Unfinished evolution of contractor safety management

Over 26 years of safety practice I have found widespread belief in business that if you get in an expert you can go “hands free”.  Businesses get in contractors for their expertise – whatever trade, facility management or other specialist area.  But the business then lets the contractor get on with it without adequate checks on the safety of the contractor.  It is an old story that has been evolving – but we are still seeing the unfinished evolution of contractor safety management.

20 – 25 years ago – hire them and let them do their thing – check work quality at job end, pay them.  A few businesses check for insurance cover.

15-20 years ago – councils, some corporations demand insurances, safety management systems (SMS) – check at tender, check work at job end, pay.

10 -15 years ago – many large businesses demand insurances, SMS, Job Safety Analyses (JSA) – check existence at tender, check work at job end and pay.

Now – Many large businesses demand insurances, check quality of SMS and Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) at tender, check work quality at job end and pay them.  Many smaller and medium businesses are buying off-the-shelf SMS and SWMS to submit at tender or before jobs.  A very few know how to create a SWMS for a job.  Some sectors are very good – mining, unionised construction, government (parts).  Unlike big business, most small and medium businesses are doing nothing when they engage contractors or, if anything, are asking for but not checking their SWMS.

Many organisations still do not monitor the compliance of their contractors with the SWMS they submit before work.  If they did they might be surprised what little protection they are actually getting by asking for the SWMS.  Don’t be another one of the businesses that are stuck in the unfinished evolution of contractor safety management.

Of course I may have just been unlucky in my dealings but I know when I walk into a small or medium business I can almost guarantee there is inadequate contractor management.  There may well be poor safety in their business operations but there will be poor contractor safety management.

Any ideas on effecting some widespread societal change Safety Institute Members?

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