Businesses of all sizes rely on contractors to assist their in-house teams with various maintenance tasks. Contractors aren’t likely going away anytime soon, but relying on such help, without oversight, can present additional fire risks. For example, they may not be familiar with the hazards in your workplace and the policies and procedures designed to minimize risk. They may be aware of these rules and simply fail to follow them. The onus falls on you to vet and monitor third-parties coming on site.
I have witnessed, during my assessments, a contractor performing some welding work in an unsafe manner. He had filed a proper Hot Work Permit but was clearly not working in a safe manner. Welding spatter was falling onto wood and cardboard below, gas cans and compressed gas cylinders were improperly secured inside the Hot Work Zone. Simply glancing in on the operation would have told the facility manager that the contractor had pencil-whipped the document to appease the manager. The stakes were high and the contractor failed to watch out for the company’s interests.
I heard of another incident in which a contractor was brought on site to service a sprinkler system. The contractor made a mistake and failed to open the water supply valve before leaving the property. A fire the following week caused extensive damage to the property that could have been avoided if someone had reviewed the work after the contractor left.
Both of these situations could have been avoided with some due diligence on the part of the facility manager. He or she must take the time to evaluate each and every contractor prior to coming on site, provide oversight while they are working, and review the work when complete.
Additionally, when you hire subject-matter experts to handle important facets of your workplace, you must let them know that you have high standards for fire safety. I have witnessed situations where compressed gas suppliers have filled containers that were improperly plumbed or not properly marked. I have seen extinguisher contractors certify that an extinguisher is ready for service when it is not properly mounted or identified. These contractors should know that they are expected to let you know when hazardous equipment or safety systems are not in perfect shape.
In short, in today’s world you can’t rely on a handshake and someone’s word as assurance alone. You need to exercise caution in hiring contractors, provide oversight, and hold these contractors accountable.
The more people better understand the potential outcomes triggered by risky behavior and unsafe conditions the more they are motivated to keep their work and home environments fire safe. IC Fire Prevention is uniquely qualified to assess facilities for deficiencies and engage employees in the fire prevention process. Give me a call at (260) 241-2256 to learn more.
In safety, Kenn