Three Contractor Orientation Mistakes, And How To Avoid These

This article, which addresses contractor safety concerns for facility management professionals, is contributed by Bryan Richards, a managing Partner at Arinite, a health and safety consultancy. The firm offers health and safety consulting internationally, with work mainly based in the UK.

By Bryan Richards

Site-specific orientations for contractors can be tricky. These are a huge part of an organization’s health and safety management system, but the logistics of creating effective orientations materials for newcomers, and ensuring all are up to scratch before starting work, can cause major headaches. As a consequence, little attention is given to managing contractor safety, which can land companies in some tricky legal situations when an accident does occur. Health and safety penalties have also risen recently, meaning managers now need to be extra officious.

Getting contractors up to scratch on site policies and safety procedures can be a logistical nightmare for facilities managers and other on-site team leaders. So to ensure all managers are aware and on top of their responsibilities, here’s an overview of the top three mistakes that come with contractor orientations and how to avoid them.contractor safety

Not Producing A Professional and Effective Induction Program

The first step towards contractor health and safety success lies in creating a practical orientation program. This program not only needs to be coherent and comprehensive, but also needs to be packaged effectively so that it can be easily absorbed by contractors.

A consistent safety message needs to be communicated to all contractors and their employees in the written material, and should include things like:
• The physical work to be undertaken, and the fundamentals needed to work safely
• The various factors that need to be taken into account to ensure customers, visitors, and other team members are also kept safe
• Important information about the company’s requirements, procedures, and common hazards to ensure their continued safety when working at the company’s job site

Although pulling this together might sound like a simple job to be undertaken by the HR department or a safety manager, induction materials should ideally be created by professionals with the necessary technical skills. Safety managers can consult on the necessary inclusions, but the package itself should be professionally formatted and designed.

In addition, since contractors are often hired in for specific jobs, the orientation pack might need to be customized for each new job.

Outsourcing Or Rushing Through Contractor Orientation Sessions

Managers are sometimes averse to early on-site contractor visits, protesting that they are impractical and too costly. But as a consequence, too often are orientation sessions either outsourced or rushed through just before work begins. Not only can outsourcing also be a difficult logistical arrangement, but there is often no way of vetting whether contractors have actually understood the safety material.

A solution to this is to offer an online program. Not only does this mean that contractors can complete the induction independently and in their own time, but an online assessment at the end ensures the material has been absorbed.

This online program should provide a full run down and assessment for all types of inductions, including:

  • General inductions: These should provide contractors and their employees with the relevant company and health and safety information needed for working on-site.
  • Site-specific orientations: These are more specific to the job-site and provide contractors with information on the current hazards of the site, as well as inform them about the site rules.
  • Task specific inductions: These provide contractors with the relevant training for undertaking a particular job task.

Losing Track Of Orientation Records

Although the contractor work may have been completed, this doesn’t mean that all the health and safety admin is complete. There’s now the added task of updating orientation records of all contractors, the work they’ve done, the safety precautions and procedures they are now covered for, and for how long afterwards there are certified.

A paper-based record can be unwieldy and resource-intensive, so an efficient way to keep track of all records is to again use an online database system. This system should be updated after each contractor’s work is complete, meaning staff can run reports for each new or returning contractor to check whether they are up to date on the latest health and safety standards.

contractor safety
Credit: Chris Giles Photography

For more than 25 years, Richards worked as a H&S consultant at a senior and technical level and has experience of managing a large portfolio of clients in a range of different industries. The Arinite Health and Safety Consultancy provides health and safety services and support to a diverse customer base including financial service companies, retail chains, schools, manufacturers, assembly plants, warehouses, transport companies, social enterprises and leisure facilities across the UK and Ireland.