Proper training is at the heart of every safe workplace, and ensuring that education is in place when on-site contractors are used for a project is crucial for both the client and the contractors themselves, according to safety experts.
"It really is about performing due diligence on both sides from the contractor end as well as the hiring company to ensure people can get to work each day and go home to see their families at the end of the day," says Denise Williams, representative with the Industrial Accident Prevention Association's program development and delivery, consultant services division.
"Obviously, you can't put a dollar figure on that, and it comes down to making sure people get home with all the same fingers and all the same toes they went to work with."
Aside from the obvious human losses and damage to one's reputation, the legal ramifications for failing to follow the many regulations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act can be quite daunting.
These include fines from the Ministry of Labour, through which individuals can see fines up to $25,000 per offence, a number which can rise further for a company or corporation. Charges may also be seen through the Criminal Code.
In order to skirt these dangers, both sides need to be careful to properly ensure their own responsibilities are met.
For the hiring company, this means performing a pre-qualifying interview of the contractor based on elements such as their injury statistics and their ability to identify hazards. Having an overview of the contractor's documentation in that interview before work begins is also key, including liability insurance and Workplace Safety and Insurance Board certificates
Conversely, contractors need to ensure not only that this documentation is in order but that their own workforce has the appropriate level of training.
Once this has been established, the key is communication between both parties to ensure that everyone understands expectations, to provide regular status updates, and that everyone is being held accountable. For some companies, this may translate into audits and inspections on the part of the employer to keep an eye on whether the agreed-upon procedures are being followed.
Otto Rost, administrator with the Sudbury-based non-profit Northern Centre for Advanced Technology (NORCAT), helped pioneer its safety program in 1997.
Since then, more than 50,000 workers have been registered in NORCAT's database through its countless training programs, meaning potential employers can perform a simple check to ensure a contractor's people are up to par.
Successful trainees are also issued a NORCAT card which identifies them as having completed their courses. This approach has been so popular that more than 3,000 companies across the world have created links with NORCAT's safety programs.
"It's important that the training is simple, understandable and straightforward while still being comprehensive enough to be informative. You don't want to complicate the process unnecessarily," says Rost.
The need for both contractors and client companies to consider their own responsibilities for maintaining these standards has led to many opportunities for Sudbury-led innovations, he adds.
As an example, he points to a computerized safety credential verification system developed in-house and in use in locations such as Xstrata Nickel's Strathcona Mill site.
This swipe machine reads data from the worker's assigned NORCAT card and checks it through the central database. The relevant info is then printed onto a paper receipt with their photograph, detailing their name and whether or not the individual has their training and safety qualifications.
The receipt can then be given to a site supervisor, who may then allow or disallow the individual into the project area.
These kinds of developments, alongside NORCAT's creation of specific training packages for off-site delivery, have helped to swell its program offerings to more than 300, Rost says.