The 5 Stages of the Contractor Life Cycle

Construction Site
May 14, 2020

Five years ago, the Campbell Institute at the National Safety Council published a white paper on Best Practices in Contractor Management.

Since then, the use of contractors and subcontractors has grown significantly. Recently, the Campbell Institute released an update to its research on contractor safety management.

The latest white paper, Contractor Life Cycle: Managing Expectations, includes more recent information about best practices of seven Institute members, including firms like Boeing and ExxonMobil, in managing the safety of their contract workforces.

The key to a successful management of contractor safety is to establish a contractor life cycle composed of the following five stages:

  • Prequalification: vetting of contractor history and safety performance
  • Pre-job Task and Risk Assessment: gauging risk and liability of work to be performed
  • Contractor Training and Orientation: conveying the hiring organization’s procedures and policies
  • Job Monitoring: supervising and auditing work and safety practices
  • Post-job Evaluation: assessing contractor performance after work is complete

Now let’s look at some of the practices highlighted by the Campbell Institute for each of the stages.

In the “prequalification” stage, research participants rank the risk of the work to be performed by contractors, and conduct independent assessments of suppliers’ EHS programs. Some companies also consider the capacity of a contractor to respond to safety incidents as part of their overall prequalification assessment.

Regarding the “pre-job task and risk assessment” stage, all research participants mentioned their safety plan documentation process as a success factor. They all have structured processes that require contractor safety plans to be submitted and reviewed by both the contractor and the hiring organization. In addition, a kickoff meeting is held with the contractor to go over its safety plan, which allows the hiring organization to learn more about the safety culture and leadership of the contractor.

In the “contractor training and orientation” stage, the practices highlighted by the white paper include: 1) creating more touchpoints with contractors during the first two weeks of work; 2) allowing for informal orientation in addition to the formal orientation meeting; 3) verifying contractor certifications and permits, especially in specialized work tasks; and 4) implementing a badge system for access control.

Regarding the “job monitoring” stage, some research participants use checklists that make it easier for contractors to identify and record hazards. These checklists have resulted in more objectivity when it comes to the observations submitted. Companies have also seen improvements in the number and types of observations from contractors after training them on the checklist (e.g. what is expected for each section).

In the “post-job evaluation” stage, some participants keep a detailed registry of contractor performance with the names of contractors and field staff that did not perform well. Others fill an evaluation form after the completion of a major project. Information from the registry and the forms is used to restrict site access for unsafe workers and contractors, and to create bidder lists for new work projects.

Check out the full white paper to learn more about the successes and challenges that Institute members experience in managing contractor safety at each stage of the contractor life cycle.

Finally, consider the use of contractor safety software to have greater visibility over all contractors and contract works, to better manage contractor risks and incidents, and to monitor and benchmark contractor safety performance.

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Jean-Grégoire Manoukian

Content Thought Leader