When your company invites outside contractors onto your site, you should have high expectations for their performance. You want your contractors to do everything within their power to guarantee a smooth and successful implementation and ensure the safety of their employees as well as yours.
Contractor safety must be a priority anytime arrangements are made with a vendor to install or perform service and maintenance tasks on industrial ventilation equipment. Working with large, heavy pieces of equipment (like fume and dust collection equipment) presents safety challenges that must be taken seriously by both the contractor and the customer. Accidents and injuries that occur on your site have the potential to raise your liability exposure and reflect negatively on your internal and external organizational safety performance, even when the contractor is clearly at fault. So it pays to evaluate your contractor’s safety performance and policies before they show up at your site with your new dust collector. Here are some questions you should ask.
What is your safety record and how are you insured?
A reputable industrial ventilation vendor will be able to provide you with records such as OSHA 300A summaries for previous years of operation, average annual employee numbers and Experience Modification Rates (EMR) from their insurer. An EMR is a number used by insurance companies to gauge both past cost of injuries and future chances of risk. The 300 logs and the employee numbers can be used to determine an average Total Recordable Incident Rate, which can than be compared to the national average for similar contractor trades as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
What kind of training is provided to your employees?
Any contractor working on your site should have all appropriate and applicable safety training certifications for the project prior to beginning the project. Training requirements may vary greatly from one project to the next depending on the inherent circumstances of the work environment, equipment types to be installed, tools and equipment to be used, and the customer’s specific site requirements. For most industrial ventilation projects, the following training requirements would typically apply:
- Basic safety training will typically include topics such as fall protection; slips, trips & falls; ladder safety; fire safety; electrical safety and accident prevention.
- Specific certifications and training are necessary for the use and operation of mobile equipment such as forklifts, aerial lifts or scissor lifts.
- Daily pre-use inspections of power tools, fall protection and mobile equipment used during installation.
- Training in the proper usage of required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
- Training as an authorized user of Hazardous Energy Control (lockout/tagout).
If the contractor’s employees will be working around, on top of or inside integrated manufacturing process equipment, such as a robotic welding cell, they may require site- or machine-specific lockout/tagout training. If they will be working inside a space that has been determined by the site to be a confined space, the contractor’s employees will require confined space training. If they will be operating around hazardous materials, waste streams or other specific hazards (e.g. arc flash, etc.), the contractor may require specific appropriate training for those areas and exposures as well. It is always preferable to have an employee on the team trained in incident response in the event that there is a safety incident during the project.
Will all employees be wearing necessary PPE?
Depending on the project, your installer may need different types of PPE. At a minimum, they should have eye protection, gloves and steel- or composite-toe safety shoes. Depending on the nature of the task and their interaction with the equipment, there may also be a need for arc flash protection, hearing protection or respiratory protection. If contractors are working at heights, fall prevention and arrest equipment and bump caps should be used. If your organization or site has unique contractor or site safety requirements, you should communicate these requirements in advance to ensure that the contractor and its employees are properly staffed, equipped and trained to be safe and successful in completing your project.
Does the vendor have a safety-focused culture?
Having access to training and appropriate PPE is one thing; actually using it is another. The contractor you are partnering with should make safety a priority and ensure that employees and subcontractors work safely 100% of the time, whether at your site or their own. This is an attitude that needs to come from the top down and be a priority for the company as a whole. Ask your industrial ventilation equipment vendor what their safety processes look like and how they plan and prepare to work safely on a project. Are there policies, programs and written procedures for required safety programs? How does the contractor promote and ensure employee compliance and accountability to their safety program requirements? If your vendor does work with subcontractors, what steps are taken to ensure that subcontractors and their employees are equally compliant and accountable to safety requirements and expectations? How are project activities supervised?
What are their project planning processes?
Safety starts with effective project planning. Before coming onto your site, your industrial ventilation system vendor should make sure they understand the specifications of the site they will be working in, including any physical constraints or special hazards. They should also clearly lay out the timeline for the project and the sequence of events that will take place. If they will be working in areas around your employees, they should have a plan in place to ensure the safety of those employees. What equipment is necessary to safely lift, load, move and install the equipment? In the event of emergency, will employees know where to evacuate the area or seek medical attention at any point during the installation? Will production lines need to be shut down to accommodate installation of dust collectors or other large equipment? All of these elements of a safely planned and managed project should be clearly defined in advance so both the customer and contractor share the same expectations.
At RoboVent, we take safety and project planning seriously. We will work with you to ensure the safety of your employees and ours and the successful, on-time installation of your industrial ventilation equipment. And if it’s not right, we’ll fix it—that’s our guarantee.
By Chris Mieczkowski