A couple of weeks back, I wrote about the pros and cons of safety eLearning and my thoughts on “when the juice is worth the squeeze.” I mentioned I’d save one specific potential eLearning audience for my next blog.
So here we are.
Most of the safety professionals I know lose sleep about contractor safety.
Why Do Contractors Cause Us To Toss and Turn?
While one would think that keeping their employees safe was challenge enough to create insomnia, contractors present another confusing and complex layer of risk.
Almost uniformly across the USA and Canada, employees are not permitted to sue their employer, except in extenuating and unusual circumstances, for workplace injuries or illnesses. (Workers’ Compensation insurance programs handle these claims.)
However, contractors and subcontractors regularly can and do involve host facilities and construction management firms in lawsuits after workplace incidents. Just do a Google search on “construction accident lawyers” and take your pick from dozens of firms who specialize in just that, right in your neighborhood.
Many of my safety colleagues and friends have been involved in such cases, particularly those in the construction industry, or on construction projects within their own plant. Some just when hiring contractors to perform projects at their facility.
Even if the company hires a firm to pre-qualify contractors, such as ISNetworld or Avetta, or other robust software programs that require contractors to upload and document their employees’ training records, a gap remains.
Even if the company requires that all employees on a construction or other project have a 10- or 30-Hour OSHA Outreach Construction card, there’s still a crack.
Contractor employees need to be informed of site- and project-specific hazards and a host of other information prior to setting foot on an active construction site. For my fellow safety professionals, we understand that contractors having this information and understanding it (and complying with our policies) makes everyone, including them, safer on that project.
Just a few topics that need to be covered under OSHA (or OHSA in Canada.)
- What are the PPE requirements for workers on site?
- What hazards might they encounter specific to our workplace and project, like chemicals in use to which they may be exposed?
- Where will project SDS be kept and who will maintain them?
- How will fall protection issues be addressed?
- What if hotwork/welding is to be performed; is there a hotwork permit system?
- What if a project involves entering a confined space?
- What are the project rules for trenching and excavation?
- What electrical safety requirements are in place?
- How does an employee report a serious injury? Spill? Fire?
- What other site rules do we have about traffic and firearms and harassment and restricted areas, or even smoking?
I want to be clear about something. Forget regulatory requirements. Forget liability and risk and insurance claims and lawsuits. This is the information that contractors need to work safely on our projects. That is the bottom line.
How Do Safety Professionals Historically Fill This Void?
In many cases, companies are too focused on their own internal operations and employees to provide a robust site-specific safety orientation for contractors joining their projects. Often, they are just plain too busy. Sometimes, on large capital projects, they rely on a General Contractor to handle it, which can have mixed results.
Sometimes, project or operations or facilities team members are delegated –or as I like to say, “voluntold”– to complete the pre-project contractor safety orientation, which often leads to inconsistent messaging and documentation, and in some cases, no orientation at all.
These safety professionals, my friends, are often defending the safety orientation they (or a co-worker) provided in person and what the contractor was told –or more frequently, not told— that day. Far too frequently, they are subpoenaed to defend their integrity and the details of an in-person orientation delivered at 5:30am on a Tuesday a year prior.
In the best of circumstances, the documentation involves a sign-in sheet and a list of topics, maybe a PowerPoint presentation, a handbook of rules that was sent to the contractor company, and perhaps a written quiz. In some cases, this is enough to prove that the contractor was provided the required safety information, that hazards were discussed and policies communicated, but more frequently, it is not.
As you might imagine, it often becomes a matter of ‘he said, she said’ — particularly with a well-coached contractor who suffered a life-altering injury, and an attorney savvy about such cases. These lawsuits often settle for significant sums, and impact the general contractor’s or host facility’s insurance premiums for years to come.
No wonder safety professionals are losing sleep over contractor safety!
Is There A Better Option?
For these reasons, our specialty has become customized contractor orientation, in an eLearning format. As our company’s founder, and a safety professional for over 30 years in remediation and construction, I am profoundly aware of both the challenges and the risk.
- We work with project and company safety professionals to create a fully-customized site-specific contractor safety course, designed by our team with interactions and quiz questions that test the contractor’s understanding of key safety concepts, as well as the project rules and policies. Your site, your project, your hazards, your rules meshed with our expertise in instructional design.
- We host the course on our customized LMS (learning management system), designed to simplify registration and course completion for sometimes not-so-tech-savvy contractors, who are provided a single link to complete the orientation prior to mobilizing to the project or work site. (In some cases, we even provide Help Desk services for contractors who don’t know a URL from a browser or a thing about cookies, preventing costly delays.)
- Our clients key team members in project safety or management, or site security, receive daily or weekly reports of the status of their contractors, or log in to the LMS to check on their certification.
If something goes wrong, or an incident occurs, we are there to provide detailed documentation of the course content, and the contractor’s progress and completion of the course, right down to a specific quiz question or interaction, all tracked electronically, keystroke by keystroke, on our LMS.
If a policy changes, or a project incident results in a new policy or demonstrates the need to update the course content, we can turn that around in a number of days.
Let’s Rumble — One Safety Pro to Another
When we talk about safety training needs and options and risks, our clients are sometimes surprised when we suggest that we start with their contractors, and not their own employees, particularly when it comes to an investment in eLearning.
For contractor safety, that juice is often worth the initial squeeze.
We take pride in providing more restful sleep to our clients.
For a demo, or to learn more, just reach out to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or check out this link to learn more about our process: