Document Detail

Title: SD-39 - Subcontractor Safety as Influenced by General Contractors on Large Projects
Publication Date: 10/2/1988
Product Type: Source Document
Status: Archived Reference
Pages: 173
This publication has been archived, but is available for download for informational purposes only.

Hinze, Talley, Univ. of Washington
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This source document describes the results of the research conducted to determine the influence that general Contractors have on the safety performances of subcontractors on large projects. A parallel study was conducted which was focused on small- to medium-sized projects as described in the companion source document. The study of subcontractor safety on large construction projects revealed that the general contractors do indeed have a significant influence on the safety performances of their subcontractors. It is noteworthy that both studies showed that general contractors play a key role in the safety performances of their subcontractors. However, the research shows that the mechanisms of influencing subcontractor safety are different on large projects than on the small- to medium-sized projects.

The primary purpose of this research was to identify means by which general contractors influence subcontractor safety performance. Several findings of interest were disclosed by this study. For example, it was discovered that subcontractors have better safety records when they are required by the general contractor to furnish detailed safety reports including information about injury occurrences and safety meetings. Better safety performances were also noted when the subcontractors were required to submit copies of their safety programs for review or when the subcontractors are contractually required to adopt the safety program of the general contractor. This general contractor involvement in the work of subcontractors includes conducting specific field safety inspections and enforcing the use of safety equipment by all workers.

Subcontractors with better safety records reported that the general contractors were effective in coordinating their projects. This coordination was evidenced by the frequent preparation of short interval schedules. The safer subcontractors were those who reported that a great deal of emphasis was placed on the project schedule. This implies that every party associated with the project was able to focus, with reliance, on a common schedule. The safer subcontractors in this study tended to be those employed on the smaller projects, in terms of total project value and total number of tradesmen employed. This finding is consistent with past safety studies and perhaps indicates that smaller projects are easier to control and manage.

The essential findings of this study are that subcontractor safety performance is influenced both by a strong emphasis on safety and by effective project coordination on the part of the general contractor. No differences were noted between those projects constructed under a union shop versus an open shop arrangement. It was noted that subcontractors employed on projects constructed under the construction management approach tended to have better safety records than those employed on projects solely managed by general contractors. This does not imply that the construction management approach is inherently more safe. It does imply, however, that for those projects sampled, the construction management arrangement is more effective in providing the necessary emphasis on safety and coordination.