By Colby Lane | Thursday, August 27, 2020
Safety compliance is always an important consideration for construction companies. Since the advent of COVID-19, however, organizations have had to rethink their approach to safety training programs and how they affect their operations. Until now, infectious disease prevention simply wasn’t on anyone’s list of top safety concerns.
Construction executives bear the difficult but critical responsibilities of not only updating policies and procedures to address new threats, but also of ensuring compliance throughout the organization and down to the worker level. Failure to vet the occupational health and safety practices of third-party contractors and other vendors can compromise safety and security, diminish the quality of goods and services, cause project delays, damage a company’s reputation and negatively impact the bottom line.
The good news is that risk management tools can help contractors adapt to heightened and evolving risks. Furthermore, some solutions can simplify ongoing vendor monitoring by integrating safety compliance into overall vendor prequalification efforts. Before exploring potential solutions, decision makers need a solid grasp of their company’s risk management needs throughout the evolving crisis and beyond.
RISK MANAGEMENT FOR THE PANDEMIC MARKETPLACE
As business leaders update their plans to stay ahead of risks, including those related to COVID-19, it is important to first understand the changes within their industry. OSHA’s current interim guidance for the construction workforce includes recommendations for cleaning and decontamination, worker training, social distancing practices and personal protection equipment considerations, as well as specific administrative and engineering controls based on tasks and worker exposure risk. OSHA continues to issue new guidance through a series of industry-specific alerts.
- How do we ensure that our operations and supply chain are safe for workers?
- How do we remain compliant with current regulations, including the latest guidance from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on protocols, training procedures and processes?
- Have clients updated health and safety requirements in the wake of COVID-19?
- How do those changes fit into the organization’s program?
VENDOR ASSESSMENT AND MONITORING
Roughly half of supply chain organizations surveyed before the pandemic lacked a formal vendor safety prequalification program. Now that safety training and protocols have become a determining factor in whether many businesses can continue to operate, companies must take a closer look at how to track and verify company and worker level qualifications and compliance.
Prequalification vetting is only part of the solution. The biggest hurdle companies face with supply chain compliance is keeping up with the ongoing safety performance of non-employee individuals and companies within their supply chain.
The traditional approach to vendor monitoring can be a time-consuming undertaking, often requiring administrative staff hours to gather and review each company’s operating procedures, certificates of insurance, worker qualifications, safety records and other documents. Typically, different departments play various roles when selecting suppliers and subcontractors. This often manual process leads to an increased likelihood of inconsistency in how reviewers evaluate requirements and documentation. Other common challenges in conventional approaches to supply chain compliance include lack of visibility at the worker level and insufficient resources or mechanisms to document identified vendor-related onsite compliance issues.
Given today’s heightened concern and exposure risks, many construction executives are realizing that these traditional methods contribute to an unacceptable lack of transparency into the health and safety practices of subcontractors, suppliers or other service providers entering a jobsite. In search of better alternatives, many are finding solutions in software that streamlines time-consuming administrative tasks, enhances collaboration between primes and subcontractors, captures and analyzes safety performance data, and continuously audits safety programs and policies across the supply chain.
COMPLIANCE AUTOMATION PLATFORMS
While coronavirus concerns are unprecedented, the need to manage risks and document compliance is firmly rooted in the construction industry. Some of the tools developed to help contractors keep track of employee training, professional credentials, licensing, government permits, insurance certificates and the other compliance matters are now lending structure and efficiency to occupational health and safety programs in the COVID-19 era.
Addressing health and safety through a high-quality risk management platform can yield improvements on several fronts. A good program can serve not only as a central repository of requirements for each project and subcontractor role, but can also be the medium to communicate those expectations and other safety information to appropriate recipients throughout the supply chain, whether by email, instant message or other methods based on the company’s communication preferences.
If the system extends to mobile devices, contractors can use check-in and check-out functions, verify completed tasks such as sanitization of work areas, credentialing checks for skilled labor tasks and other features that also generate real-time data on key performance indicators.
With the right risk management software, the organization can reduce administrative tasks while smoothly integrating health and safety criteria into vendor pre-qualification efforts. This sets the tone from the beginning of a contractor relationship that safety is a priority.
Construction leaders that successfully centralize and integrate occupational health and safety compliance into overall vendor prequalification efforts will substantially reduce opportunities for disruption in their organizations. By ensuring that subcontractors and other vendors are thoroughly vetted, maintain appropriate insurance coverage and are evaluated against current corporate standards related to safety and sustainability, these supply chain partners can play a critical role in mitigating risk.