Sustainability: it’s just good OSH. This series was first published on SHP Online.
5th blog entry from a series on promoting OSH in the Supply Chain
Strategies and Instruments for Contracting Chains
I recently read a fascinating article on the National Geographic website about shipbreaking yards, a highly lucrative industry in which some 90% of old ships are recycled. It would seem like a decent business –that is, until you start thinking about everything that ships might contain, from asbestos to lead and copper wiring. Not only do toxins make their way into the land where these ships are beached, but the job is highly dangerous, and so the main ship-recycling nations are ones “where labour is cheap and oversight is minimal” , including Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. The hazards range from coming into contact with poisonous substances to getting crushed by pieces of steel cut and transported with little caution. No doubt, it is a job for often ill-trained men in desperate need of work. Some workers, if not all, are probably not even made fully aware of the level of risks they face.
Why am I telling you about this? Well, in first instance, it got me thinking about who could leverage influence here, where government is either not present or lacks an enforcement arm – what sectors might purchase recycled steel, for instance? This thought then reminded me that it had been a while since I had written a contribution for my OSH in the supply chain series, and, after all, this is my own little channel to campaign for change and promote collaboration between businesses on improving standards.
This entry I will be focusing on contracting chains and outsourced processes and where to start when seeking to promote better OSH practices in these instances. In many ways, instruments and strategies overlap with those for product supply chains, although there are some tweaks.
Purchaser Procurement Strategies
This entails selecting “safe” contractors and subcontractors. In many ways procurement has been revolutionised – many professionals acknowledging that “value for money” is better than seeking out the lowest price. Part of this involves determining adequate OSH criteria. In the construction sector, procurement selection criteria are already widely used to determine the competence e of contractors in OSH and other areas. The following are a few examples of criteria:
• Checkable references from previous clients
• Accident-health statistics
• Evidence of health and safety training
• Risk assessments and method statements for the work to be carries out
• A statement of criteria for selecting sub-contractors
However, adopting the procurement practice of setting contractual requirements on OSH is redundant if clients are not willing to invest in monitoring ongoing compliance.
Safety Certification Schemes
Non-mandatory certification schemes exist in some form or other in various EU countries. One prominent example is the Dutch Safety (Health Environment) Checklist Contractors (“SCC”), an initiative originating in the petrochemical industry. The method has expanded into several sectors with high risk working environments (eg: steel production, manufacturing, railways, and dredging) and several European countries (eg: German, Austria, and Belgium) have adopted a similar approach. Part of the SCC is the need to demonstrate that employees have received obligatory OSH training and several clients and project managers often demand and SCC certificate from their (sub) contractors. Thus, companies are effectively forced to adopt the SCC despite its voluntary nature.
In the UK there exist a number of contractor certification schemes, largely targeted at the construction sector. Some examples include CORGI, the Construction Accredited Partnering Scheme, and Safe Contractor, the latter of which is aimed at other industries, as well.
There are also certification schemes for individuals, particularly useful for self-employed or independent contractors that work with more than a single firm or in more than one sector. SHE passports are a particularly common and useful tool to verify the competence of individuals.
Finally, other certification schemes aimed at the project management firms are also beginning to surface. It is a valuable tool for the principal and their certified contractors to achieve better coordination and more optimum results jointly regarding HSE risks.
Other approach might include:
• clarifying contractual responsibilities and planning requirements; contracts should cover:
o potential hazards,
o measure taken to mitigate them
o precautions that must be taken
o an explanation of what constitutes safe behaviour
• communication, cooperation and training between client and supplier are crucial and enable the possibility of a join safety culture
• joint control procedures to ensure the same standards and procedures are adopted amongst client and contractors
• systematic safety inspections or contractor evaluation based on a list of criteria which can focus on broader sustainability issues, not solely OSH matters
As the final entry in this series, one needs to take stock and think: what is this all about and what does it mean for me in my day to day job as an OSH professional? EU OSHA came up with several recommendations, many of which address the authorities and policy makers but some which are relevant to practitioners.
In terms of suppliers:
• Health and safety should be part of a company’s code of conduct for its suppliers
• Health and safety should be part of a company’s sustainability criteria
• The pressure on companies to become more sustainable should be harnessed as an opportunity to push for better OSH practices across industries and supply chains
In terms of contractors and outsourced processes:
• Outsourcing contract should contain certain information on risks and minimisation efforts
• Third party certification is a valuable tool to evaluate and guarantee the competencies of individuals and (sub)contractors in relation to OSH and environmental matters
• Training across the contractual chain is crucial to align health and safety cultures with client and harmonise procedures
Perhaps stating the obvious, I would add that in order to realise effective change at all, OSH needs to collaborate and engage in a two way dialogue with procurement and with human resources, as well as have input with key suppliers.
These things don’t just happen though – they require initiative. There is no reason why OSH cannot raise its profile and become of strategic value to an organisation –so what are you waiting for?