Outsourcing your Contractor Selection Process – Can it be done?

Over the past few years we’ve seen an increase in the number of companies that use a 3rd party service to qualify their contractors. Often, these services screen the prospective contractor for their safety record / programs, insurance history / coverage, and financial stability. It’s common to see facilities believe that these contractor qualification services are covering their PSM/RMP Contractor obligations, but this is rarely the case. Let’s review the PSM/RMP requirements regarding Contactors – starting with the facility obligations – to see why:

1910.119(h) Contractors.

1910.119(h)(1) Application. This paragraph applies to contractors performing maintenance or repair, turnaround, major renovation, or specialty work on or adjacent to a covered process. It does not apply to contractors providing incidental services which do not influence process safety, such as janitorial work, food and drink services, laundry, delivery or other supply services.

This section covers which contractors are covered under the PSM/RMP rules. Since nearly all of these Contractor Qualification services cover all contractors, you are usually well covered here.

1910.119(h)(2) Employer responsibilities.

1910.119(h)(2)(i) The employer, when selecting a contractor, shall obtain and evaluate information regarding the contract employer’s safety performance and programs.

Every Contractor Qualification service we’ve seen covers this area quite well – in fact, it’s the reason these services exist. 1910.119(h)(2)(ii) The employer shall inform contract employers of the known potential fire, explosion, or toxic release hazards related to the contractor’s work and the process.

1910.119(h)(2)(iii) The employer shall explain to contract employers the applicable provisions of the emergency action plan required by paragraph (n) of this section.

Here we get our first compliance issue. Contractor Qualification services do not possess this information and cannot provide it to the contractor. Let me quote the 2009 Petroleum NEP to show you why this MUST be done by the facility itself:

Compliance Guidance: To assist in determining the applicable known potential fire, explosion or toxic release hazards that the host employer must inform the contract employers about, CSHOs should examine the host employer’s PHA. The PHA must identify the hazards of the process – 1910.119(e)(1) and (e)(3)(i). At a minimum, the hazards identified in the employer’s PHA which are applicable to the contractor’s work must be passed (“informed”) from the host employer to the contract employer – 1910.119(h)(2)(ii). In turn, the contract employer must then instruct its employees on the known potential fire, explosion or toxic release hazards of the process (1910.119(h)(3)(ii)), including, at a minimum, those hazards identified in the host employer’s PHA which are applicable to the contractor’s work.

As you can see, this requires a deliberate and thoughtful analysis of the work the contractor will do and the hazards present by that work – and the area of the process they will be working on. A cookie-cutter Contractor Qualification service cannot provide this service so you need to make sure your program does.

1910.119(h)(2)(iv) The employer shall develop and implement safe work practices consistent with paragraph (f)(4) of this section, to control the entrance, presence and exit of contract employers and contract employees in covered process areas.

Again, a Contractor Qualification service cannot provide this service – this is a facility level requirement that establishes and implements the procedures required under the Operating Procedures element.

1910.119(h)(2)(v) The employer shall periodically evaluate the performance of contract employers in fulfilling their obligations as specified in paragraph (h)(3) of this section.

1910.119(h)(2)(vi) The employer shall maintain a contract employee injury and illness log related to the contractor’s work in process areas.

While a Contractor Qualification service can maintain some general information on the contractor in general such as injury rate and accident history, it will not know about the specific performance of a contractor at your facility – at least not as well as your own people will.

Next, we move on to the PSM/RMP responsibilities of the Contractor…

1910.119(h)(3) Contract employer responsibilities.

1910.119(h)(3)(i) The contract employer shall assure that each contract employee is trained in the work practices necessary to safely perform his/her job.

1910.119(h)(3)(ii) The contract employer shall assure that each contract employee is instructed in the known potential fire, explosion, or toxic release hazards related to his/her job and the process, and the applicable provisions of the emergency action plan.

1910.119(h)(3)(iii) The contract employer shall document that each contract employee has received and understood the training required by this paragraph. The contract employer shall prepare a record which contains the identity of the contract employee, the date of training, and the means used to verify that the employee understood the training.

While a Contractor Qualification service can certainly request this documentation, what’s usually acceptable to the Contractor Qualification service is a generic “statement” on training, not the very specific training required based on the information provided under 1910.119(h)(2)(ii-iii).

1910.119(h)(3)(iv) The contract employer shall assure that each contract employee follows the safety rules of the facility including the safe work practices required by paragraph (f)(4) of this section.

A Contractor Qualification service can certainly ask the contractor to provide a pledge that they will follow the safety rules / practices at the facility, but this can only really be proven through direct on-site examination of the contractor on a regular basis.

1910.119(h)(3)(v) The contract employer shall advise the employer of any unique hazards presented by the contract employer’s work, or of any hazards found by the contract employer’s work.

A Contractor Qualification service will ask the contractor to provide this information, but very often the nature of the work (and the tools used to perform it) change during the project. Again, only direct on-site examination of the contractor on a regular basis can ensure that the contractor is compliant with this requirement.

I hope this review has helped you understand how Contractor Qualification services can be useful to meet some PSM/RMP obligations, while showing you how they cannot replace your entire PSM/RMP Contractor element.

About Brian Chapin

PSM / RMP Compliance Consultant

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