The data doesn’t lie: contractors tend to be more vulnerable to at-work injuries and fatalities than full-time workers. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, of the 4,836 injuries that took place in 2015, a whopping 17 percent of them were suffered by contracted workers.
Why? Part of it could be because contractors are often brought in to perform higher risk tasks with little oversight or supervision. But it’s also because contractors tend to be left out in the cold when it comes to health and safety programs.
Contractor qualification can help address these issues. Here, we’re going to help you understand how it does that and why it's important.
Understanding the Need for Contractor Qualification
Prequalifying contractors can be a somewhat lengthy process. It involves a number of variables and steps, and it’s not uncommon for health and safety to simply be overlooked. In fact, a study of this very issue found that environment, health, and safety ranked 10th or lower on the list of important qualification criteria.
Ranking safety so low is unfortunate because contract workers represent an inherent health and safety risk for a handful of reasons:
- Contractors may cut corners or engage in unsafe practices because of financial pressure or upcoming deadlines. They may also continue working with minor injuries due to fear of losing the job, which further increases their risk for injury.
- Work briefs and other documents are often unclear, and contractors have little opportunity to be involved in safety initiatives.
- Safety standards for contract workers are often insufficient and loosely enforced, resulting in lower safety performance.
- Companies are often disorganized when it comes to contract workers, resulting in ineffective training, a lack of supervision, and poor communication.
Contractor qualification offers businesses an opportunity to develop strong relationships with contractors and encourage them to employ good safety practices to maintain that working relationship (learn more about Contractor Qualification Best Practices).
Why Prequalifying Is Worth the Effort
Prequalifying contractors can be a bit of a tedious and time-consuming process – but it can result in big payoffs for health and safety and beyond. Here’s why.
Only Workers with a Proven Safety Record Are on Your Worksites
Qualifying contractors is a bit like installing a security gate at the entrance to your facility: it’s intended to keep those who shouldn’t be there off the site.
A rigorous qualification process ensures that you only work with contractors who have demonstrated good safety practices and have an understanding of how to address or mitigate worksite risks. This not only keeps your workers safer, but also keeps your reputation as a safety-first company intact.
A study by the National Safety Council (NSC) found that, compared to national averages, prequalified contractors have:
- 33.7 percent better total recordable rate (TRR)
- 47.7 percent better days away, restricted, or transferred (DART) rate
- 65 percent better lost workday rate (LWR)
In safety metric after safety metric, contractors who go through a qualification process outperform their peers significantly.
You Get the Highest Quality Contractors
There are lots of contractors out there vying for work, and the qualification process is an effective way find the best and weed out the rest.
It’s not uncommon for aggressive contractors to attend pre-bid meetings looking for work, only to disappear quickly after learning that they will be subject to a strong qualification program. They know they won’t make the cut when it comes to meeting high safety standards, so they take themselves out of the running. This leaves you with a selection of contractors who are confident in their safety standards and practices – and eager to show you why.
It Provides an Opportunity for Education
Some smaller, less sophisticated contractors mean well but simply don’t understand current safety requirements. That doesn't mean you shouldn't work with them, but it does mean you need to help get them up to speed before the work starts.
Qualification gives you an opportunity to scrutinize a contractor's practices and identify the areas that need improvements. The process also allows you to educate them about what they should be doing to comply with OSHA standards and keep themselves and their employees safe. Your safety qualification software, then, is kind of like a safety coach working to help newer contractors meet the latest requirements (for related reading, see Managing Contractors from Start to Finish: The 4 Stages of Contractor Management).
Making sure everyone has the right training and education works. The NSC study found that workers who joined the safety qualification program in 2007 saw an average TRR improvement of 56.58 percent over the next eight years, compared to the 40.93 percent reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for all companies.
Safety Practices Improve Beyond Your Own Business
One unintended consequence of using a strong qualification program is that it can improve safety throughout your community. Contractors adjust their safety standards and practices to meet your requirements, and then bring those improvements to other businesses and job sites in the local area. Contractors will be proud to name you as a client, and other business owners will be confident in hiring those who have worked with you in the past.
Qualifying contractors is first and foremost about keeping everyone on your job site safe. But it also makes good business sense.
If you're hiring contractors, take the time to qualify them thoroughly. You won't regret it.