As an Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) consultant, I am often asked to provide site level safety support overseeing multiple subcontractors. I’ve found that the safety culture of our subcontractors varies greatly. For example, the smaller subcontractors may not have the resources to implement a strong or well developed safety program. My job is to bridge the gap between the client and the subcontractors. I’ve learned that regardless of the project type, a successful project is one in which safety is considered during the planning phase. If you have a good understanding of your client’s safety culture and expectations from the start, you can pre-qualify your subcontractors for safety. A contractor health and safety plan can be developed to include training requirements, injury reporting requirements and program requirements, and be provided to the contractors before they bid on the project. Project communication and training can be tailored to fill the “gaps” that may exist among the subcontractors that are selected for the project. The goal is to head off issues at the pass!
The practices that I have found most useful in promoting a culture of “Safety first… no matter what” on a project include communication, training, accountability, tracking and follow up.
- Clear and routine communication of the safety expectations and specific requirements are essential. I’ve learned that the message must be shared daily, and in some cases, more frequently.
- Training is also essential and is conducted through the duration of the project as new subcontractors come on to the projects, as the site conditions change, and as job tasks change. Everyone working on the site should understand that they accountable for their own safety, but also have a role in the overall safety of the project. They should be expected to report unsafe site conditions, or if they observe unsafe work practices and near misses.
- By tracking and following up on near misses, incidents, and other project safety standards you can evaluate the project safety performance and communicate it to everyone involved.
I’ve also found that a safety recognition program is also helpful. While it’s common to punish those who fail to meet the safety expectations, it also effective to reward or recognize those who exemplify safe work practices. If you have any questions, please contact Nick Foreman or Conan Reed.