A contractor management system (CMS) is not a new concept, but the digitization of this information is making it easier to manage health and safety on construction sites, says one industry expert.
Anne-Sophie Tetreault, a senior expert in health, safety, security, environment, quality compliance and risk management processes at Cognibox, was one of the presenters at the Partners in Prevention Convention and Trade Show held recently in Mississauga, Ont.
"The data shows that the construction industry should really be working on this, there is a definite issue," said Tetreault, who is also an engineer.
"On a construction site when something goes wrong it can go really bad. They should definitely look into solutions."
According to Tetreault, the mining industry is a pioneer in CMS as they have a lot of contractors and subcontractors to deal with onsite. Like construction, the fatality rate used to be high in mining but the sector has been able to reduce that significantly over the past few years.
"In a few years from now, there is no reason why the construction industry couldn’t go down to zero fatalities," said Tetreault.
Cognibox manages all CMS processes from prequalification to risk assessment and associated hazard control programs, inspections and audits, and incident investigation and corrective action.
The cloud application allows contractors and owner-clients to be connected in real time, sharing the same information on workers’ training and licences, contractors’ health and safety information and performance, proof of insurance, required safe work methods, personal protective equipment and observations from inspections and audits. There is also an action tracker following incident and near miss investigations, Tetreault explained.
"Most of the general public thinks that contractor management is only prequalification, but this is a big mistake," said Tetreault.
"Alone prequalification will not do much to achieve zero accidents. It’s the start, but it is merely enough. On their journey to safety excellence, like in the mining industry, they will start by prequalification, but will need to have a solid enough system to eventually do risk assessment, definition of hazard control programs, track individual workers training and competence, do audits and inspections and act upon and get lessons learned from an accident."
While each sector is unique and presents its own hazards, the system or the framework to manage processes is the same irrespective of the industry.
"The whole concept that whether it’s in a mine or whether it’s in the construction field…it’s all the same," explained Tetreault.
"The commonalities of how to manage this is the same."
The goal is to use technology to reach the large number of people working on the job at the same time.
"You are going to be able to do more with this system because the trick is to track a lot of data, a lot of information in an ecosystem of people that are outside your organization," said Tetreault.
"They don’t work for you, they don’t get their paycheque from you, they are not on your Intranet, they don’t read your billboard in the corridor. We’re not in the 1990s anymore. You can do so much more to connect live with a bunch of people outside your organization."
Currently a lot of construction sites are "old-fashioned," she said, and still use photocopiers and scanners to record training documentation.
Having worked on numerous projects in the industry, the number one complaint Tetreault heard from safety officers is that they spend too much time doing paperwork when they should be out onsite making sure everyone is doing what they are supposed to be doing.
"The circumstances are changing all the time on the construction site. Somebody has to track all that," said Tetreault.
"I did inspections on construction sites and it’s unbelievable the number of things that were non-conforming. A safety officer needs to be out there walking and checking all this but he’s doing all the clerical work."
She added, "There needs to be some human follow-up and data entry."
Having a CMS helps keep track of whether or not workers are certified to do the work they are performing.
"They (the safety officer) can’t keep up with checking everybody whereas our system can check everything and flag anything if at any time there is a particular training/certification that is about to expire," said Tetreault.