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What types of jobs in the construction industry have the highest incident rates? Is it the inherently high-risk jobs like worksite labor, or traditionally low-risk jobs such as engineering services? Many people would lean toward the worksite labor having higher incident rates due to factors such as operating machinery and working with heavy materials and power tools.

But the data tells us a much different story. Research from ISN shows that many work types labeled “low-risk” have some of the highest incident rates. So, for business leaders concerned with lowering their overall incident rates, it’s critical to focus on the potential dangers surrounding low-risk positions.

Why such high incident rates for low-risk jobs?

The reason for high incident rates in seemingly low-risk jobs is simple: the possible hazards are often overlooked. When thinking about a task like welding or electrical work, dozens of potential dangers come to mind. But for a role like engineering services, which typically involves less labor-intensive responsibilities, it’s easy to overlook safety considerations.

Additionally, in many cases, low-risk workers aren’t required to receive the same in-depth training high-risk workers receive. A full-time, high-risk contractor may participate in a time-intensive orientation program, while an engineer who rarely visits a jobsite may receive no safety training. Many companies also struggle to find budget to invest resources in a safety training program for lower risk workers.

However, these oversights and challenges can have serious consequences. If an unlikely accident occurs, such as a gas leak or electrical fire, a minimally trained engineering team may not be aware of the alarm systems or evacuation routes. Small oversights like not wearing personal protective equipment on a construction site can also have significant consequences. Falling objects with no hard hat, foot injuries with no steel-toed boots, and working near loud equipment with no hearing protection can all lead to OSHA recordable injuries or illnesses.

Giving low-risk workers a needed safety net

There’s no doubt that training low-risk contractor partners on proper safety protocols requires dedicated time and focus from companies. But by rethinking the concept of risk and leveraging evolving technology, organizations can ensure their low-risk contractor partners’ safety is properly accounted for. 

1. Redefine high risk

The term “high risk” needs to be redefined to include the risks low-risk partners actually face.

Low-risk workers need to be managed by the companies that hire them. Organizations already implement stringent safety protocols on job sites for their own employees. The same concern should be given to low-risk contractors that could also face potential dangers.

An effective safety program requires protecting all people and environments potentially impacted on or near a work site. Until the potential dangers low-risk contractors face are acknowledged and mitigated, the organization does not have an effective safety program. Redefining what is “high risk” and investing in low-risk employee safety will require buy-in from management. Emphasizing the need to reduce serious injuries with an inclusive safety training program can aid in gaining support from other decision-makers.

2. Create an orientation program based on awareness-level training

The task of designing an orientation program for low-risk contractors is complicated by the variability of jobsites. No two buildings or projects are the same — they each present different safety concerns.

However, jobsite variability doesn’t mean hiring companies can ignore safety programs for low-risk contractors. An effective way to address this challenge is to implement awareness-level training—a program that covers the organization’s core safety principles.

Details about recognizing common workplace hazards, required personal protective equipment and emergency procedures can be shared in advance with low-risk contractors. The basic training program also gives low-risk contractors a baseline response for potential incidents.

3. Consider a third-party contractor management platform

 Revamping high-risk protocols and creating a training program for low-risk contractors requires investment. For organizations that lack the time and resources to build their own orientation from scratch, working with a third-party contractor management platform can offer a viable solution.

A contractor management platform is a technology offering that’s accessible through an online portal or mobile app. Developed by experienced professionals who have managed relationships between hiring companies and contractors, these platforms enable organizations to better manage the various contractors they work with.

In working with low-risk contractors, a contractor management platform can help companies build an awareness-level orientation program. The platform can also help field an orientation for low-risk contractors with tools like virtual training and tracking features to ensure program completion.

The development of a safety program for low-risk employees is not an overnight project. But when people’s livelihoods—and in most cases, their actual lives—hinge on a safe workplace, proper training is paramount to ensuring all workers leave a jobsite unharmed every day.

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