Establishing effective hazard communication standards is a critical part of building out a workplace safety program. It could very well dictate the difference between compliance or a workplace injury. If you’re a safety professional who’s been working effortlessly to create a risk-free workplace, chances are that you already have a HazCom management system in place. However, you must also ensure that you have implemented that same process within your contractor management system.
Hiring a third-party workforce brings on a certain level of external risk. Gearing your hazard communication efforts towards your contractors from the get-go is vital in ensuring the overall integrity of your organization’s safety practices. Properly executing this plan requires the implementation of six vital elements that you must account for. Firstly, it is both the contractors’ and organization’s responsibility to be knowledgeable on the rights that they must practice and protect in relation to hazard communication. Second of all, contractors have the duty to both their workers and the organization that hired them to implement the best practices of hazard communication. In regard to best practices, you and your team need to implement an OSHA- abiding program to safely manage the hazards you come across. Lastly, any and all workers on a jobsite are required to and should be given the tools to effectively report on any workplace hazards.
1. Workers’ rights:
In line with the workers’ rights that you are obligated to honor, it is the hiring organization’s responsibility to effectively communicate any and all hazards to their hired contractors prior to beginning work, once workers arrive onto the site, and as hazards are identified. From both a legal and business standpoint, conducting due diligence in this aspect is vital. Stating identified hazards to workers on site will ensure that your contractors remain vigilant and are able to take the appropriate steps to keep themselves and others around them safe. Furthermore, not disclosing hazards has dire legal implications on the hiring organization, further adding to the liability that they’ll be exposed to.
2. Contractors’ responsibility to hiring organizations:
Similarly, contractors are also obligated to report or declare any workplace hazards that they encounter. For example, if a contractor brings with them a hazardous chemical that they require for work on the site, they must declare it to the host organization. Furthermore, they must be trained in the proper handling of such hazardous materials. This goes back to ensuring that you’re hiring qualified contractors that are knowledgeable on the steps of hazard mitigation and will contribute to safety, rather than cause a detriment to it.
3. Contractors’ responsibility to their workers:
Contractors must ensure that their workers are aware of any potential hazards they may face on the job, and must provide the necessary safety information and training to protect them. This includes information about hazardous materials they may come into contact with, such as flammable liquids or chemicals. Contractors must also make sure that their workers understand the proper use and safe handling of any hazardous materials they may be using. This includes wearing the proper protective equipment, such as protective eyewear, gloves, and respirators.
4. Managing hazards:
Knowing how to safely handle a hazard is equally as important as identifying it. For starters, look at OSHA’s requirements for knowledge on how to manage anything you may encounter on a jobsite. For example, contractors and employees alike should be trained on machine guarding to ensure that no heavy/sharp/hazardous machinery poses a risk to anyone operating on or near it. Neglecting this aspect of hazard communication can result in a workplace incident, ultimately deterring you from both your business and compliance targets.
5. Forms of communication:
Carrying out the task of HazCom is a multifaceted ordeal and is highly dependent on the nature of your work, as well as the hazard(s) that you are addressing. For example, it is often best practice that any information that you communicate on site should be also communicated digitally. That way, the parties involved can go back to that information when needed. Furthermore, there exists forms of communication for frequently occurring hazards such as safety signage. Regulatory bodies such as OSHA require that all job sites have adequate safety signage that instruct workers on where hazards are located, what they are, and how to prevent them from causing a workplace incident. All the different forms of communication are vital to ensuring your sustained compliance, as well as the general safety of your contractors and employees on site.
Finally, contractors should keep detailed records of any hazardous materials that are used, stored, or disposed of on their worksites. These records should include information about the type of material, the quantity, and any relevant safety precautions that must be enacted. Reports should also be stored as historical data for safety professionals to assess their HazCom efforts at a later date. Furthermore, anyone on site has both the right and duty to report the mishandling of hazardous materials, behavior that poses a hazard, and any risk identified in the workplace.
Hazard communication is an essential part of ensuring safety on the job site and should not be overlooked. A common theme through it all is that the onus is on both the hiring organization and contractors to enforce adequate communication standards. Ensuring that you have equal participation on both ends is critical to running your operations smoothly and safely. No matter your role in an organization, ensure that you are knowledgeable on workers’ rights in relation to hazard communication, take personal responsibility in communicating hazards in the workplace, and prioritize transparent reporting about any risks that you encounter.
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