Written by 6:00 am Feature, Service Operations

Field Service Think Tank Sessions: Sub-contractors and health and safety

Following a Field Service News Think Tank held in London November 2019, attendees discussed global implementation of safety standards and dealing with sub-contractors.

Service is a global business. Companies employ engineers who work around the world. The challenge comes in ensuring this work is carried out safely regardless of their location.  

Statistically, it seems standards do differ globally. According to Global Estimates of Occupational Accidents and Work-Related Illnesses, a 2017 study which included input from the International Labour Organisation, the World Health Organisation and the European Union, workplace deaths are highest in Asia, accounting for two thirds of the annual 2.78 million total, with Africa and Europe contributing less than 12 per cent. According to the report China and India have the highest workplace fatalities which can be partly attributed, researchers say, to the size of the respective countries  

One way to ensure safety consistency is through technology, for example, an electronic ‘safety passport’, a form of digital accreditation for engineers that would show if the correct training and correct equipment was being held. If not, then the worker would not be given clearance to carry out the task. Brent Holmes, Field Service Portfolio Director, Ericsson explained: “We’ve targeted driving as probably the biggest risk area, but equally obviously climbing, confined spaces, AC power and the list is endless.  But we need to be making sure that we have a tool to be able to manage our staff and our subcontractors. So one project that we’ve started to look at and where we’ve started to pick up some very good best practice around is in beginning to award passports to individuals so they can work for us,” Holmes continued.  

“If a contractor was doing something, you’d give them a yellow card or a red card.  Red card, or a cumulative of yellow cards, we’d off site them.  You’re not here again, and that’s it.” 

This was a concept that echoed with a number of the Think Tank members around the room. As Holmes further clarified Ericsson’s approach in this area adding that introduction of Safety Passports allowed for correct accreditation and that it identified a clear set of best practices to ensure that all the relevant safety training, as well as all of the right equipment is in place at all times.   

“You might think these are trivial,” Holmes added “but believe me it’s critical” .However, more manual deterrents such as a consequence management system to stop third-part contractors veering away from on-site standards is equally effective. Here a yellow/red card system can be deployed, where being shown the latter, or an accumulation of the former, can result in that firm’s contract being terminated.  

As Mark Wilding, Director of Global Aftermarket Operations, Hexagon Marketing Intelligence explained: “Imagine one of our main contract suppliers doesn’t go through the right checks and balances with those individuals that he or she authorises to carry out an activity on their behalf.  If we find this out, we will issue a yellow cardif they get two yellow cards then we will stop doing business with them. That’s what we had in the power sector. 

It was more if a contractor was doing something, you’d give them a yellow card or a red card.  Red card, or a cumulative of yellow cards, we’d off site them.  You’re not here again, and that’s it.” 

Both these solutions work yet implementing them in countries where safety is not engrained can be difficult. Here a safety management programme underpinned by strong and robust safety culture can be just as effective.   

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