What Topics to Include in a Contractor Safety Orientation

22 June 2018

In heavy industry, workplace safety begins with a contractor safety orientation and research backs up this fact. Employees in their first month on the job are three times more likely to miss time from work due to injury than workers who have been at their job for more than a year, according to research from the Toronto-based Institute for Work & Health. In heavy industry – such as construction, mining, oil & gas, and renewable energy generation – the risks of having unprepared contractor workers are even higher because the consequences of an accident are more likely to be fatal. When done right an orientation sets up a worker to be a safe and productive individual within a cohesive team.

A good contractor safety orientation is part of the foundation of a good company, enabling work to be done safely and efficiently. However, just because you know the desired outcome of your orientation does not make it easy. When you start designing an orientation it is a blank slate so it is understandable to feel overwhelmed. The question is how to design a contractor safety orientation that is simple and engaging but also includes all the information a worker needs to stay safe on-site. There were 924 fatalities in the construction and extraction occupations in the US, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If improving safety orientations can reduce that number by even one then it is something that should be pursued.

What to Include in a Contractor Safety Orientation?

  • Essential safety Information – This is the most important thing to include in your orientations. The primary goal when you onboard your workers is to ensure they become safe members of your workforce. Safety is one skill that should not be learned through “on the job” experience. More experience leads to increased safety, it’s as simple as that. Contractors who don’t receive proper safety training when they are onboarded are being put at an unacceptable risk of injury. Some topics you should cover in a contractor safety orientation, depending on their role, include:
    • Correct manual handling procedures
    • Working at heights
    • Hazardous substances
    • Vehicle safety
    • Lockout-Tagout
    • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
    • Ergonomic training
    • Fall protection
    • Power tool safety
    • Working in confined space

  • Company Culture – Orientations in the past may have only included basic safety information. But now, companies recognize the power culture has across various aspects of a business. A strong safety culture, in particular, can be massively beneficial in reducing injuries. It is not easy to implement a safety culture but it should stem from your company’s values and safety practices. You want your workers to have a good understanding of your organization, its history, safety vision, and goals. You want your new hire to understand how they fit into your company, even if they are a temporary worker. They should also be aware of what is expected of them in terms of quality of work and safety requirements.
  • Reporting Procedures – Even with stringent safety standards there are bound to be the odd incident. When this happens the focus becomes minimizing the damage. Doing this requires significant participation from your workers. As stated by OSHA, you need to establish a process for workers to report injuries, illnesses, close calls/near misses, hazards, and other safety and health concerns, and respond to reports promptly. Ensure that workers don’t face the fear of reprisal for reporting accidents or near misses. This ties in with having a strong company culture where workers feel empowered to participate.

  • Manage Documents – Use the contractor safety orientation to get all the documents and qualifications you need from a worker to ensure compliance. Online contractor management systems allow workers to do their orientation and upload their documents at the same time, making for a much more streamlined system. This means workers can start working on day one, saving time and reducing project costs.
  • Video – One of the great advantages of doing an online contractor safety orientation is the ease of including video content. Video has several key benefits for orientations:
    • There are several distinct learning styles. Some learn best from written content, some from audio, and some from visual content.
    • Video is often the best medium because it so versatile.
    • You can show a worker specific health and safety practices using videos that were filmed on-site to create engaging content.
    • Get current workers to record videos to get the new hire acquainted with the company culture and to make them feel part of the team.
    • Creating quality video is affordable and can be used easily in online orientations.

  • Site-Specific Content – There is not a standard one-fits-all contractor safety orientation that can keep your workers safe. Hazards differ depending on a worker’s role and location. Generic training is not fit for contractors who often work on multiple sites and have different roles. For an effective contractor safety orientation, you have to make it site-specific. This means tailoring content based on your workers so that they are aware of hazards specific to their role and location. In the past, this was done by individual site managers but this often led to inconsistent in training as they put their own spin on topics. An online contractor management system can allow for standardization of quality while also being customizable to allow for site-specific content to be included.

What can you leave out of a contractor safety orientation?

  • Too much information – You want your new hire to have a good understanding of your business and its history. And you definitely want them to understand your company culture. However, there is no need to go into minute detail regarding your company and discuss aspects of the business that have no impact on the individual worker and their duties. Doing this will only lead to decreased engagement so it’s largely a waste of time.
  • Improvise i.e. bluffing it! – A contractor safety orientation needs to be grounded in facts and extensive experience. Workers should be able to trust that their training is worthwhile and will help keep them safe if they engage with it. Don’t bluff your way through with half-thought-out procedures and ideas that are not based on facts or on-site experience. Winging it is always bad practice but especially in anything to do with safety!
  • Generic content – Sometimes, it might be unavoidable to include some generic content in all your orientations. An introduction to your company and its values for example. However, it’s good practice to make your content site and role specific as much as possible. A study by the Health Service Executive (HSE) in the UK found that even simple training to do with manual handling and ergonomics is ineffective if it is not tailored to the specific circumstances of a worker.


Orientations are so important because it is the first – and possibly best – chance you get to prepare your workers to be safe on-site. There are some things that you must include in a contractor safety orientation (essential safety information, reporting procedures etc.) and some things like generic content that are best left out. Whichever way you design your orientation it should be engaging and include the information that improves safety and productivity within your workforce. You can utilize all these tips by using an online contractor management system like GoContractor which is flexible, customizable and allows you to design the perfect contractor safety orientation.

New call-to-action

Jenny Snook

Jenny Snook is content executive at GoContractor with the job of researching the latest health and safety trends in the heavy industry. Her past-experience includes the research of large museum collections such as the Louth County Museum, many from the industrial age.

Show me more!

Take a look at how GOCONTRACTOR can save you thousands of hours