The Role of a Prime Contractor and Safety

Last week, we discussed Prime Contractor Safety Metrics and their fundamental role of Environment Health Safety (EHS) reporting. Today, we want to talk about the role of a Prime Contractor, and their important role in ensuring safety. 


A Prime Contractor ensures that all employers/contractors/subcontractors on a worksite follow applicable OHS legislation and owner safety standards and that all the trades on site interact safely.


Some responsibilities of the Prime Contractor include: 

  • Coordinating the health and safety efforts of all employers on the site.
  • Ensuring that the different employers on-site effectively communicate health and safety issues and cooperatively resolve them.
  • Confirm the worksite has the required number of first aiders and first aid supplies to deal with the number of workers. All first aid provided should be documented.
  • Managing which controlled products are approved for the site. Ensuring Safety Data Sheet (SDS) is available to any workers on the site in a central location(s), meeting Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) requirements.
  • Making sure prompt and thorough investigations of any on-site incidents, including near misses. Ensure reports are shared with all workgroups on-site, so they know the results and follow up for all investigations.
  • Verify that any equipment erected or installed complies with legislated and owner requirements.
  • Check the workers' and the worksite's health (washrooms, health protocols, stretching) and security (safe access and egress, traffic control, walkways, theft prevention).
  • Establish pre-job meetings review items on the Formal Hazard assessments, incident results and follow-up, and any additional safety topics from other sources or employees.

The Prime Contractor needs to be able to demonstrate to the site owner that the above items are being done by all the companies of contractors and sub-contractors on the site. This is best done with inspections led by the Prime Contractors’ people leaders, leadership team members from other companies, and safety personnel. It is better to do many inspections of short duration than a few inspections of long duration. Still, the time spent doing inspections should increase with incident numbers and problems encountered during the inspection.  


All Prime Contractor inspections should be considered checks for compliance with the site owner and legislated safety and health requirements. 


Inspections should be placed on a schedule, with varying types of inspection topics intermixed: 

Regular workplace inspections, where everything is checked in a specific area for a particular contractor. Address safety concerns with the workers, housekeeping, security, tool usage, worker observations, permit compliance, Field Level Hazard Assessment (FLHA) reviews, etc. 


Paperwork inspections, including scoring them to ensure the permits, FLHA’s, and safety meetings are fully documented, and follow-up is completed. It may also include checks in the field with the work crews. 


Hygiene and housekeeping audits where restrooms, lunchrooms, and changerooms are checked for housekeeping and hazardous conditions that may affect the user’s health. 


Compliance inspections with each contracting company to ensure that safety and scheduling paperwork is in place. Checking that metrics required for reporting to the owner are being collected on time and in the same manner for all the contractors. Check permits and FLHA’s are being completed fully and followed. 


Copies of all inspections and action items should be posted over the site and forwarded to the site owner. Safety personnel from each company should focus on workers’ safety, housekeeping, and compliance daily to support the inspection process and help promote desired behaviours within the workforce. 


Quick reviews of the inspection and follow-up items in the pre-job meeting will help the workforce see the efforts to ensure their health and safety. Checking for concerns with the employees at every pre-job meeting and promptly responding to them will also promote more robust behaviours in the workforce. Make sure the response to each issue is documented and published.  


The Prime Contractor should report inspections completed. Follow-up items closed, and outstanding issues to the ownership company at least weekly. On occasion, the Prime Contractor may require the assistance of the site owner to complete follow-up items. 


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