Are You Using Third Party Contractors? How Sure Are You That You’re Keeping Them Safe?

Companies are tasked with keeping all workers safe. Prioritizing contractor safety protocols can help.
By: | October 12, 2022

Maintaining a safe environment for all individuals who enter a company’s facilities or worksites is critical, and organizations are increasingly held responsible for quantifying their efforts to keep employees and contractors safe.

The increasing use of contractors can bring more risk for companies as the quick turnover brings new workers in and out of facilities, making it even more important that organizations are prioritizing contractor safety management.

The growing industry trend to prioritize contractor safety can be attributed to many factors including investor motivations, reputational risk, as well as a mission to create a safer workplace overall.

Marie Anderson, executive vice president at ISN, said in a recent survey conducted by ISN, nearly 60% of hiring organizations responded that they look to their environmental, health and safety (EHS) groups to lead outsourcing initiatives — recognizing that EHS standards and guidelines should be consistently implemented across the organization to cultivate the aspired level of safety.

“As more resources and technology become available to measure contractor safety on the jobsite, organizations will naturally utilize those resources to protect the wellbeing of their workers,” Anderson said.

Nearly one-half of hiring organizations surveyed believe their outsourced work to contractors will increase or remain the same over the next two years.

Another growing trend ISN is seeing is that organizations are managing contractor risk more efficiently. Ninety-four percent of hiring organizations surveyed believe their ability to effectively manage contractor risk has increased or remained the same over the past one to two years, which is an increase from 78% in 2019.

“Companies are becoming more aware of contractor risk factors with the aid of technology and access to tools that help assess risk quicker and without having to rely as much on human labor to collect this information,” Anderson said.

Safety Concerns

There are some key inherent safety and risk concerns regarding the hiring of contractors that businesses should keep at the forefront.

Anderson said organizations have to ensure that they are onboarding and training employees adequately. Worker safety can be compromised when organizations rush to get contractors out on the jobsite quickly to fill business needs, but do not diligently track and monitor key training checkpoints.

“It’s vital that organizations are thoroughly monitoring their new hires and establishing a comprehensive contractor management program to ensure contractors meet training qualification requirements,” Anderson said.

Proactively managing risk by proactively identifying and documenting potential safety hazards, threats and precautions on the jobsite is also key.

As Anderson explained, a serious injury is easier to stop before it happens when there are tracking and management systems in place to identify risk factors that can lead to injuries. Additionally, if an incident does occur, organizations should track and analyze the occurrence thoroughly to ensure prevention in the future.

Survey Says…

Some additional key takeaways from the ISN Contractor Management Strategy survey include:

  • Nearly one-half of respondents surveyed believe their outsourced work to contractors will increase or remain the same over the next two years, compared to only 5% that expect outsourced work to decrease
  • 94% of respondents believe their ability to effectively manage contractor risk has increased or remained the same over the past one to two years, up from 78% in 2019
  • Almost 60% of respondents look to their EHS groups to lead contractor management initiatives. Despite this, 58% of respondents indicated limited internal resources as the number one internal challenge hiring organizations are facing to achieve their contractor management goals.
  • More than half of the hiring organizations surveyed believed they have a proactive or sustained safety culture.

“One of the biggest surprises that companies need to be aware of is that one in four organizations either does not track or does not know the amount of work outsourced to contractors,” Anderson said.

“Given that a significant amount of work continues to be completed by contractors instead of an organization’s own employees, it is critical that organizations track and analyze the amount of work being outsourced to contractors. By increasing oversight into the tasks of a contractor, areas of opportunity can be identified to increase the safety of these individuals.”

Mitigating Risk

To further mitigate the risk of using contractors throughout their supply chains, ISN suggested companies should gather feedback from employees and contractors about their perceptions of safety culture values on site.

As Anderson explained, the analysis of this feedback enables organizations to identify strengths and opportunities and create effective roadmaps for the improvement of their safety cultures moving forward.

“A key practice found to be effective in driving down high serious injury and fatality (SIF) rates is to regularly review and act on incident and near miss reports,” Anderson said.

“By actively documenting work activities and identifying potential hazards to worker safety, organizations can better understand the leading indicator data on potential SIFs, and identify the concerns about specific actions that may contribute to a SIF.”

The areas of opportunity identified from these practices should assist in creating a plan of action and provide a clear direction for implementing changes and new initiatives.

Anderson said once a plan of action is implemented, companies should measure and reinforce it across the workforce, and then reassess its safety culture and monitor trends over time. This can ensure that progress is made in the areas of opportunity from the prior assessment, while allowing the organization to identify any new opportunities for improvement.

Continuous Evolution

Maintaining a safe environment for all individuals who enter a company’s facilities or worksites is critical, and organizations are increasingly held responsible for quantifying their efforts to keep employees and contractors safe.

As Anderson pointed out, in terms of how contractor management strategies will evolve in the areas of risk and safety protocols, it is likely that more organizations will lean on data to mitigate risk going forward.

“Today, the availability of tools leveraging data and artificial intelligence analytics can be extremely useful in unlocking insights for organizations to ultimately improve workplace safety,” Anderson said.

“By applying AI methods to further identify performance and incident trends, organizations and executives can make smarter, data-driven decisions and create safer worksites for their workers and contractors.” &

Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Maura Keller is a writer, editor and published book author with more than 20 years of experience. She has written about business, design, marketing, health care, and a wealth of other topics for dozens of regional and national publications. She can be reached at [email protected]

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