Having a program in place to assess the quality of your contractor’s health and safety systems and culture is important to ensure that only contractors who can prove that they meet your organisation’s standards for safety will be allowed to undertake a contract for your business or set foot on your worksites. In addition to protecting the wellbeing of everyone who works on your site, a prequalification program can protect your organisation’s public reputation and limit the company’s liability.
A prequalification program gives you a formal, comprehensive way to weed out contractors who fail to meet your standards. It also sends a very strong message that you take safety seriously.
When you raise the bar for safety on your projects, you can actually improve safety throughout the community. As contractors begin to change their work practices to meet your standards, they’ll bring those same practices to other jobsites and owners. That benefits the contractors too because your standards may be seen as a credential in the marketplace. Other owners will know that if a contractor is good enough to work with you, they can hire the firm with greater confidence. Naming your organisation as a client can enhance the contractor’s profile.
The goal of nearly every prequalification effort is to ensure that every contractor company has a rock solid safety culture. Having a plan and living up to it are two different things, so you’ll want to look more deeply. Does the plan provide comprehensive guidance? How does the contractor handle safety training? What is the company’s actual rate of recordable incidents? What types of injuries have workers suffered? How many workers required simple first aid compared to those that had to be rushed to the emergency room? Is there a pattern that suggests an underlying problem such as inadequate personal protective equipment? Verifying those and many other factors provides valuable insight into how the contractor does business.
If a contractor wonders why you’re concerned about activities that take place on other work sites, explain that it’s an indication of the contractor’s safety culture and how important safety is to its employees. If their workers are not encouraged to use safe practices elsewhere, do you really believe that they’ll change their behaviour for you?
Your prequalification program should study all the factors you need to make a reasonable decision as to whether a contractor shares your organisation’s commitment to safety.
It’s important to note that a prequalification program is not the single solution to all of an organisation’s safety needs. It is one step that ensures that prospective contractors meet your minimum requirements, and it should be part of a comprehensive Contractor Safety Management process. Once the contractor starts working on your site, it’s up to your safety team to continuously verify that the contractors work in accordance with your standards.