New Safety Database Helps Portland-area Contractors

Database stores and scores contractors' safety plans to point out strengths and weaknesses and help streamline the process.

Kent Grove believes an injury- and incident-free environment for contractors across the entire Portland area is feasible. But firms must forgo their own interests in favor of working together, the construction operations manager for Temp-Control Mechanical says.

The Greater Portland Construction Partnership, a nonprofit industry group committed to workplace safety, has worked for the past six months to convince firms like Temp-Control to participate in a new database that stores and scores contractors' safety plans. The database won't be firing on all cylinders until all contractors are on board; however, those that have signed on agree that it not only points out safety strengths and weaknesses, but also helps streamline the process to gain work.

"It lets us know what's working and what isn't, and gives apple- to-apple comparisons with other contractors in our trade," Grove said. "Plus, it saves the time and money it takes to compile the documents when prequalifying for a project."

The database is called Prequalification/Assessment/ Certification, and it's administered through the ConstructSecure contractor safety assessment program created by Harvard University. Presently, eight general contractors/project owners - including Hoffman Construction, Skanska and Intel - and 23 local subcontractors are on board.

For a one-time $500 fee, subcontractors submit all safety documents they would regularly submit to prequalify to bid on work on a large project. These include the specific safety plan for the project, company safety programs, past injury reports and Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration incident reports.

The database also asks for information about the types of projects a firm works on. Then a score ranging from zero to 100 is assigned to the firm. Participating general contractors and project owners can review the documents and provide their own assessment.

"The initial score identifies your strengths and weaknesses in an objective and fair way," said Karen Blythe, executive director of the GPCP. "The first part really standardizes the process, and then (general contractors and project owners) can come in and offer their expertise."

Milt Plews, vice president of operations at Oregon Electric Group, said that even though the database is a work in progress, it offers a consistent baseline between contractors as well as specific analysis.

The database also lets general contractors and project owners prequalify subcontractors registered in the database.

"We do up to 100 prequals a year and (each one) can take one person between eight and 10 hours to complete," Grove said. "We can cut a big chunk of that time out by using this."

Intel is using the program to prequalify potential bidders on its $3 billion D1X project in Hillsboro. Oregon Electric Group and Temp- Control Mechanical received project work by first submitting their profiles on the database and then gaining prequalification approval.

Plews said Oregon Electric Group went further and used the database to prequalify third-tier contractors for the work that it contracted out for the Intel project. The company plans to continue to follow that plan, he said.

"We don't have the specifics worked out yet, but we plan on requiring it for certain projects," Plews said.

Blythe added that the program has more potential. The GPCP hopes to use it as a mentorship program of sorts so that emerging small businesses can gain insight from larger firms like Hoffman and Skanska.

"We're just in the beginning stages of this, but it's really turning into a tool that allows firms to communicate and assist each other with their safety procedures," she said. "As it continues to take shape, our main goal is to get everyone on board and working together."


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