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September 14, 2020

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supply chain

How to manage a business and supply chain that’s COVID-Secure

A look at how businesses can manage their supply chain COVID-19 responsibilities as they increase activity and prepare to win new work, from Dale Jones, Technical Director at Alcumus SafeContractor.

Man worker forklift driver with protective mask working in industrial factory or warehouse.As lockdown measures eased in mid-May, businesses began their ‘return to work‘ strategies and assessed the COVID-19 risks applicable to their workplaces. To make sure their working conditions were COVID-Secure, they increased physical and procedural measures. As a result of ongoing improvements in operational efficiency, we are seeing delayed plans being revisited with increasing numbers of projects now coming back online.

However, businesses now familiar with controlling and managing the risks of virus transmission in-house are facing yet another hurdle; how can contractors be managed effectively? Alcumus SafeContractor has seen a 25% jump in the number of contractor assessments submitted for audit, suggesting the usage and availability of contractors is gradually returning to pre-COVID levels, but confusion surrounding management represents a fundamental roadblock. The following guide will outline how businesses can manage their supply chain COVID-19 responsibilities as they increase activity and prepare to win new work.

Who is responsible for handling the risks of COVID transmission when working with contractors and is there anything new the procuring client should be doing?

The principles usually followed when looking to engage with contractors within the supply chain hasn’t shifted since the start of the pandemic. The client is still responsible for the overall safety at their location. However, the contractors undertaking work on the project will need to manage their own COVID-19 duties appropriately, as well as accounting for the existing procedures at their clients’ sites.

Ensure all the contractors within your supply chain have implemented robust COVID-19 protocols to manage the risk of infection during projects.

As a client, you are legally required to make sure all the contractors you use are capable of managing their health and safety responsibilities. You can make this assessment by conducting a pre-qualification exercise that will help to determine the suitability of a contractor for a given project. To do so, you will need to ensure the contractors within your supply chain have appropriate health and safety policies and procedures in place, including procedures for managing the risk of COVID transmission.

Generate and execute suitable and satisfactory procedures to attain adequate control, coordination, cooperation and communication of all contractor work.

As the client, you have a duty to ensure that all parties share critical risk-based information and procedures. You will also need to review the number of contractors or workers able to attend the site at any one time. While there is no strict limit on this, COVID-19 guidance advises businesses to restrict visitor numbers. Consequently, you may need to limit working times and review work schedules to reduce the interaction and overlap between different groups of workers.

Before a contractor visits your facility, you will need to give them the necessary information and guidance on the existing safety requirements for your site.

As a client, you will need to notify contractors of your procedures and assessments for managing the risk of virus transmission before they arrive on-site. You will also need to make sure that their workers have received the relevant induction training before starting the project. Doing so will ensure that the individuals are informed of the existing risks and procedures for your facility and understand the appropriate controls that will need to be implemented.

Before starting the project, review the projects specific risk assessments and method statements.

This review means that alongside specific hazards such as working at height, manual handling, slips, trips and falls, you will need to make sure your assessment covers the risks of COVID-19 transmission. Check that the risk assessments and method statements include the working practices necessary to allow for social distancing guidelines to be followed.

When dealing with high-risk work, establish and use a permit to work process.

The permit to work process will ensure robust management protocols are applied to tasks. However, make sure these permits are only issued to authorised and able persons.

Depending on the nature of the work, the risks involved, and the duration of the project, you would need to observe contractor performance at appropriate intervals.

“As a client, you will need to ensure that arrangements are made for managing health and safety throughout the project. For example, you will need to consider a site monitoring process to ensure the correct guidelines, including COVID-19 protocols, are adhered to; and where non-conformance is raised, appropriate corrective actions are implemented.”

Evaluate overall contractor performance at the end of each contract and implement, where practicable, any notable findings.

Conducting a review post-contract will help you determine whether you would manage a similar project differently in the future and enable you to evaluate whether the contractors’ performance justifies their on-going inclusion within your supply chain.


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