that the contractor bears,” Jim Emmons, safety director at the Baltimore-based Structural Group and author of “A Field Guide to Better Safety,” said in “Why Contractor Safety is Important for an Owner.”

Emmons continued, “Safety is a critical item for all construction projects for multiple reasons, including protecting the welfare of employees, providing a safe work environment, and controlling construction costs.

“However, the importance of safety as a cost-controlling measure is often overlooked by owners and contractors. As a means of reducing the risks associated with construction, safety can significantly impact the overall cost. A dedicated commitment to safety by both the owner and contractor helps ensure project success and can impact the bottom line considerably.”

Working in the safety profession requires an attention to detail that is only garnered through hard work and education. Students at Eastern Kentucky University’s online emergency management program learn vital information to lead the future of workplace safety, including putting effective contractor safety programs into place.

Tips for Starting a Contractor Safety Program

Non-profit safety groups and industry organizations recommend that all employers who plan to use contractors develop a strategy to implement them into daily work. Otherwise, the results could be disastrous, the EHS Daily Advisor said.

“Your contractors could be bringing personnel onto your site who don’t have the training and certifications you would normally require. The contractor—or the contractor’s personnel—may have only a cursory understanding of your site, their jobs, and safe work procedures. They may not understand what their responsibilities are. And if something goes wrong as a result, the headache of putting it all right again could belong exclusively to you,” the EHS Daily Advisor said.

The most common recommendations from nonprofit safety organizations and industry groups for best practices for contractor safety management include:

  • Prequalify contractors
    Before the bid process begins, potential bidders should understand up front that the work includes health and safety requirements. Safety managers should consider these issues when assessing the contractor’s fitness for the job:

    • The contractor’s environment, health, and safety (EHS) metric, which includes information about incidents and near misses, inspections, audits, and corrective actions. Information should also include the contractor’s OSHA DART (days away, restricted, or transferred) rate, which tracks employee absences, work restrictions, or job transfers due to work-related injuries and illnesses.
    • Technical qualifications and competencies, including the years of experience and the ability to perform the job duties effectively.
    • Quality of service, including the number of similar jobs completed and the outcome.
    • Financial ability to fulfill contractual obligations, which may include a review of the company’s liquidity and owned equipment and machinery.
    • Insurance coverage, including general liability, contractor’s liability, commercial auto, and workers’ compensation.
  • Plan
    Companies that clearly outline the scope of work and the basic EHS risk assessment give contractors an opportunity to determine the potential hazards on the job and find ways to eliminate them.

    “It can also be used to determine what additional requirements and specifications should be included in the bid package. For example, if a job will require fall protection, contractors submitting bids can be instructed to include their fall protection plan and documentation of worker training,” EHS Daily Advisor said.

  • Hold orientation and training workshops
    Although many companies require contractors to provide training, companies that offer instruction at the worksite can identify the risks. Site-specific hazards, safety requirements, and emergency procedures should be outlined before contractors begin work. While they are working, contractors should participate in on-site safety activities, meetings, and briefings.
  • Monitor and assess
    Companies that frequently monitor work can better identify potential problems and hazards. Companies must clearly define the consequences for not correcting problems and remove contractors with high rates of noncompliance.
  • Evaluate performance
    A post-job performance review can provide essential details when evaluating the contractor for future work.

Implementing Safety, Security, and Emergency Management Programs

Safety managers who work with contractors should also implement other policies and processes that encourage workplace safety. In most cases, managers should require contractors to follow OSHA training materials. In other cases, managers also include company safety policies, such as:

  • An owner’s policy statement that reaffirms the company’s dedication to safety
  • A document outlining the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved in the project
  • A safety communication process that allows safety information to be easily shared with all personnel

As safety positions become more technical and requirements for the work become more stringent, safety leaders are moving beyond undergraduate knowledge to earn master’s level online emergency management degrees. The leading programs build on expertise to apply cutting-edge knowledge to the field.

Students enrolled at Eastern Kentucky University’s Online Master of Science in Safety, Security and Emergency Management can learn the skills needed to become a protection specialist to implement contractor safety programs. The online emergency management degree program builds on existing expertise to prepare graduates for immediate career opportunities.

About Eastern Kentucky University’s Online Master of Science in Safety, Security and Emergency Management Program

EKU’s online emergency management degree is designed for people seeking to advance their careers in emergency services, including recent college graduates, military personnel, and non-traditional students. The program allows students to customize their experience through a Multidisciplinary Track or concentrations in Corporate Security Operations, Occupational Safety, or Emergency Management and Disaster Resilience. The concentrations are also available as stand-alone graduate certificates, independent of a master’s degree. EKU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. For more information, contact Eastern Kentucky University now.

Recommended Reading

5 Safety Precautions for Common Construction Risks

5 Questions to Ask About Your Emergency Action Plan

Emergency Planning & Preparedness for Today’s Workplace


Why Contractor Safety is Important for an Owner: Buildings

Create a Contractor Safety Management Program: EHS Daily Advisor

11 Tips for Implementing a Contractor Management System: Safety and Health