When working as a safety professional for a prime contractor, there is a big chance that you will have to manage multiple sub-contractors and their safety personnel. This is especially true if you happen to work for large producers. This can complicate your day-to-day operations and might require some deft handling when things go wrong. I love working with sub-contractors because it allows me to work with companies that all have their own unique skill sets and content expertise. It’s like having a front-row seat when it comes to learning about the different aspects of the oil-and-gas industry. How could you pass that up? (Get some background reading on setting up a safety culture in Safety Culture 101.)

See Your Sub-Contractors As Partners

Often safety advisors and consultants have not received any training in how to manage sub-contractors. This can be remedied by employing the following techniques. First, treat them as you would like to be treated. Do not think for one second that your position as the safety professional working for the prime contractor gives you any magical powers. They are already aware that they need to play ball with you for the sake of their company’s contract. There is no need to put them in their place and remind them that you hold all the power. Ironically, you will fail if you are unable to establish a solid working relationship with sub-contractors. It best to state publicly that you are working in collaboration with them and that they are a crucial part of the team. Seeing sub-contractors as partners will go a long way toward spreading your company’s safety mentality.

Meeting With the Sub-Contractor Safety Advisor

The project might need to be started or might already be in progress, either way you will still have meet with your sub-contractor safety advisor. This meeting will lay out your company’s expectations. Take the time to be thorough and explain key deliverables. Impress upon them previous pain points you have encountered and how they can be solved. Be sure to discuss the safety culture you are trying to establish and maintain. It is important that they get a sense of the underlying philosophy of the safety program. Also, it is crucial that the sub-contractor walks away with a clear understanding of the requirements placed on them. For example, what documentation needs to be completed on a daily basis. If you don’t do this the right way, you will receive a phone call for every little thing. To avoid that, ensure that they are comfortable with what is required of them.

Provide Required Documentation

Want to have a program that will run smoothly? Build each sub-contractor safety advisor a binder with all the required documentation. I realize in this digital age we would like to store everything on a hard drive or in the cloud; however, when someone is becoming familiar with new procedures, hard copies of relevant documents are often preferred for ease of reading. Build a binder with all the up-to-date documentation and anything that might be of practical use. For example, add in lists of often-used phone numbers, maps of the area and radio protocols. Prior to building a binder, imagine what it would be like for the sub-contractor to come to your site and run through each scenario where they might require your assistance. The more information you can provide, the less they will lean on you during the program.

The First 30 days

The first month sets the tone. It can be a awkward song and dance for the first little while. The first call from your sub-contractor when he tells you that there has been an incident is often an important opportunity. It is stressful when the sub-contractor has to phone you and inform you that there has been an incident. You can decrease his or her stress levels if you have clearly stated that you are his or her partner in safety. I cannot stress this enough: you can maintain a high degree of professionalism and demand a lot from your sub-contractors, yet do so in a collegial manner. No need to see an incident or mishap (large or small) as an epic failure on the contractor's part. Be polite, yet firm; be respectful, yet exacting and you will enjoy a good working relationship.

Maintain Those Relationships

Now that you have undertaken the first steps of creating a brilliant partnership with your sub-contractors, how can you maintain that? When appropriate, use humor to keep things light. Also let them share their knowledge with you. If you are open minded, you will be surprised what you can learn from other safety professionals.

This article originally appeared at WhiteKnightSafetySolutions.com. It has been reprinted here with permission.