Seven steps for effective contractor management in your warehouse

by Norm Kramer and Troy Nel
Norm Kramer.
Troy Nel.

With shipments constantly coming in and going out, warehouses and distribution centres need to have solid systems in place to keep everything running safely. Those systems need to be communicated to any outside contractors they bring in to ensure new hazards are not introduced into the workplace and safe work procedures are followed.

Warehouses and distribution centres have contractors in their facility to perform a variety of necessary work, which may include installing a new pallet wrapper or replacing damaged racking. Other contractors may be onsite for shorter periods of time to refill vending machines or drop off packages. Contractors are any third-party worker who comes into the facility to complete a task and are not classified as a temporary worker.

At times, there is confusion about who is responsible for the health and safety of contract workers — the warehouse manager or the contractor’s employer? The answer is both, so there needs to be coordination between the two to keep contract workers safe. The contractor is required to follow their employer’s safety programs as well as the applicable safety expectations of the workplace they are visiting.

Here are the steps to fulfill the responsibilities under occupational health and safety legislation across Canada prior to the contractor’s arrival at the facility:

Seven steps for effective contractor management

  1. Ask the contractor for insurance documentation. Workers’ compensation and general liability. (Workers’ compensation records may be accessible online by visiting the applicable website.) Check the expiry date of both documents carefully to ensure they cover the duration of the project. Confirm the amount of coverage is appropriate based on risks to your facility, equipment, and the public.
  2. Create a contractor health and safety package. Among other things, it should include:
  • your health and safety expectations for contract workers
  • everyone’s roles and responsibilities so there is no confusion or grey areas
  • a copy of your health and safety policy
  • your hazards, controls, and safe work procedures
  • incident reporting requirements
  • entry and exit procedures, which may include sign in and out

Send the package to the contractor before they come to your workplace so they can review it and ask questions.

  1. Ask for a hazard assessment. Before work starts, both parties must have a clear understanding of exactly what work the contractor is doing and how they are going to do it. Ask for a hazard assessment that identifies the hazards associated with each phase of the work and the controls that will be used to mitigate them. Emergency response or rescue plans should also be provided if the work requires them.
  2. Collect proof of training and certifications. The hazard assessment will indicate if specific certifications are required, depending on the type of work being done. For example, if electrical work is going to be completed, ask for a copy of the electrician’s certificate of qualification. If workers will be on a roof or working at heights, ask for copies of the required training certificates.
  3. Complete a health and safety orientation. Whether it’s a single contract worker or a crew, a health and safety orientation must be completed before they start working. If it’s a group, identify the supervisor or the person who will act as the lead. Provide a tour of the facility, particularly the area where they will be working.

Don’t neglect the details – discuss specific hazards workers may be exposed to and corresponding controls. When dealing with a recurring service or regularly scheduled maintenance, make sure new contract workers also receive orientation training. Don’t assume they have received this training from their coworkers.

  1. Monitor the work. While you can’t stand beside contract workers the entire time they are working, you do have to periodically check in. Ensure the work is being done according to the hazard assessment and that all health and safety requirements are being followed.
  2. Evaluate the job. Once completed, assess the quality of the work. Consider whether health and safety rules were followed or if you had to keep reminding the workers of the expectations. Document your experience with each contractor to refer to when hiring in the future.