First word: Dealing with contractors can be tricky in that there can be many a slip twit the operational cup and the lips by way of whose or which safety rule should apply, given that both parties have their own rulebooks on how safety is to be managed in their respective businesses. Such that if the two sides do not move to agree on a common front ahead of time they’re likely to end up with gaps and conflicts potentially harmful to the common interest as a situation of ‘one rule for them and one for us’ can rapidly take shape which can in turn, translate to different safety rules, different standards, different approaches, different interpretations and different philosophies within same work enclosure. Nothing leads to chaos and confusion faster than that, seeing how The Right to Choose is not exactly compatible with good workplace safety management. It places a serious and conspicuous question mark on the overall safety of the site. So if contractor employees feel that it is ok to choose what rule applies instead of THE RULE to APPLY, in accordance with approved procedures, then trouble can’t be too far away indeed.
Remember that in workplace safety, there is hardly a middle ground or line of separation between the contractor and the contractee. What affects the one affects the other and in equal measures. Therefore, it should make sound business safety sense to have just the one rule book for all, even though it is fairly common in practice for the contractor to defer to The Client. However, the rule of the thumb should be to adopt the more stringent safety provisions on the day. No point operating ‘double standards’ because it nurtures ‘smart play’ which often means variable safety considerations and practices. Get your worksite safety under control; operate a SINGLE RULEBOOK FOR ALL – make it simple because SIMPLE IS SAFER!
Getting on same safety page
Getting everyone on same page for safety should start from day one. If the contractor’s systems are found to be incompatible with own safety management systems or are less than adequate for the planned job after a thorough review; corrective or harmonizing measures should immediately be embarked upon to ensure the best foot forward from start. Immediate corrective action is the key, otherwise critical items may just slip with time leaving everyone startled and baffled in the end should something go wrong.
Typically, issues with personal protective equipment (PPE) standard, type and use, are best spotted for correction or harmonization at this point. For example, only the flame retardant-type coveralls may be acceptable for work in an oil and gas facility due to the potential fire hazards inherent in such facilities. But experience shows that some contractors may not easily see the wisdom in such a requirement at the first instance; especially if new to cross-industry exposure or experience. Getting them ‘onboard’ therefore becomes all the more necessary to ensure there is shared knowledge and understanding, plus a sense of purpose! Mind you, money issues of who pays for what could surface at this stage?
Thorough reviews may also throw up safety critical control issues such as who’s the designated person in charge of the worksite, Permit-To-Work System (PTWS) signatories, access control, fire watch, auxiliary fire teams, gas monitoring intervals, communication with control room, ER Duty Personnel , Incident Reporting, First Aid arrangements, etc. Nothing promotes getting everyone on the same safety page like good and round communication with all parties from pre-qualification, pre-mobilization through to execution and de-mobilization stages. The more the open and complete the communication, the happier and trusting the people irrespective whether they’re contractor or own company employees. And it has been said that a happy workforce is a potentially safer workforce.
What is and what is not
Applying one set of safety rules to your own and another to your contractors simply doesn’t make sense from operational safety point of view. It muddles up things to the point that no one is sure of ‘what is’ or ‘what is not’ after a while. If people are unsure of what rules apply to given situations then they’ll be open to choice by simply making up their own rules on the go. There is no clearer path to workplace chaos and confusion where that is allowed to happen. If there’s no uniformity in workplace rules application then there is not much else left to expect on that site by way of safe operations or the lack of it, thereof.
If the site rule, for instance, says that all must wear hard hats on open decks at all times, think ABOUT what will happen to believability, discipline, trust and morale if any of the site’s company managing staff appear on a deck not wearing a hardhat, with no challenge, no consequence. What happens then? What becomes of all the safety systems, rules, policies and procedures? And what happens to all the talk about ‘safety being our numero uno priority on this site? What? Zero!
Where would the justification come from to call anyone to order for any safety violations or non-compliance in that same work site thereafter? Where would the principal’s credibility be? Who will be justified to apply management’s corrective muscle as should be the case in the aftermath? It’s as easy getting everyone on same safety page as getting them off it because no one likes to be taken for a ride; if you tout workplace safety compliance as the main plank of your operations then stick with that at all cost and at all times. There’s nothing clever in wanting to be a safety Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde because if you can’t walk the talk, don’t even start at all as a lot will depend on it when it comes to it.
It’s a fact of life that relationships between the clients and contractors can be colourful at times but it is in the best common interest of both parties to tow the same line in workplace safety as anything else is fishing for trouble in the form of accidents, injuries and interrupted productivity. Having different safety rules for different people in the same work enclosure is simply not a viable option unless the idea is to sow discord, mistrust and disharmony. In which case, one should only have oneself to blame when it all comes crashing down as sure it will.
Don't let monetary considerations take your safety front seat.