New Research Identifies 5 Best Practices for Keeping Contractors Safe

Posted on by Joy Inouye


Creating a culture of safety isn’t just meant for full-time employees of an organization. It requires the involvement all workers whether full-time, temporary or contract and the diligence of the companies or organizations where their work occurs. Contractor safety management is extremely relevant in our increasingly global and complex world that involves work in multiple countries, non-routine work and the use of international and temporary workforces.

The Campbell Institute, the center of excellence for environmental health and safety at the National Safety Council, has released a new research report collecting the best practices of world-class EHS organizations around the management of contractor and supplier safety. Through analysis and interviews with 14 Campbell Institute members and partners, the Institute collected recommended practices for contractor management along five crucial steps of the contractor lifecycle:

  • Prequalification
  • Pre-job task and risk assessment
  • Training and orientation
  • Job monitoring
  • Post-job evaluation

Prequalification: In this phase, all research participants assess contractors on their safety statistics, such as Experience Modification Rate (EMR), Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR), fatality rate, DART and other OSHA recordables. These rates and numbers are well understood across organizations of all sizes and industries, which make them standard for data collection and evaluation. All participants also require contractors to submit these statistics for a given time period, typically the last three years. The above safety statistics are just a baseline, however, for the wealth of rates and numbers collected and calculated by Campbell Institute participants during the vetting process. Some members also look at injury logs, environmental reports and presence of continuous improvement programs.

Pre-job task and risk assessment: Before a contractor begins work, Campbell members recommend that an organization have a method to evaluate the risk of the work to be performed (typically per a risk matrix) to place contractors in a predetermined risk category. This process helps owners and contractors understand the scope of work and provide an opportunity for additional written safety programs to be put in place.

Training and orientation: All research participants require safety orientation and skills training of contractors in order for them to be approved for work. All also require special permits or training for specific kinds of work, including (but not limited to) confined space entry, electrical work, hot work, energy control, forklifts, elevated work, etc. Some Campbell members even provide specialized safety training such as HAZWOPER, hazard identification, PPE, LOTO and fall prevention.

Job monitoring: During this phase, every organization in the study has periodic assessments during the contract term, which varies from daily checklists and/or safety talks to weekly walkthroughs, to monthly and yearly assessments. Some Campbell members also require contract employees to submit safety observations (a set quota per month) or utilize mobile applications to report non-compliance or unsafe conditions. All research participants are in agreement that the maintenance of incident logs is also crucial to monitoring contractor safety during a project.

Post-job evaluation: Campbell members agree there should be specific post-work evaluative procedures in contractor guidelines. This is mostly due to the fact that so much effort is placed into the vetting process for contractors that a sufficient evaluation stage is needed to determine if the work was done correctly and safely. Analyses of contractor claims, observations and injury rates are some ways to measure the effectiveness of contractor training and if the work was performed safely.

This research shows that contractor safety management is a sustainable business practice. Screening for high incident rates and avoiding contracts to high-risk contractors not only reduces liability and insurance claims, but creates safer work sites and increases the potential profitability for all parties he involved – owners, contractors and subcontractors alike.

What tips can you share for keeping temporary and contract workers safe?

For more details and results from this research, and many other interesting topics, visit the Campbell Institute research site.

Joy Inouye is a Research Associate at the Campbell Institute of the National Safety Council.

Posted on by Joy Inouye

22 comments on “New Research Identifies 5 Best Practices for Keeping Contractors Safe”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    Thank you so much for the excellent research here. The big question though is, What Are The Next Steps?

    “Contracted worker” deaths rose in 2014 despite OSHA’s Temporary Worker Initiative and recommended guidelines for improving safety.

    Temp work exists in order to cut cost and save time. Both of these benefits are a contradiction to the need to invest in orientation and training for these highly vulnerable workers. It’s our thinking that as long as temp work, and other forms of complex, fissured employment relations grow, and as long as recommendations remain recommendations and not enforceable laws, this segment of the workforce will continue to suffer higher rates of illness, injury and death.

    Thank you for adding to the large and growing body of research on how to protect our workforce!!

    Thank you for your comment. Contractor safety is an important issue with serious implications. Inside the white paper we list some possible next steps for further research, focusing on post-job evaluation as well as integration of lessons learned and more mature metrics into pre-qualification. This issue will remain a topic of interest with our Campbell Institute members and we look forward to sharing further research in the future.

    One small comment. It is of vast importance that not only the main contractors are vetted but all subcontractors and sub sub contractors also because on large sites they do most of the manual work and are those most at risk , also with the poorest HSE standards, also being the cheapest

    Thanks for your comment. We absolutely agree and believe that best practice involves vetting not just primary, but all sub-contractors as well (although this can take different forms). We fully recognize the complex situations and interconnections created by these relationships and believe that the future lies in embracing all work of an organization with the same level of care, whether taken on by an employee, contractor or sub-contractor.

