8 Steps to Vet Construction Subcontractors

subcontractorAs a general contractor, it’s likely that you’ll use subcontractors at some point. Subcontractors can be an efficient way to outsource work. As specialists, they’ll often do a better job than a generalist and their smaller size means they can work quicker and leaner.

However, the construction job is your responsibility. The performance of the subcontractor will reflect on you. To complete the job properly and satisfy your customer, you need to make sure your subcontractors will produce quality work in a timely manner.

Before you officially hire any subcontractors, protect your business and your customer by taking these steps to vet the subcontractor.

1. Examine their past and current performance

Request information from the potential customer about their licenses, accreditations, history, and references. Look for any public data on lawsuits, disputes, complaints, or bankruptcies. Ask for the contact information of previous contractors they worked for. Then, search for references independently (without the subcontractor’s involvement) to get some unbiased and unfiltered information.

2. Look at their queue of work

It’s smart to make sure potential subcontractors can actually complete the work you need, so you’ll want to examine their log of previous, current, and future work. If the subcontractor seems too busy for their size, your job might overextend them.

3. Ask about their safety practices

Unsafe operations can leave you exposed to liability and force an inspector to close the job site, so make sure any subcontractors have clean or reasonable safety histories. They should also have ample safety protocols in place and a crew who is coached to prioritize safety.

4. Investigate the subcontractor’s employees

Ask the subcontractor about their team. Are they temporary workers, or do they work full time? Have they worked in construction before, or are they new? Does the subcontractor have the proper number of licensed professionals for the site? Do the workers have the right tools and reasonable workloads? Do any have serious felonies or drug problems that might make them unreliable? Answers to these questions will determine whether the subcontractor is right for your job.

5. Validate bonding and insurance

In most states, contractors are required to have bonding. In all states, they must be insured, including worker’s compensation insurance. If the subcontractor doesn’t have these protections in place, you could be held liable if there’s a problem. If the subcontractor doesn’t have these, reject them as candidates.

6. Investigate the subcontractor’s financial health

If your job is large, you’ll want to make sure the subcontractor’s financials are healthy enough to commit. You don’t want their employees to walk off the site one day due to lack of payment, or an inability to purchase materials. Request their annual contractor volume, two years of financial statements, and their total sales and net worth (you might have to sign a confidentiality agreement). Look for signs of poor health, like poor cash flow, a mountain of debt, or declining income.

7. Ask about their quality control process

In order to avoid rework and warranty work, you want your subcontractors to certify the quality of their materials and finished work. Every professional business should have a procedure in place to guarantee quality assurance. This procedure is rarely complex, but a successful business will have an answer to your questions.

8. Demand a written contract

It is shocking how many people work without a written agreement. As a contractor who is purchasing labor, you need to protect your investment. Every deal should be bound by a contract that clearly describes your expectations, including the scope of work, timeframe, and payment arrangements. Describe what you will provide and what the subcontractor will provide in terms of materials, warranties, and cleanup.

Hiring a subcontractor is like hiring an employee: You want someone who will represent your business well without adding drama, stress, or financial burden. If you follow the steps listed above, you’ll find the right candidate and build a lasting relationship.

Jonathan Belek
Risk Management Consultant
jbelek@srfm.com

Jon Belek

Spring Hazards: Worker Safety During Warmer Weather

Spring Hazards: Worker Safety During Warmer Weather Spring signifies the end of winter and a season of new beginnings.  It ushers in budding trees, blooming flowers and warmer temperatures.  It can also bring with it quickly changing conditions and hazards that employers and workers need to be aware of and prepare for to ensure safety.

 While, overall, workplaces are safer today, many people are still seriously injured on the job, especially in industries like manufacturing, construction, transportation, warehousing and oil and gas extraction.  While accidents happen, many are preventable. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found that more than 10,000 severe injuries were caused by workplace conditions in 2015.

 What top three hazards do employers need to be aware of during spring? 

  1. Severe Weather and Flooding- Floods and tornadoes are the most common hazards in the United States during spring.  From melting snow to sudden spring showers, flooding can happen quickly and with little warning.  Not only should workers and employers be aware of weather forecasts, but workers should be trained on severe weather plans and have emergency supplies with them to be prepared if severe weather strikes.  OSHA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have partnered to provide a comprehensive resource aimed at helping businesses and workers prepare for severe weather, like flooding
  2. Outdoor Work – From construction workers on scaffolding to flagmen helping to direct traffic at highway work zones, outdoor working conditions in the warm spring weather can naturally cause hazards for workers. In fact, more than 100 workers are killed and more than 20,000 are injured in the highway and street construction industry each year, with over half of the fatalities resulting from vehicles and equipment operating around the work zone. It’s imperative that employers put controls in place and train employees to protect workers from injury in outdoor settings.  The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health provides guides for many industries.
  3. Driving and Pedestrian Safety – As the warm weather approaches, more people get out to enjoy the warm weather – from people walking dogs to motorcyclists enjoying a ride to children riding bicycles.  Naturally, this means that there are more incidents of accidents involving driving and pedestriansIt’s important that drivers properly maintain their vehicles, exercise caution, travel at a reasonable speed, pay attention and avoid distractions like texting.    

Employers are required by law to provide their workers with a workplace free from serious recognized hazards and to comply with standards, rules and regulations issued under the OSH Act.  In addition to ensuring safety protocols, plans and training take place to prevent workplace accidents and injuries, each industry has its own nuances and risks.  At Sinclair Risk & Financial Management, we take the time to understand your company and individual situation and work with you to help you minimize your company’s risks. 

