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Environmental Health and Safety Blog | EHSWire

On-line Safety Prequalification – Does the Process Really Work?

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Jan 3, 2011 2:09:25 AM

Laurie de Laski

Having spent a large part of the last 25 years as an EHS professional developing and implementing Health and Safety Plans in a wide variety of industries, I was pleased to see that companies are requesting contractors and service providers to be prequalified for safety during the bidding process.  Conceptually, prequalification for safety should “raise the safety bar” and, companies with a well-developed safety plan should be rewarded for their proactive ethos with a competitive edge in the marketplace.  At Emilcott we have seen this really happen! Highly competitive project opportunities open up for clients that have genuinely adopted a top to bottom buy-in on the importance and value of safety. And, of course, they also experience measurable drops in both injury and insurance rates based on their safety performance.

Is the safety prequalification process good?

To have the “win-win”, the safety programs required for the project must be appropriate for the bidding contractor’s scope of work.  And, these safety programs need to be adopted, implemented and enforced. So, in order to make the prequalification process manageable for the companies writing the scope of work and the bidding contractors, an industry of on-line safety verification companies has evolved. While helping the contracting companies organize their bid processes, this on-line verification is very one-size fits all and focuses heavily on written programs, which may not be applicable to the scope of work.  This all or nothing approach leaves me wondering if on-line verification actually does raise the bar or just rubber-stamps paper safety programs.

Here’s the process “in theory”…

Contractors must have written safety programs that meet the requirements of the client.  The programs are submitted on-line and reviewed by the verification company.  Programs meeting the specifications are passed; those that don’t pass are requested to be updated.  This practice sounds likes a good idea, however,

  • Many times contractors are required to write safety plans for equipment and operations outside the scope of their operations.

  • The contractors spend a significant amount of time inputting the information to the website with no guarantee of being accepted. 

  • Many of the bidding contractors are small businesses without the support or money to handle the overhead costs associated with maintaining their entries in the safety verification website.

For a quick safety program, click here!

Don't have the time to develop a safety plan? Don’t know what you’re missing? Under the gun to qualify for a lucrative project?  Don’t worry!

A large number of on-line “safety” specialists are available to help contractors meet the prequalification safety requirements! They advertise the development of company-specific safety programs that will meet the verification requirements at a very low cost, and some will include on-line input on behalf of the contractor and guarantee that they will pass.  One organization guaranteed approval in 72 hours!

Wait a minute…what problem does this solve? These companies offer to “customize” the safety plan by including the contractor’s company name and logo.  These cookie-cutter programs may meet verification requirements, but don’t appear to be customized for the contractor operations or the protection of the workers.  My sense is that there is no effort to actually develop a program that would be implemented by the contractor.  In conclusion, this “click here” approach does not raise the safety bar – it merely creates the illusion of a safety culture.

So, does safety prequalification work?

While health and safety program verification using this broad, sweeping approach may reduce the client’s liability, it doesn’t automatically improve safety performance.  In addition, the contractor may not be aware that they are creating a huge liability if they don’t implement their own safety program. In fact, OSHA will fine heavily for injuries that occur due to the lack of compliance with their stated safety plan.  Criminal penalties are also a possibility since the contractor could be considered negligent in not implementing or enforcing the procedures.

Where should we go from here?

The Requirements - Companies should require contractors to maintain only the safety programs that apply to the scope of work.  Requiring extensive safety programs for hazards the contractor is not likely to encounter devalues the safety culture for both the site and the contractor.

The Contractor Safety Programs - Contractors need to honestly implement programs that apply to their scope of work; understand the intent of the specific safety programs by learning the requirements of the regulations, provide employee training, and foster a culture of safety awareness with their employees.

The Verification Process – Be clear about the REAL goal of the process. If the objectives are truly to reduce accidents, improve safety, and make sure that everyone goes home at night, then old fashioned site health and safety inspections are what should be required.  Seeing how people work is the best way to make improvements in safety!

Do you think that the on-line safety verification process actually make a difference or is worth the time and expense?  Have you worked on a project where the on-line verification process develop and promoted a safe work environment, or like me, do you doubt they make a positive impact at all?
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Topics: Personal Protective Equipment, health and safety, General Industry H&S, General EHS, Construction H&S, H&S Training, Compliance, worker safety, Occupational Health, Occupational Safety, Occupational Training, safety plan, health and safety plan, safety prequalification, on-line verification

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