This weeks’ toolbox talk discusses the topic of working with subcontractors. In any industry, working with subcontractors is a common occurrence. These external services are essential for progressing work. However, the presence of subcontractors introduces potential hazards, similar to any workplace addition or change. It is crucial to recognize and address these hazards when working with subcontractors to ensure the safety of all involved.

Dangers of Working with Subcontractors

The presence of subcontractors alongside regular employees in the workplace can introduce additional hazards, regardless of the scale of the new tasks involved. The specific risks that need to be addressed will depend on the nature of the subcontractor’s work and the existing activities taking place at the worksite.

Subcontractors are often unfamiliar with the overall worksite or the specific processes occurring within the  job site where they are operating. Unfamiliar work environment increased the level of risk involved.

The general contractors usually provide guidance and manage the construction site. However, the subcontractors are the people who have specialized skills to take care of all the major and minor tasks and ensure the fact that the project does not lack in any aspect.

Subcontractor/contractor relationships have a high potential for transfer and learning, but international

experience suggests that this rarely happens without deliberate effort24,25. In most instances the knowledge transfer process is however incidental, un-structured and implicit.

Best Practices

  • Meet with the subcontractor prior to work beginning for the day to discuss work plans.
  • Communicate your work crew’s scope of work, the hazards created by the work you are doing, along with the safeguards that need to be implemented and followed in order to mitigate those hazards.
  • Ask the subcontractor for their scope of work as well as their plan to mitigate the hazards of their work.
  • Establish work area limits for each work crew and delineate walking paths if necessary.
  • Speak up to a supervisor if the subcontractor’s employees are not following site-specific safety rules or procedures.
  • Always stop work whenever a hazard is created that could injure anyone in that work area.

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