February 15, 2006
Health & Safety
Make rules clear to ensure total compliance
Expert advises training for all subcontractors
Everyone has to pitch in to ensure safety is optimum on worksites, but gaining that kind of buy in – from full-time employee to subcontractor – can be challenging.
One of the biggest problems in creating this level of responsibility among everyone is that all job sites aren’t equal in the way they explain and enforce safety practices, says John Sammut, Manager, Training & Advisory, Construction Safety Association of Ontario (CSAO).
“A worker on a subcontract may not know what to expect. They might say: ‘We didn’t do that on the other side of the street, so why do we have to do it now?’”
Sammut says there is industry confusion about who is responsible for a subcontractor’s safety. The roles and responsibilities are defined, but it’s often unclear who is actually filling the roles.
“A person delivering drywall isn’t necessarily a contractor, but becomes a worker for the entire time that person is on the site,” says Sammut. “The constructor is responsible for worker safety. But what if the owner is the constructor? What if the owner hires you as a general contractor?
“What if the owner has some control over who you hire as a subcontractor by providing you with a preferred list of companies? At that point it enters a grey area. As an owner, I’d rather know if I was the constructor up front.”
Sammut cautions that grey areas aren’t an excuse for inaction. Rather, they increase all of the players’ responsibilities for ensuring the safety of workers on the site.
One way to ensure safety compliance among workers is to hold an orientation session for those who have never been on the job site — regardless of their previous experience. Another way is to write safety compliance into all contracts.
“The contract could read: ‘Any contractor/subcontractor intending to perform work on an ABC Company project shall abide by the rules, regulations and standards established by the ABC Company and implemented on each project for compliance by every contractor/subcontractor.’”
The agreement would spell out safety responsibilities in detail and include a clause that would allow the constructor complete access to any contractor or subcontractor’s safety record, prosecutions, health and safety policies, experience rating, and references from other contractors.
“If you get non-compliance from subcontractors, it’s time to terminate their contract,” says Sammut, who spoke at the CSAO’s 4th Annual Construction Health and Safety Conference in Toronto.
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