Studies have shown that the inclusion of various safety requirements in construction contract documents have a positive impact on worker safety. “Contract Issues and Construction Safety Management,” a peer-reviewed feature in the September issue of Professional Safety, the American Society of Safety Engineers' (ASSE) journal, reports on a survey of construction and safety professionals that identifies the most common contract issues related to safety management and the frequency and severity of contract issues relative to worker safety on construction sites.
“Often times, safety professionals spend all of their time and energy on construction safety after the fact,” explained the article's co-author, Brian Clarke, CSP. “If safety professionals can get involved in contract discussions up front, they can engineer out the safety problem before the project starts.”
When a construction contract has too many ambiguities, its language can be subject to interpretation of what the parties agreed to during early negotiations. The most common contract aspects of contract disputes are cost, quality, schedule and safety.
Clarke and article co-authors Sathy Rajendran, Ph.D., M.S., CSP, LEED AP, CRIS, and Michael Whelan, Ph.D., reveal that the survey of construction safety professionals and project managers located in the Pacific Northwest showed that nearly 5 percent of company contract disputes could be attributed to safety management issues.
Safety professionals can employ several strategies to help eliminate contract issues, including:
- Compiling a checklist of safety issues to help contract managers and safety professionals remember to include appropriate items in the final contract.
- Becoming involved with a client’s marketing department early in the process to avoid commitment of unrealistic or unnecessary safety resource levels in attempt to win a project.
- Having the owner clearly communicate safety expectations for the project for proper resource allocation.
- Actively participate in the request for proposal (RFP) process as well as all pre-bid, pre-award, contract mobilization and craft orientation meetings.
“Bring on the safety professional early so we can go through the documents,” Clarke suggested. “If a safety professional communicates clearly and honestly from the very beginning of a project’s contract phase, the safety concerns will go down significantly.”