This subject is so important for the simple reason that people think that because they have vetted a contractor that they are fine, they are compliant, but in reality, they are actually only focusing on one part of a much larger process, and vetting is only the beginning. You can in fact be limiting yourself with assumptions, as contractor management does not just equal pre-qual; it is just a part of it.
WHAT DO WE MEAN BY “LIMITING YOURSELF”?
We need to look here at the whole process for getting someone on-site, before site, leaving site and doing all of this work safely and compliantly. Pre-Qual means the worker that is going to do this job is qualified at a company level, but not always to your site-specific requirements and maybe not even to that job in hand. The focus here however should be how you can guarantee compliance and safety overall for contractors throughout the whole process.
IS VETTING AND COMPLIANCE SEEN DIFFERENTLY AROUND THE WORLD?
It is as in certain parts of the world, the likes of the USA and Europe, it can often be quite different. In the USA, pre-qual is a focus, and a lot of companies use paper-based systems to manage contractors and the whole process. In Europe, it is very much looking at the overall streamlined process. There are more electronic contractor management systems in certain parts of Europe, but it does vary from company to company.
HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT GUARANTEEING COMPLIANCE?
You should really be thinking about your ideal outcome, what is it that you want to achieve? A lot of the focus should be to ensure that complete compliance is maintained throughout the whole process from start to end because one part of it impacts the next part.
What does your ideal outcome look like? Maybe you would love to have that certainty of the safety and compliance of contractors, before, during and as they are leaving site safely.
There are pros and cons to what you do, and pros and cons as to what you want to create.
To begin with, there are pros with paper-based systems which we will cover. Some of the key requirements before any job can be done are method statements, risk assessments or JSA’s. These need to be sent in, in advance before a permit to work is actually created. In an ideal world these documents would be sent in through a controlled process where it gets approved to be used based on the specifics of your site – that is your method statement, your JSA and that’s just the start of the process.
Once these documents have been submitted, then it’s the pre-qual process. Often it is the company that is pre-qualified, it might not be the actual worker themselves of that company. The pre-qual / vetting is not always specific to the job, it is overall a general qualification. That is one of the big differences between the USA and Europe, because in the USA many are just trusting that the contracting company are qualified and have to sign up through a subscription service, and that’s pre-qual only to a certain level. You need to ask, “what happens next”?
In Europe, individual contractors and individual workers need to be qualified. There are stringent rules for example in the pharmaceutical industry – they have to go through a certain number of procedures, SOP’s, watch certain induction videos. It is not good enough to say they are actually qualified; there needs to be more proof, more documentation, more controls in place. That is one difference to be found.
The next stage of getting a contractor on site and getting them to work is getting that paper process and requesting the permit to work piece of paper. The paper permit to work comes from a standard permit book. If you want to make a change you can’t really make it that quickly. It is worth considering the fact that if you want to make a change and engage a process on a weekly or monthly basis to ensure compliance, then an electronic system might be favoured over paper, as changes to the permit can be made a lot quicker and implemented much faster.
Another issue with paper permits can be the fact that when you get the permit submitted for approval, any name can appear on the permit because it is a paper process. You have no control what name a worker goes under, you don’t know if they are compliant or not, and they are trying to get signatures from the dedicated approval signatory. The approval part is important as you want the correct people approving it that are trained, and you can’t control that either with paper. They should be in a system as permit approvers only if they have also gone through a stringent process to be deemed as appropriate to approve certain areas – you can go to that level with any electronic system.
As you are approving that permit to work, you need to know what other permits exist, to make sure there aren’t any conflicts; you need visibility to see what other jobs are scheduled in real time.
WHEN A COMPANY BUYS IN TO A VETTING SERVICE IS THERE ANYTHING AROUND QUALITY OF WORK INCLUDED WITHIN THAT?
Companies should have a way of submitting documents electronically, attaching them from any place and from any device, but they should also have the ability to attach and send to a certain particular group or individual where they get notified to approve this document.
Some companies allow you to do a pre-qualification of their company itself which is submitting a risk assessment or a safety statement. It may or may not include the workers. That is not recording the quality of work and can be limiting.
With an electronic end-to-end contractor management system, companies can effectively manage a compliance process and get 100% certainty that all workers are safe and compliant before site, during site and them leaving site. You can also close the permit in a controlled way and give a star rating to those workers which concludes the complete loop including the visitor check-in and check-out and everything that you would expect from an end to end solution. This doesn’t happen with software that is designed for simply just vetting.
Hopefully this blog helps to explain the difference between those companies that provide vetting and pre-qualification and the actual need for compliance when you’re looking for contractors to come on site and start work.