Site-specific orientations for contractors can be tricky. They are a huge part of your health and safety management system, but the logistics of creating effective orientation materials for newcomers, and ensuring all are up to scratch before starting work, can cause major headaches for managers.

The difficulty of managing contractor health and safety is further compounded by the fact that contractors are often performing non-routine work on site, and little attention is given to managing their safety. Other criteria – like technical capability and the ability to complete work on time – typically take precedence when hiring contractors, which can land companies in some difficult legal situations if an accident occurs. Health and safety penalties have also risen recently.

An orientation is necessary for all new hires, despite the impracticalities. To ensure that all managers are up to scratch on their responsibilities, the following is an overview of the top three challenges that come with contractor orientations and how to overcome them.

Creating An Effective Induction Programme

The first step in making sure all your contractors are qualified to work on site lies in creating an orientation programme that really pops. Although it might sound like a simple job, to be undertaken by a safety manager or someone from HR (all you need to do is walk them through standard safety procedures, right?), this is actually scrimping on a job that requires skills that these personnel don’t necessarily have.

For example, a safety manager may be good at on-site walk-throughs and demonstrations, but less savvy with Microsoft Office. Thus, induction materials can often contain information that is confusing or poorly formatted, leaving contractors less informed about important safety procedures and workplace hazards.

Induction materials should be created by professionals with the necessary technical skills. This means creating a bespoke orientation pack for each new contractor job that explains:

  1. The physical work to be undertaken, and the fundamentals needed to work safely
  2. What factors need to be taken into account to ensure the organization’s customers, visitors and team members are also kept safe
  3. Important information about the company’s requirements, procedures and common hazards to ensure their continued safety when working at the company’s job-site

Ultimately, a consistent and cogent safety message must be communicated to all sub-contractors and their employees in the written material.

Arranging Orientation Sessions for Contractors

Once the orientation material has been finalized, it then needs to be presented to contractors effectively. Early on-site visits are often impractical and costly, so to save hassle, orientation sessions are either outsourced or rushed through before work starts. This has the potential to land safety managers in all kinds of trouble if done poorly.

Not only is outsourcing a logistical nightmare, but there is no way of vetting whether contractors have actually absorbed the safety material. A solution to this is to offer an online programme that contractors can complete independently. This online system 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 required 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

Contractors can then complete the assessment in their own time before arriving on site.

Maintaining Orientation Records

Once the contractor work has completed, orientation is not yet complete. There’s always the added stress of updating orientation records of the workers, the work they’ve done, and the safety precautions and procedures they are covered for.

The most efficient way to keep track of all records, again, is to use an online database system. This system should be updated after each contractor’s work is complete – it could even be automated with your online orientation programme. Staff should then be able to run reports for each contractor to ensure that they are up to date on health and safety before beginning a new job.

Occupational health and safety is often overlooked during contractor orientations – managers want to rush through training and fail to take contractor’s safety seriously enough. By the same token, contractors may actually feel unsafe in their job, but are afraid to speak up due to the insecurity of the work contract and the need to be seen to get along. By implementing the solutions described above, much stress and risk to employees may be avoided.