    There is nothing new in this article except for the fact that when seeking to improve safety performance, forward thinking, innovative organisations commence with supply chain market development to achieve skills harmonisation. This is closely followed by specification consequence analysis prior to commencing the ITT process.

    Thank you for your feedback. This blog post indeed summarizes what are probably well-known, accepted practices of contractor vetting. However, we believe the main new contributions of this research are the detailed examples of how Campbell members have implemented these practices, which are housed inside the body of the white paper.

    Dear all,

    with great interest I read the article about how to keep contract workers safe.
    I work in the offshore gas industry as a senior safety officer, mainly responsible for civil works in gas stations. We try to follow the same recommended practices here in Europe the same way as you do in America. In theory there are no problems with the management of our contractors, but at the end works have to executed by workers in the field. And there is where our problems start. Due to many different nationalities of the workers involved, they come from all over Europe even as far as Bella Rus, Ukrane, Uzbekistan, they all speak different languages. Although English is the main language everybody has to use, we notice a lot of the floor workers don’t understand a word of it. So LMRA are made up and distributed among discipline supervisors, foreman, HSE supervisors, etc. in English. Now these people who very often have only a basic knowledge of English have to translate work methods and recommendations into the respectively languages used by their workers. Our long time experience shows that this is a major factor in why workers in the field don’t follow the safety rules, they simply don’t understand what is expected from them. This means that for me and my HSE contributors we constantly have to explain to the people in the field what they’re doing wrong and why we think their work methods are not up to our standards. This often means we have to use pictorials to show them what we expect. End this works better than the explanation given in English, they understand the pictorials and most important they remember them and implement them.

    Thanks for reading this comment, if you’re working in a similar environment please don’t hesitate to send me your way of dealing with this language problem, I’m very interested .

    yours sincerely,

    Marijn Van den Bossche
    Safety Site Co
    Fluxys Zeebrugge, Belgium

    Thank you for your work in the field in what sounds like a very challenging role. You are definitely correct that communication, culture and contractor management issues do go hand in hand. You might want to try checking out our Campbell Institute library at as a resource for further information.

    Mr. Marijn,

    You can try to learn some key words in their languages to explain some specific safety moments or hire safety professionals from Russia.
    We faced the same issues when communicating with workers from Turkey.

    Best Regards,

    MA Van den Bossche,
    In reaching certain populations, we have also found that investing in good visuals – particularly illustrations that can be adapted to control the environment and depict safety measures and precautions, and ones that have been tested with the population of interest – can increase worker’s understanding of the messages and motivate them towards action. Recently, NIOSH released a series of multi-media communication products for organizations that serve Spanish-speaking immigrant workers, often with low-literacy, entitled Protéjase en el trabajo (Protect yourself at work). The purpose of developing these materials, in conjunction with both the worker community and subject matter expert input, is to help Spanish-speaking immigrant workers learn about their rights at work, understand that there may be hazards in their workplaces, and find out where to get help to prevent or eliminate the risks. We discuss the process of selecting art in the recent blog: Illustrating the Point: Choosing the right ART for the message.

    * Amy and Nura work for NIOSH and authored a series of blogs describing the development and purpose of the Protéjae educational materials

    I like your Blog. In your blog the instruct ions or precautions are mentioned above is very useful for the workers who are worked in the Hazardious location.

    Nice blog. Very useful for the workers who are worked in the Hazardious location.

    This post is good enough to make somebody understand this amazing thing, and I’m sure everyone will appreciate this interesting things.

    Muy interesantes este bog, me han brindado herramientas para tener presente a la hora de trabajar en lugares de alto riesgo. Gracias

    From Google Translate
    Very interesting this bog, they have given me tools to keep in mind when working in high risk places. Thank you

    Debe ser un lugar seguro para todos. Buen artículo.

    From Google Translate:

    It must be a safe place for everyone. Good article..

    Very cool article, it is of the utmost importance to keep the contractor safe, and these tips are perfect for this, thank you.

    great post Thank you so much for sharing this information. I own a safety surfacing company and times are getting tougher and tougher to maintain safety regulations with contractors we don’t know.
    We’re trying but it seems to be an uphill battle

    This is a very important and relevant article on contractor safety in the workplace. You emphasized the need for collaboration, communication, training, supervision, and evaluation when working with contractors. You also shared some best practices and recommendations from NIOSH on how to prevent injuries and illnesses among contractors. I think this is a valuable information for employers, contractors, workers, and regulators.

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments posted become a part of the public domain, and users are responsible for their comments. This is a moderated site and your comments will be reviewed before they are posted. Read more about our comment policy »

Page last reviewed: October 1, 2015
Page last updated: October 1, 2015