Jonathan Belek
Risk Management Consultant
jbelek@srfm.com

Spring Hazards: Worker Safety During Warmer Weather

Employers: Safety is your responsibility (but we can help!)

Dave SinclairA billion dollars…right out the window.

That’s what American businesses spend each week on worker’s compensation claims.

If that isn’t enough to give you pause, that figure represents only the direct costs of medical and legal payments. Indirect costs of training replacement employees, conducting accident investigations, hiring crisis management PR experts, repairing equipment, lost productivity, and low staff morale easily double the pain.

Want a real-world estimate of a threat facing your workplace? This cost estimator provided by OSHA will put the fear of the safety gods into you.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Avoiding crippling worker’s compensation claims begins with developing a workplace safety program, reinforced by ongoing training and hands-on management.

Getting started — Developing a comprehensive safety program can seem daunting, but work accidentSinclair Risk & Financial Management can help. We want to reduce your worker’s compensation costs not by just getting you the most affordable premiums, but by making sure accidents are rare or nonexistent in your shop.

Training — Too often we see operator error leading to significant injuries. The machines are working just fine, but employees were not properly educated on how to use them safely. We provide a comprehensive analysis of your operations and identify areas where training needs to occur or be reinforced. 

Make it worthwhile — Safety is your responsibility, but you need buy-in from all staffers. Consider a program that rewards everyone in the workplace for keeping it safe. Six months accident free? Everyone gets an extra day off, or a gift card, or a lunch…there are numerous low-cost incentives that will keep your staff focused on the goal.

Identify trouble areas (and trouble employees) — It’s bad enough if an employee sustains an injury once…but twice? Same goes for a piece of equipment. Anytime there’s a repeat claim associated with an employee or particular piece of equipment, you need to laser in, figure out the reason, and correct the problem. As part of our ongoing commitment to safety in your workplace, we can help with these sensitive audits.

Safety is your responsibility, and operating a safe shop is the only smart way to do business. The Sinclair Risk team includes experts at helping business owners implement a safe workplace and keeping it safe through training and follow-up. Take the scare out of safety and talk to us today.

Dave Sinclair

CEO Sinclair Risk & Financial Management
dave@srfm.com

How to keep safe during the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

_JBK5366It’s officially the holiday season! You’re ready to pick out the perfect tree, drag the ornaments out of storage, and make the house look like a winter wonderland. After all it IS the most wonderful time of the year – and we’d like to help you keep it that way.

According to the American Red Cross, there are over 45,000 house fires during the holiday season – costing over $550 million in property damage, and causing over 2,000 injuries and 500 deaths.

Luckily, we have some easy and helpful tips to help you keep the yuletide cheer going strong – although none to help deal with crazy Uncle Joe or your nosey in-laws!

If you buy a real Christmas tree, make sure the needles are green and fresh, and water it daily. When purchasing a fake Christmas tree, ensure it’s made of flame retardant material.

SRFM trees

Keep your tree, stockings, and any other holiday decorations at least 3 feet away from a heat source – this includes candles, fireplaces, radiators, and heat vents.

Don’t use any lights or decorations that have frayed electrical cords. Don’t use indoor Christmas lights outside. Limit the number of connected light strands to 3 sets.

Trim candle wicks back to ¼ of an inch and keep them 12 inches away from any other object. Extinguish candles before heading to bed or leaving the house.

Don’t throw boxes or wrapping paper into fireplaces.

Remember to set timers while cooking. Don’t leave food unattended for long periods of time. Turn off all appliances when you leave the house. Have a fire extinguisher on hand, just in case.

The holidays are a time for joy and celebration, so make sure you are taking the proper safety precautions to keep what matters most – your family and friends – safe from fire hazards this season.

Happy Holidays from all of us at Sinclair Risk and Financial Management!

Steve Davis

SDavis@srfm.com

 

5 Simple Driving Safety Tips You Need To Know

5 Simple Driving Safety Tips You Need To Know5 Simple Driving Safety Tips You Need To Know

Car accidents are a leading cause of death in the United States. So take a moment to read these driving safety tips by the American Medical Association to help keep you and other drivers safe on the road.

Driving Safety Tip #1 – Drive with care. Plan your trips ahead of time when possible. Try to avoid heavy traffic and decide what time to leave, and what roads to take. Always wear your safety belt and drive at the speed limit.

Driving Safety Tip #2Take care of your car. Make sure you always have plenty of gas in your car, and make sure you tune it up regularly. Keep your windshields and mirrors clean and replace your windshield wiper blades when they become worn out.

Driving Safety Tip #3 – Know where you can find a ride. There may be a time where you don’t have access to a vehicle. Have some alternatives planned so you don’t find yourself stranded. Your alternative transportation plan could include rides from friends and family, taxis, bus or train, or a shuttle.

Driving Safety Tip #4 – Take a driver safety class. The best way to avoid driving hazards is preparation. Driving safety classes can teach you skills to use when you are on the road to make sure you and your passengers arrive safely at your destination.

Driving Safety Tip #5 – Drive distraction free. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drivers are distracted by secondary activities 30% of the time while driving. These distractions can include everything from eating, smoking, talking, drinking, or fiddling with electronics in the car. The NHTSA estimates that 80% of crashes involve some form of driver distraction that reduces driver safety. Being aware of these distractions, and avoiding them while on the road can help reduce your risk.

Sinclair Risk & Financial Management maintains that packaging a sound personal Auto plan is only the beginning of the client relationship. Our team of friendly, professional experts takes time to find out what drives you when you drive your car, enabling us to suggest meaningful strategies to mitigate many of the associated risks on or off the road. Contact us today for more information.