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Getting safety and quality right is imperative in construction. Not only does it ensure that employees go home safely to their families each night, but projects are run seamlessly with no unnecessary glitches, expensive rework is avoided and projects are built to stand the test of time. 

That’s why government projects have extremely high safety and quality standards with document submittal and review processes designed to cover every last inch of a project. While it can feel excessive at times, government projects aspire to such high standards because they’re designed to serve the public and often have inherently dangerous elements embedded into the construction of the project, how it will be utilized or both.  

For contractors that would like to bid on government work—or any new business area—the following standards can be applied to every project regardless of its size, scope or ownership type. 

Pre-Planning Is Key to Success

Pre-planning is critical for any project, but it’s especially necessary in government work. Having firm safety plans and a thorough understanding of what’s required to successfully implement a quality project is a must so that the project owner understands how the contractor will conquer all aspects of the job and ensure that all standards are met or exceeded.

For example, a project to build new static detonation chambers to eliminate mustard agent munitions in Pueblo, Colorado, required multiple safety plans to adequately prepare the team to build the concrete foundations; erect the tent structures; install the process piping; fabricate and erect the structural steel; and set the equipment, in addition to daily equipment inspections for every piece of equipment onsite. The various safety plans had to be reviewed with each employee who would be actively working on the project—a time-consuming endeavor. 

The same project required extreme quality documentation to ensure that everything was installed correctly and to exact specifications. This included everything from approving the initial inspection and test plans (ITPs); to documenting each weld on the project (which included structural, pipe and miscellaneous welding); to documenting every pipe and duct-flanged bolt, structural bolt and concrete anchor installed on the project (upwards of 5,000 total bolts). 

The documentation that resulted from safety planning, quality pre-process inspections, in-process inspections and final inspections was turned over in a quality verification documentation (QVD) package, which was reviewed by state agencies for compliance—not at all uncommon for government projects.

Implement Daily Safety Briefings and Inspections

While it can feel redundant, daily safety briefings are key to ensuring that a government job safely stays on track. This should include a job safety analysis—performed each day before tasks begin and designed to identify hazards for the planned work—and a means to review the controls needed to prevent unwanted incidents. Such repetition is key to elevating awareness and supporting successful learning so that the processes become second nature. 

Daily site inspections must also be performed for all equipment onsite and during all phases of work. Permitting and approval to proceed with high-hazard processes such as confined space entry and lockout/tagout must be planned well before the actual work begins. Daily housekeeping must not be neglected, as maintaining clean, organized work areas conveys a strong commitment to safety. For one government project, an employee received a commendation letter applauding his efforts to keep the jobsite spotless. Little details don’t go unnoticed.

Inventory, Inspect and Document to Maintain Quality

From an industry perspective, having to rework a project component because of poor quality can cost an average of 5% to 20% of the total project budget, which has to be paid for, depending on who is at fault. That’s why inventorying, inspecting and documenting is of utmost importance. It’s critical to inventory all shipments received as soon as possible and document that the material is correct and complete. If there are issues, notify the supplier or vendor immediately so that it can be rectified, the cost can be charged back to the vendor and the schedule isn’t negatively impacted. 

The same applies to documenting quality control before a project starts and as soon as an issue arises. Government projects live under a microscope and documentation is the name of the game. Spending time upfront can save a lot of time and money later on, which is necessary given that most government projects have firm budgets and tight timelines leaving less margin for error.

Reward Employees for Compliance

While most contractors have a safety team and/or quality-control point person, safety and quality should fall on every employee in order to achieve the best results. From a quality perspective, it’s helpful to take any issues that arise and turn them into a learning experience for the whole organization. This can be done through “quality alerts,” which explain how a problem arose, along with the solution and lesson that came of it. Distributing the alert to all employees helps ingrain quality into company culture so that everyone learns from the experience, not just the person or team in question.

From a safety perspective, both individual and group behaviors that promote a safe work environment should be positively rewarded and recognized. Given the high level of safety required on government sites, an employee-driven, incentive-based program focused on proactive mentoring and training can provide the foundation needed to keep sites safe. 

This can be accomplished by having employees conduct audits, perform site inspections of tools and equipment and participate in training sessions, which supports the entire project and builds morale. An additional morale booster could be earning safety points in exchange for company swag—things like hoodies, backpacks, coffee mugs, etc. Employer-sponsored safety lunches can be given when monthly performance goals are met; these lunches serve as a time to reflect on the team success and show appreciation for their efforts.

Implementing QA/QC into everyday work life can make all projects safer and of a higher quality, while also helping contractors bid on—and win—government contracts, supplying the pipeline with reliable, profitable and important work. While it’s not easy to maintain such high standards for every project, over time it can differentiate a company’s services and improve its reputation as a contractor that gets the job done safely and effectively.


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