Guest Blog: How GoContractor Changed Orientations

There is a major roads project underway in Manchester aimed at cutting congestion and improving journey times on parts of the M60 and M62. According to the government, the Highways Agency has signed a £184 million deal with infrastructure firm Balfour Beatty to oversee the smart motorway scheme. The project comprises a 17 mile stretch which will include the latest technology used to monitor traffic levels, provide traffic information to road users, and #ease congestion through the use of variable speed limits on overhead message signs. This project required a large workforce, each of whom had to undertake an orientation.

Balfour Beatty will lead the project and are in charge of overseeing the work of three other delivery partners – Costain, Carillion and a BAM – Morgan Sindall Joint Venture. Writing for our guest blog today is John Pilkington, the Health & Safety Manager for Manchester Smart Motorways. He details how GoContractor helped turn a time-consuming and expensive orientation process into something reliable, efficient and cost effective.

Utilizing the GoContractor online orientations software platform

As of of the 1st February 2015, Manchester Smart Motorways (MSM) has been running a two-part orientation process for all new staff and contractors joining the project. The new orientation process consists of an online presentation and a test before the new starter attends the project offices for drug and alcohol screening, and a site-specific presentation and test. The presentation at the project offices is updated on a monthly basis and includes the latest work activities, incident/observation trends and any project accidents.

Original Orientation Process

The original orientation process consisted of drug and alcohol screening followed by an orientation briefing carried out by a Safety Advisor. The orientation process took an average of approximately 3 hours to complete at the main project offices. Orientations were held on Monday and Wednesday mornings, commencing at 7 am and regularly not finishing until 10:00 – 10:30 pm.

The problem

The issue with this process was the amount of time it took, which reduced productivity. Then we had other issues like the task of preparing the course, the length of time it took to administer the orientation and the constant worry that inductees would become bored or distracted.

The solution

Various solutions were discussed, including having shorter orientations , then bringing inductees back in after a period of time to complete the process after they had spent time on site. The main issues with this approach were:

  • It would be difficult to administer.
  • It would not capture individuals who are only onsite for a short time.

The adoption of an online orientation process seemed to be a good solution. Generic information can be completed prior to attending site, with a specific briefing being delivered along with drug and alcohol screening on-site, reducing the time taken to both complete and administer the process.

Online Orientation Process

The new orientation process is completed in two parts. The first part is an online orientation presentation using the GoContractor platform that can be completed on any internet connected device with an internet browser and takes approximately 25 – 30 minute to complete. There is also a test at the end of the online induction, which will ask the inductee 10 questions picked at random from a pool of questions. The pass mark is set at 90% and if an inductee fails the same questions they are not asked a second time, and the number of attempts is logged and reported.

Once the inductee has successfully completed the GoContractor orientation and passed the test, the inductee is issued with a pass certificate, including a passcode. The passcode can then be used to book the inductee into the second stage of the orientation process in the project offices. MSM, or the employer representative, will use the system to look at the available orientation dates and book the inductee into the most appropriate orientation.

When the inductee attends the second stage induction, they will receive an orientation briefing which is updated monthly with the latest accident, incident and observation trends, along with the current work activities on site. The orientation presentation is followed by a ten question test based on the orientation presentation. The test questions are reviewed monthly.

The second stage orientation is followed by the drug and alcohol testing. The average time to complete the second stage induction, with the drug and alcohol testing, is 1 hour and 15 minutes. The orientations are held on Monday and Wednesday mornings and start at 8 am.

Advantages of the Online Orientation

The two-stage orientation process has significantly reduced the amount of time that an inductee spends at the project office before they can commence work on the site. Contractors have commented that the reduced amount of time spent in the office allows them to commence work on site on the same day as the second stage orientation. This was not always possible with the original orientation process. We have looked at the advantages for inducting circa 2,000 employees in terms of cost, and at an average hourly rate of £30hr, the cost saving is circa £120,000. There is also increased productivity of approximately 4,000 extra onsite hours.

Along with the reduced amount of time for the inductee, there are also considerable time savings for the MSM Project staff. The time savings can be seen below.


The online orientation commenced at MSM on 1st February 2015. The contractors were supported by the Safety Team on how to use the new system. During February, MSM saw a reduction in the number of new people attending site orientation of around 20%. However, March and April show that the average number of new inductees has risen to around 125 people per month. The initial reduction of new inductees was due to normal programme variations. Teething issues were quickly resolved by the Safety Team and feedback from the contractors used on the project has been very positive. One contractor said, “we spend on average £1,200 per year on orientations of our staff, it is a big step in the right direction”. The online orientation as part of a two-stage orientation process has generated significant time savings to MSM Project staff and the inductee.

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.