Why Site-Specific Contractor Orientations Are So Important

13 April 2018

site orientations  in hard hat industries

As the economy continues to grow, new industrial projects are popping up daily, with subcontractors carrying out much of the on-site work. Heavy industry is dangerous work that carries a higher level of risk compared to most occupations so site orientations are vitally important. Unfortunately, industrial jobs rank highly in the lists of most dangerous jobs. Construction and the extraction industries accounted for over 18% of all workplace fatalities in 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Roles in construction, mining and power generation accounted for more than half of the top 15 most dangerous professions in the US in 2016, with a large proportion of these workers being contractors.

Subcontractors often carry out high risk activities, which can involve working in confined spaces, working at height, or working with hazardous chemicals. Every site is different and every site carries its own risks that evolve over time. Your contract workers need to be fully trained to respond to health and safety issues as well as their surrounding hazards. Site-specific contractor orientations should be employed to achieve this goal. Not only does this process help reduce site injuries or fatalities, but it ensures that you are compliant.

Responsibilities and Regulations

Regulations can vary and can also be quite detailed, but a common theme runs through regulations: Site-specific orientation training is a necessary component of training for your contract workers. Whether it be in construction, wind energy, natural gas, mining, or any heavy industry project. Because accidents tend to happen to workers who are less familiar with their surroundings, there is an even greater need to educate contract workers and temporary employees on the hazards they may face while carrying out their work.

Site orientations  in construction

US Responsibilities and Regulations

Under the OSHA Act, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace. 

In the United States, OSHA requires you to enforce a number of compulsory training requirements under the Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations Part 1910. These rules state that you must provide training regarding emergency action plans and that these plans must be “in writing, kept in the workplace, and available” to your contract workers, depending on the size of your firm. If you have a contract workforce that is less than ten, you are exempt from this requirement. According to the code, you must ensure your contract workers are aware of the following:

  • Procedures for reporting a fire or emergency.
  • Details on a site evacuation, including the assigned route for gathering.
  • Plans in place to account for all of your contract workers once off site.

You must also ensure that you have in place:

  • Fire prevention plans.
  • Training on working platforms
  • Noise exposure training (depending on your site).

The OSHA rules are quite detailed and contain additional rules regarding spills, leaks and chemicals. The rules also state that it is your responsibility to instigate a training program for all of your contractors, new employees and current employees.

UK Responsibilities and Regulations

In the UK, there are a number of pieces of legislation which cover the necessity of site orientations for contractors, most notably the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. This requires you to provide “whatever information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of your employees.” This legislation has since been expanded to include the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, which deals with worker’s exposure to new or “increased risks” and emphasizes the importance of regular training. Both of these pieces of legislation are safeguarded and enforced by the HSE (Health and Safety Executive).   

The UK has separate rules concerning the responsibilities of the contractor and that of the Principal Contractor (PC). They must be appointed by the client of the construction project and control the construction phase of a project involving one or more contractor. These rules shift some of the responsibility for ensuring worker safety onto the contractor.  The PC must take account of the health and safety risks to everyone affected by the work (including members of the public), in planning and managing the measures needed to control them. The HSE stipulates that the contractor must provide “relevant information and training needed to secure health and safety.”

According to the rules, these requirement include providing a site induction, including information on:

  • The risks and precautions of working on that site.
  • The site rules.
  • The emergency procedures.

Contractors must follow consider the following points when dealing with the PC:

  • Inform the PC of the names of any subcontractors engaged in a project.
  • Provide the PC with any relevant information regarding risks, health and safety training and orientations.
  • Report injuries, deaths, or dangerous occurrences to the PC.

Canadian Responsibilities and Regulations

In Canada, similar legislation exists regarding the training of your contract workers and is safeguarded by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and safety (CCOHS). Canada has fourteen jurisdictions – one federal, ten provincial and three territorial – with each jurisdiction having its own health and safety legislation regarding orientations and site orientations. The legislation states “employers shall take all reasonable precautions to prevent injuries or accidents in the workplace.” For example, as an employer you must “implement a plan” to deal with associated on-site hazards and ensure the following:

  • Train all of your employees about the hazards of the job.
  • Establish a health and safety committee.
  • Ensure work safety practices on site and on all ongoing projects.
  • Create a system where injuries can be reported.

Of course, it’s during the training period where you will design and implement your site-specific contractor orientations. These should cover topics such as: Worker safety, handling and storage, substances and how to handle emergencies, as required by the CCOHS rules.

Dangers of Not Doing a Site induction

There are serious consequences in not providing site-specific contractor orientations. For instance, it leaves your contract workers exposed to injuries or fatalities, which they would not be informed about in a generic orientation. Not carrying out a site orientation can damage your company’s safety brand and could very well harm the community you reside in, as a lack of orientation training means contract workers are unaware of the needs of the locality and that could affect their work.

Just because we you haven’t provided site-specific orientations in the past doesn’t mean you can’t make a change and include site-specific training going forward. You should consider joining a project like the Considerate Constructors Scheme, which is a national initiative set up by the UK construction industry to improve its image. If your firm registers with the scheme, you are monitored against a Code of Considerate practice designed to ensure you stay compliant. Programs like this are a great way to benchmark yourself against other companies in the industry to boost your safety standards.

Site orientations  using GoContractor

Online Contractor Management Platform

Online platforms allow you to deliver engaging orientation content that can ensure your contract workers hit the ground running from day one. It’s also a useful method to deliver refreshers, alerts and toolbox talks to your contract workers. Here’s how you can get started.

  • Build Courses Online platforms allow you to build courses that can train your contract workers on specific training related to your current construction project. This could include all of the relevant information regarding your site and any training that you are legally required to carry out. The flexibility of an online system allows for the easy integration of site-specific and generic content.
  • Customize Your Site orientations – An online contractor management platform allows you to create a custom process where your contract workers can register themselves online, upload documents and photos and take your site-specific orientation training. This process is adapted so it suits the location of each contract worker and their specific jobs.
  • Manage and Control – A dashboard and reporting tools allow you to easily manage the training and registration of your contract worker. This is crucial during your site induction, as it will allow you to monitor and control the training of individual contract workers through your site. Worker behavior can be monitored in a similar way so that the safety of the workforce as a whole is not endangered. Regardless of whatever job they are doing, an online platform can ensure your contract workers are fully orientated, safe and productive.
  • Communicate – You can communicate directly with your contract workers, or through the labor supplier they work for. Site managers are kept informed of activity thanks to a location-specific notification feature. This means that you can be fully informed if a contract worker has taken site-specific orientation training and reminds your contract worker on when to take additional refresher training, or if a document related to a previous site orientation has expired.


It should be clear that site-specific training is necessary and often required. What you may not be aware of is how easy it can be to combine generic and specific information on a single online platform. Every country has a different set of requirements and poses different challenges for an onboarding platform. Online systems can improve safety and productivity in a workforce, as well as providing the flexibility that is becoming increasingly important. For companies, the question shouldn’t be whether they should include site-specific training,  but how they can do it best?

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.

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