By Cari Gray, CSP, BWC Safety Consultant Specialist
What do you do when you need an outside company to come into your business to fix or replace something? Say a pipe bursts or your boiler stops working. Do you have a contractor safety policy in place?
In safety we spend so much time focusing on the safety of our employees that sometimes we are blindsided when an outside company comes in and creates a new hazard. Almost all of us use contractors. Although they are not on your payroll, there is still a chance of injury to themselves or your employees. There are many hazards that outside contractors can bring with them, for starters: lockout issues, hazardous chemicals or even new or different dangerous equipment. You need an intentional focus on dealing with contractors!
Often companies bring in outside contractors to do dangerous or non-routine jobs. Therefore, it’s crucial for you to determine how contract work could expose your employees to workplace injuries and create a process to minimize the hazards.
If a serious injury results from work with contractors, or if there happens to be a compliance officer visiting you while a contractor is performing work, you are jointly responsible and can be held accountable. You could face inspections, citations and even lawsuits. So, what should you do? Read on, my friend.
Companies can take control and conduct a thorough review and prequalification of contractors before they allow them to enter their workplace. Once on site, contractors should have a meeting prior to starting the work. In addition, they should have audits during the work’s operations.
If you do not have a contractor safety policy or find that yours is lacking, there are steps you can take. First, think about the people that enter your workplace who are not employees. Are they exposing your employees, other contractors or your customers to additional hazards?
Next, draft your new or updated policy. Your policy could include:
- Prequalification – This can look different for different types of contractors – you’ll need to look a bit harder at your electrical contractor than the folks who refill your vending machine.
- Responsibilities – Who’s in charge of this program? If you don’t assign someone, guess what – no one will do it!
- Company-equipment policy – Do you allow contractors to use your equipment?
- Emergency procedures – Including interior shelter locations, alarm meanings and outside assembly locations.
- Training requirements – Pre- job meetings and sometimes you may want to see a contractor’s training record.
- Housekeeping – Spell out your requirements.
- Personal protective equipment – What are you requiring?
- Lockout/tagout/try out – This is a key program with some contractors – some companies require a tandem lockout with contractors. Look at this program and audit with this focus in mind.
- Fire prevention.
- Incident reporting.
- Hazard Communication Standard requirements, including informing the employer about chemicals brought into the facility.
- Enforcement and company safety rules.
Once you create your contractor-safety program, take time to review it with your employees, especially anyone that may invite a contractor in the building. Do this at least annually. If you involve employees in creating the program and its policies, they are more likely to recognize, approach and ensure contractors are working safely.
If you see unsafe behaviors, bring it up to the contractor and correct the behavior. If the unsafe behaviors persist, remove them from the premises. You’ve got it, sometimes a contractor can’t seem to follow your safety rules. It’s OK to find another contractor that will. Keeping your employees and contractors safe is the goal.
If you need help with contractor safety policies (or any safety policies), be sure to contact your local safety consultant from your local BWC service office. They are there to help you!