As the Upstate’s largest OEMs expand operations and their host of international suppliers continue to descend upon Greenville and Spartanburg Counties, on-boarding contractors from around the globe to complete the job is not only slowing the efficiency of their manufacturing processes, it’s now allowing safety issues to slip through the cracks.
Lesia Kudelka, spokesperson for the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, said, “an increasing number of contractors work at specific sites under the direction and control of the host employer.”
“It is important for contractors and the host employer to communicate and provide a safe work environment for everyone,” Kudelka said.
Data compiled by the South Carolina Department of Commerce shows 64 existing manufacturers announced expansions last year alone, and 66,000 new manufacturing jobs were announced between 2011 and 2018.
“The state’s biggest firms are always in the middle of mass production and expansion,” Don Snizaski said, President of Life and Safety Consultants Inc. in Greenville.
“Announcements like the BMW X Series, Lockheed Martin’s F-16 production line and ZF’s recent announcements with both BMW and Chrysler are proof the Upstate’s economy and marketplace is becoming a global one,” he said. “As some of these companies become clogged with on-boarding and safety issues, OSHA is now demanding most industrial facilities keep their injury and illness records online and report them annually,” Snizaski said.
Currently, the training required for on-boarded contractors must be finished before they start work. In addition, the training is more extensive with an increasing number of courses than in years past.
William Seawright, ESH Manager at Lockheed Martin, warned “the traditional classroom training cannot keep up with demand.”
He noted that in the past, “contractors were brought on and allowed to begin work with little or no environmental, health and safety training. With the online tools now available, “safety personnel are no longer pulled away from their daily tasks to provide training because it can be conducted offsite prior to the person arriving for work.”
The online tools also allow companies to track contractors as they move between jobs and sites, helping ensure their training is validated and current. The online format will even track and renew contractor training prior to the annual expiration date so the site work can be completed without interruption.
For contractors moving to different locations within the company, Seawright said “the tools save time so they don’t have to redo orientation training and can focus on shorter site-specific courses needed to begin work.”
As a result, “our team has more time to work on other, more strategic safety initiatives like process improvement and leading indicators,” he said. “Overall, online tools provide an improved staff efficiency while helping productivity and ensure consistent communication of our ESH requirements.”
As outlined by OSHA, employers must provide orientation training to all contractors and subcontractors on site specific safety and health policies, reporting hazards, injuries, illnesses and close calls or near misses, who to contact with questions or concerns, what to do in an emergency and workers’ rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
“If you don’t get the training, you’re hoping and praying nothing happens,” Snizaski said.
“The paper method of completing on-boarding training took too long and companies were cutting corners to ensure their manufacturing bottom lines were not disrupted,” he said. “Now, online capabilities have made safety training more efficient, cost effective and feasible, making it a ‘must-do’ to ensure OSHA has adequate documentation the training was completed and will not target you for a visit.”