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Closing the Safety Gap Between Contractors and Subcontractors

construction workers in hard hat climbing up stairs with blue sky in background

There’s no denying that subcontractors play an indispensable role in the construction industry. But despite their importance, research has repeatedly found that subs face greater on the job danger than their contractor counterparts. Even when working on projects spearheaded by construction companies with committed safety cultures, a harrowing disparity exists between the two builder classifications. For companies truly invested in job site safety, closing this safety gap is of the utmost importance. Listed below are three proven ways construction companies can extend their safety practices to subcontractors.

Emphasize That Safety is a Shared Responsibility

Across virtually every job site, contractors and subcontractors converse with and work alongside each other on a daily basis. This close collaboration affords contractors the opportunity to impart important safety practices. In fact, studies by the Construction Industry Institute have discovered that contractor behavior has a profound impact on the safety performance of subcontractors.
To encourage general contractors to engage in these potentially life-saving conversations, construction companies should continually reinforce the idea that safety is a collective responsibility shared among every job site worker. What’s more, this concept should also be conveyed at the managerial level to ensure safety is a top concern for all project stakeholders.

Pre-qualify Subcontractors by Reviewing Their Safety Records

Regardless of how you feel about past behavior indicating future behavior, looking into subcontractor safety records is consistently worthwhile for contractors. By reviewing EMR and OSHA 300A data, contractors can evaluate if subcontractors might require additional safety training. While this pre-qualification process can be used to disqualify subcontractors due to risk liabilities, most contractors that employ this tactic take a different approach. Instead, they opt to include additional safety requirements into their subcontracts. By doing so, contractors are able to undo poor safety habits picked up on previous projects and set subcontractors on a much safer path moving forward.

Hold Subcontractors Accountable

It’s not uncommon for subcontractors to feel separate from contractors on a job site. But to maintain high standards of safety for all job site workers, it’s crucial that subs are held accountable for their commitment to safety. By contractually requiring subs to develop site-specific safety programs, general contractors can verify that critical safety information is being retained and internalized. What’s more, this step is often used to get subs to commit to site-specific training plans for even experienced journeymen. Making training a contractual obligation significantly elevates the likelihood of training be conducted effectively.


Safety should be the number one priority of any construction company or contractor. But no safety plan can be considered comprehensive if it overlooks subcontractors. By enacting the approaches detailed in this blog post, job sites can be made safer for everyone who steps foot on them.

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