The global trend to outsourcing has changed the workplace landscape. Where once there were only direct hire employees working for a company; today the same company site may have a similar number of people performing similar tasks but with a larger percentage of contract workers.
Owner companies are now held accountable by regulatory agencies, communities, the media and the court systems for whatever happens on or at their facilities, including whatever happens by contractors.
"If something goes wrong, owner companies are held accountable, not necessarily the contractor," said Bob Krzywicki, senior consultant with DuPont Safety Resources in Wilmington, Del. "The issue of contractor safety is a prominent issue on our radar screen and we feel every owner using contractors should have this on their radar screen as well."
Krzywicki noted that more and more companies are using contractors because the companies are focusing their direct hire resources on their core competencies.
He also noted that it is perceived that contractor safety is only important when talking about big construction projects.
"The current perception should be much broader to include any work being done by any company other than the owner company," said Krzywicki. "This includes janitorial services, IT and landscaping contractors."
One of the difficulties to addressing contractor safety as opposed to employee safety is that when it comes to employee safety, owners are dealing with the same safety culture, the same set of rules and one set management structure.
When you bring contractors into the mix this adds multiple sets of rules, a unique safety culture and other challenges.
Krzywicki said the best way to meet these challenges head on is to have the contractors meet the expectations of the owner as closely as possible.
"Many times you are dealing with different sized contractors, with different levels of sophistication," said Krzywicki. "You have to embrace those differences and get the contractors to understand what it is you expect from them as far as safety is concerned."
Krzywicki said it is important that the owner establish the safety rules, not the contractor.
"If you allow the contractor to establish the safety rules, you will not be satisfied with the rules they follow," said Krzywicki. "Moreover, if an accident occurs, you will be left to deal with the damage, not the contractor."
Establishing the safety rules and communicating your expectations to contractors are ways to ensure that the work goes smoothly and more productively. Krzywicki offered the following additional steps to help align and focus the contractor to be an extension of the owner company.
1. Select "safe" contractors. Look at past performance, such as past OSHA recordables, prior OSHA citations and references from past clients. Determine whether or not the contractors' past performance is in line with your safety goals.
2. State your safety expectations clearly as part of the contract terms and conditions. "If you expect to be told about any injury, you should state that in the contract," said Krzywicki. "Do not put anything into the terms and conditions that you are not willing to enforce."
3. Be consistent and relentless with enforcement of expectations. "Your safety expectations can't be a priority one week and then be blown-off the second week," said Krzywicki. "Contractors will sense this isn't important enough to you and fall away from meeting your expectations."
4. Make sure roles, responsibilities and accountabilities are clearly defined within the owner's group and the contractor's administration."If it is not clear who is the enforcer of the safety terms and conditions, it may not happen," said Krzywicki.
5. Issue a report card periodically to the contractor. Tell them what they are doing well and where they are underachieving and develop a plan to bridge that gap.
6. Work closely with the contractor in the area of safety. Communicating and collaborating on safety will go a long way to creating a positive relationship.
Take a Self-Assessment
How is your company managing the increased risk associated with using contractors? Take the following self-assessment by DuPont Safety Resources to determine the "health" of your organization relative to contractors and safety. www.dupont.com/safety/products/contractorsrf.html