When putting together a bid for a project, it's better to aim high and come in under budget than to be asking for money at the halfway mark. While that will also leave you a little wiggle room for miscalculations and unforeseen circumstances, you probably don't want injuries to be at the forefront of that equation. Why not take a proactive approach and involve your health and safety team early so that you can account for the cost of safety as opposed to the cost of lost time?
How many times have you seen or heard of a major construction project be passed the deadline and over budget? Since it is estimated that this happens to about 85% of projects, I'd wager you've personally witnessed it once or twice. Generally, these are due to some miscalculation, poor communication, or, as you've probably already guessed, workplace injuries.
Whether it is human error, or unforeseeable circumstances, every project is bound to run into a couple of setbacks, and most bids will account for those by leaving a little leeway in their budgets when estimating how much time and money the project will require. However, as companies try to come up with the lowest bid to secure work, shortcuts get taken, and often, safety ends up taking a hit.
Now, organizations like OSHA and other governmental agencies have certain requirements and legislation that need to be addressed in these proposals, however, we're going to bypass all the mandated information that should be included in a successful bid (we can do a whole post on that later), and focus strictly on why health and safety should be a core element of these projects.
Why disclose your health and safety program?
Just for a visual, let's start by quickly break down what plays into the cost of a lost time injury/illness.
- Lost wages
- Medical bills
- Damaged machinery or tools
- Worksite shutdown costs for investigation purposes
- Recruiting and training new hires
- Increased administrative costs related to the injury
- Reduced productivity due to lower employee morale
- Negative media attention
- Reasonable accommodation costs
- Legal fees
As you've probably experienced, safety also costs money. Proper training, equipment, engineering controls...it can all add up to a hefty price tag. And depending on the industry and type of work your organization participates in, those costs can fluctuate quite a bit.
For example, if you have decided to invest in a COR/SECOR (we will talk about this more in just a minute), you will need to dish out yearly for maintenance audits and dues. In Canada, CORs are not mandatory to secure work, however, they do tend to be a big advantage. If you are bidding on a 5 year project, you might want to include the cost of your yearly COR re-certification to demonstrate your commitment to creating a safe work environment, along with the cost of any other equipment or certifications that will keep contribute to the overall safety program for your site.
Keep in mind that when reviewing bids, many clients will also look at your track record. Long story short, if you are being transparent about your safety costs and have a track record of zero or minimal incidents in comparison to a company who hasn't included any OH&S costs and has a history of multiple incidents on a site, generally, the client will opt for safety over savings.
Using COR certification to demonstrate safety
As we just mentioned above (and in this separate post) many Canadian provinces and companies require a Certificate of Recognition (COR) to be able to bid on any project. You may remember that the concept of a COR is to establish a consistent standard of safety across the country. For that reason, we aren't going to go into whether or not this is a good or a bad thing, instead, we are just going to explain why and how this affects bidding on work.
COR represents a commitment to your workers and your client. It is, in theory, proof that not only do you acknowledge the requirements for the province or territory you are operating in, but that you have at least the minimum required safety precautions in place.
An important point to note when using a COR to bolster your bid is that you may need to invest in a letter of reciprocity if the project is outside of the province or territory you are established in. It is possible that the requirements differ slightly from one to the other.
How can your safety team help?
The people best equipped to help you figure out what OH&S elements to include in your bid are your resident health and safety professionals, so don't be afraid to bring them into the inner circle in the earliest stages of creating your proposal. Not only will this add a degree of transparency to how your organizations operates on a worksite, it will ensure that you are meeting the legal requirements for the area, and demonstrates a sense of accountability for everything and everyone involved in the project itself.
So how will your safety team go about making safety a key selling point of your bid? Well, there isn't really a written set of rules for how to achieve this, but a few common approaches include:
- Compiling a checklist of safety issues to help contract managers and safety professionals remember to include appropriate items in the final contract.
- Becoming involved with a client’s marketing department early in the process to avoid commitment of unrealistic or unnecessary safety resource levels in attempt to win a project.
- Having the owner clearly communicate safety expectations for the project for proper resource allocation.
- Actively participate in the request for proposal (RFP) process as well as all pre-bid, pre-award, contract mobilization and craft orientation meetings.
Less is not always more
Remember that old adage quality over quantity? The next time you make a bid, let your track record speak for you. Even if your bid comes in at a slightly higher price tag than your competitors', showing them that you offer a safe work site, with minimal to no risk of injuries or illnesses that threaten to put you over budget and over deadline will definitely be an advantage. And let's be honest, you can't really put a price on safety.