Why Prequalify?

When you approach many companies’ facilities for the first time, you have to stop at a front gate or a front desk to identify yourself and explain why you’re there. The reason for that security is evident: the company wants to make sure that the only people who set foot in it’s facility are those who belong there.

That’s the basic idea behind a contractor prequalification program. Having a program in place is a way to ensure that only contractors who can prove that they meet your organisation’s standards for safety will be allowed to 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 help meet your duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA).

With the way we do business in New Zealand, we often have workers from dozens of contractors performing potentially dangerous tasks every day within a workplace over which we have health and safety duties. 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 a contractor wants your business, you’ll probably hear that its supervisors and workers value safety, and that they will only follow safe practices on the worksite. Of course, you may also hear that they’ll meet all your deadlines and never ask for a change order.

A prequalification program means you don’t have to trust their promises, because it allows you to verify that they follow recognised safety standards. By examining a wide variety of characteristics, you’ll be able to determine whether or not the contractor’s employees belong on your worksite.

When you raise the bar for safety on your worksite, 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 worksites and owners. That benefits the contractors too because your standards may be seen as a credential in the marketplace.
The goal of nearly every prequalification effort is to ensure that every contractor company has a rock solid safety culture. That’s why the starting point should be verifying that each contractor has a written safety plan that goes beyond Health and Safety minimums to meet your higher standards.

But simply 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 required simple first aid compared to how many 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.

To ensure that your program will be effective, make sure that the individual responsible for operating it is knowledgeable about safety practices. Some organisations delegate the responsibility to administrative assistants who can collect and review information but who lack the first-hand experience to spot problem areas or recognise obvious attempts to deceive.

It’s also 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.

If you would like more information on this or any other health and safety topic, please email Safe Business Solutions Ltd to info@safebusiness.co.nz or call freephone 0508424723.