EHS WORLDWIDE HORIZONS: Contractor safety: A call to action

March 3, 2009
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Has your company found a way to keep all contract workers and subcontract workers as safe as your own employees? Nearly three years ago, when ORC Worldwide (ORC) began looking at the challenge of protecting contract workers on behalf of a client, we discovered an astonishing absence of data on contract worker injuries and fatalities.

National summit

In October 2006, ORC coordinated the National Summit on Contractor Safety to examine a growing concern: that contract workers experience a disproportionately large share of serious injuries and fatalities on the job. The summit revealed that many companies, including leading businesses with excellent safety and health performance with respect to their own employees, continue to experience contractor fatalities and serious injuries.

There was consensus among summit participants that reliance on contractors for a widening range of job tasks and functions is a long-term trend and the challenges of managing these multiple contractor relationships are complex.

Research priorities

Summit participants were asked to rank in order of importance a number of issues identified during the summit.

There was broad agreement that the areas with the most potential for fruitful research include:
  • Culture — Determine how to transfer the safety culture of the host company to all contract workers;
  • Training — Develop and test best practice training strategies for contract workers and those who supervise them;
  • Prequalification — Identify and test techniques for assessing contractor safety performance and culture before the host company hires the contractors;
  • Accountability & rewards — Identify effective tools to promote and ensure contractor safety performance;
  • Data & metrics — Develop data on contractor loss by industry, job type, etc.; identify and test leading and trailing indicators.

Center of Excellence

ORC Worldwide is developing an online repository where research results and best practice information will be made publicly available. It is ORC’s hope that the ORC EHS Center of Excellence will eventually become a widely used resource. The center, built on a wiki platform, is intended to foster collaboration among all employers, safety and health professionals, academicians, government, labor, and workers as a place where anyone can contribute.

All of this work was made possible through the generosity of the Duke Energy Foundation, which provided a charitable grant to Industrial Relations Counselors (IRC), a not-for-profit research and educational institution affiliated with ORC, to fund the summit and the resulting research projects.

Call to action

Go to the ORC EHS Center of Excellence www. and share your expertise so that others may learn from and build upon your knowledge. If you are interested in learning more about this effort, or accessing the Center of Excellence, please contact Scott Madar (

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