As Health and Safety Consultants we are often called in to help when companies find themselves in difficult positions, either as a client with their contractor, or, as a contractor with their client.
We see it all! Companies who in their haste to open up sites due to financial pressures from higher management rush through the launch and allow staff and public on sites when they really shouldn’t and without contractor snagging being finalised. Who then allow their contractors to dictate to them their own individual health and safety terms, procedures and standards – leaving them with a unmanageable mess that often needs be picked apart and taken back to basics, to create standardised processes putting them back in the driving seat so that they may attain and maintain their HSE compliance.
We also see the other side, whereby companies are so pleased to have won contracts that they sign up without insisting on a detailed scope
of work; not noticing the complete lack of mention in the terms or tender of any health and safety expectations that will be placed upon them. Hoping that this means that there are no conditions to be adhered to and receiving a shock at the prestart meeting – finding out that they are totally unprepared, without HSE documentation and their staff unqualified. Thus, necessitating an urgent call to an HSE Consultants asking for help
to develop health and safety documentation and procedures, or, to supply suitably experienced, trained, and accredited HSE staff – all services which had been completely unaccounted for in the budgeting of the project.
As many client’s concerns are over HSE compliance, the effective health and safety management of contractor’s aspect can often be a key component in creating easy to manage ongoing health and safety conformance. Again, an issue that we often see is that the client has not understood contractor management correctly and is therefore taking on much extra workload, responsibility and risk that simply does not belong to them. They are creating documentation and allocating staff to tasks that if allocated correctly, should be pushed back on to the contractor.
In a nutshell, failure to define and understand HSE roles and responsibilities and set up robust procedures right at the start of your relationship with
a contractor or client, i.e. at tender stage, is subsequently guaranteed to make your life difficult. Get it right from the outset and you will ski downhill thereafter.
Where to start?
- As we all (should) know, the successful management of contractors starts well before the hiring of the contractor. There needs to be clarity in the overall expectation of the contractor as well as communication of the required standards needed to demonstrate competence and safety, including expectations of staff training and qualifications. This should be included in the tender scope and not just the contract. Therefore, it is essential that the client companies HSE Department work closely with procurement to ensure this inclusion.
- The company’s procurement process must ensure that the contractor provides at tender stage documentary evidence of all health and safety procedures that would be essential during the project including; risk assessments, safe work method statements, HSE plan, emergency procedures, evidence of staff HSE training and qualifications. The resulting technical review should involve the HSE Department and form part of the overall contractor evaluation and decision as to whether the work is won or not.
- Include robust contract clauses in terms of HSE obligations that
the contractor understands and agrees to before they sign the contract. This could include details such as the mandatory inclusion of additional HSE supervision for high risk work or compulsory external third party investigation in the event of a lost time incident.
- Make the contractor well aware of the safety standards and HSE documentation that you will require them to work to. Share your companies HSE arrangements, emergency procedures, permit systems and policy.
- As the client, develop a standard reporting monthly template that ensures all documentary evidence necessary to satisfy HSE compliance as per your stakeholders and regulatory bodies criteria is captured and satisfied. Ensure all your contractors use your standard documentation and submit as per your requirements.
After work is won
- Ensure all contractors attend a pre-start orientation. This will aid in eliminating any incorrect assumptions that could arise, as well as assessing the level of site HSE induction required before the commencement of work.
- Plan regular progress meetings to discuss and raise health and safety issues throughout the project life. Be sure to include workforce consultations and representatives in the meetings.
- The level of safety monitoring required during the project depends on the risks present. Contractors should be carrying out daily health and safety checks and clients’ suitable periodic checks on the contractor’s safety performance. Where requirements are not being met, the client should take immediate appropriate action hand in hand with the contractor.
- Both the client and contractor should review the work after completion to see if safety performance could be improved in future and what learnings can be used to improve subsequent decisions and projects.