How is a contractor's safety score calculated?

To accommodate different learning styles, a step-by-step article with accompanying screenshots is provided directly below and a video tutorial is also available at the end of this document.

Introduction

The Highwire safety score is central to Contractor Success. For clients, it is one of the very first data points that they see for a contractor. For contractors, it is their first indication of how they measure up against their peers in the industry and how they may be viewed by their clients.

The Highwire safety score ranges from 0 to 100 just like an academic grade. After all, Highwire was created at Harvard University. In addition, this scale is widely and easily understood. 

When contractors enroll in Highwire, they provide data about their past performance, or their lagging indicators. They also answer a series of questions about their safety programs and management systems, or their leading indicators. Lagging indicators account for 55% of the safety score and leading indicators the remaining 45%.

Lagging Indicators - 55% of the Safety Score

Below is a list of the lagging indicators that Highwire collects that factor into the safety score:

Injury and Illness Data 

  • Recordable Cases for each of the last 3 years
  • Days Away, Restricted Duty, or Job Transfer (DART) cases for each of the last 3 years
  • Number of Fatalities in each of the last 3 years
  • Total hours worked by all employees in each of the last 3 years

By collecting the data above we are able to calculate each contractor’s average Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR) and average DART Rate over the three-year period. We then compare these averages to the most recent industry averages published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for each contractor’s specific trade.

Experience Modification Rating (EMR) EMR is collected for each of the last 3 years.

Each contractor’s average EMR is calculated and compared against the insurance benchmark of 1.0.

OSHA Experience 

Each contractor is required to report any OSHA violations issued to their company in the last three years. Violations are only considered once the OSHA inspection is ‘Closed’ since proposed violations from inspections that are still ‘Open’ may be contested, reduced, or deleted.

Leading Indicators - 45% of the Safety Score or 45 points

Program Elements 

Each contractor answers a series of questions related to the programs that they have in place to address specific hazards or activities. An example question:

Are your employees EVER required to enter or work around trenches or excavations?

Contractors are expected to have programs in place to address activities and hazards that are relevant to their scope of work. For the above question, as an example, we would not expect a flooring contractor or painter to have an excavation and trenching program.

Management Systems 

Each contractor answers 17 questions related to the management systems that they have in place that support their ability to execute against their safety programs. An example question:

Does your company have a defined employee training and development program for workforce, foreman, superintendents, and managers?

Management systems are weighted much more heavily than program elements. Having management systems in place ensures that leadership is involved, employees are trained, team members are held accountable for their performance, an annual self-evaluation is conducted to drive continuous improvement, and more. Without adequate management systems, it is very difficult for companies to execute programs like fall protection, confined space entry, and more, hence the higher weighting.

Advance Initiatives 

Each contractor answers 9 questions about the Advanced Initiatives in place at their company. An example advanced initiative question:

Does your company have a Return-to-Work program for employees who have been injured?

Other questions center around substance abuse prevention programs and any special memberships/partnerships with OSHA (i.e. VPP, SHARP, etc.)

Documentation Collected by Highwire

During the enrollment process contractors are required to upload several forms of supporting documentation.

  • To support their Injury and Illness data, contractors are required to upload an OSHA 300A summary form for each year.
  • To support their EMR, contractors are required to upload NCCI documentation or documentation from their insurance provider.
  • To support their answers to the Program Elements, Management Systems, and Advanced Initiatives questions, contractors are required to upload electronic versions of their company’s programs.

Safety Score in the Highwire Platform

Partners View

Partners View may be the first place that the Highwire safety score is encountered by a client. The score and color coding of the score provide the first indication of potential risk. 

In many cases, a contractor with a score above 80, highlighted in green, does not require a deep review or development of a corrective action plan. The relative risk is low when working with a contractor with a higher score.

When contractors have lower scores, like a 50 or 63, clients will follow an established business process to evaluate the potential risk in more detail. It is important to note that there are no Highwire clients that immediately eliminate a contractor from consideration based on a specific score or threshold. Rather, the Highwire safety score is used as the initial indicator, a review of the factors leading to the low score is conducted, the contractor is engaged in the review, and corrective action plans are put in place as appropriate based on the results of the review and conversations with the contractor.

Contractor Dashboard

When considering a contractor like District Plumbing, we can see in Partner View that the Highwire safety score is 63 and is highlighted in yellow. Clicking on the company name opens the detailed view of District Plumbing’s profile where we can see the reasons for the low score. In this case, the score is low primarily because of poor past performance. Incident rates that are much higher than the industry average. In addition, we can see a graphical representation of how their incident rates have trended year over year and how they compare to the most recently published industry average for their trade.

 

With the score being driven down by poor past performance, understanding that this company’s incident rates are trending in the wrong direction and are much higher than the industry average a client would engage with this contractor and may ask some critical questions. The conversation may unfold as follows:

Given that your incident rates are increasing each year, have you done any incident analysis to understand the types of injuries that are occurring, the common causes of injuries, body parts most frequently affected, or the activities where most of the injuries are occurring?

Have you identified any trends as a result of your analysis?

If you have, what changes have been made to your safety or training programs? Have you developed and implemented any new management systems? Have you focused on any specific activities and developed task-specific hazard analysis?

Based on the contractor’s answers, a client will determine next steps. Perhaps the risk is determined to be too great and the contractor is not engaged to perform work. Or the contractor was cooperative, was able to answer the questions, and developed a data-driven project-specific corrective action plan intended to deliver a successful outcome on the client’s project. The contractor’s performance is then monitored against the action plan with check-in meetings held to review performance, share feedback, and make improvements or adjustments as necessary.

The above example of an engagement is based on poor past performance. Sometimes the score is driven down because of a lack of management systems or a missing safety program. These are also important opportunities to engage.

Imagine a masonry contractor whose scope of work involves repointing the masonry facade of a building. Their scope involves significant work at height, work from scaffolding, and potential exposure to silica dust. If the contractor does not have programs in place to address these hazards then there is risk. These risks should certainly be addressed before work begins. Specific plans can be developed, employees can be trained, more frequent inspections can be conducted, and a more frequent on-site presence of safety can be required.

In addition to missing some key safety programs, the masonry contractor does not have very robust management systems. They do not have an accountability program. They do not have an inspection and hazard identification program.  And they do not have a defined employee involvement program. Each of these is key to being able to plan and execute.

Discussing these items in pre-construction meetings and developing plans and programs to address gaps raises the contractor's level of awareness and demonstrates the importance that the client places on the Highwire assessment and safety performance. The expectation has been set. The contractor knows that they need to perform in order to build and strengthen their relationship and reputation with the client. Poor performance could mean no more future work, a direct business impact.

Contractor Success

Using the Highwire safety score to engage contractors at the bid phase, collaborate with contractors before work begins, and develop a focused approach to monitoring a contractor’s performance is the Contractor Success vision.

For those clients that use Inspect, Tracker, and Evaluations to monitor performance throughout the project, this additional data becomes invaluable when engaging contractors on future projects. More data allows for more informed decision making and a more focused approach to engaging partners on the next project.

Summary

The Highwire safety score ranges from 0-100.

55% of the score is associated with past performance or lagging indicators.

45% of the score is associated with safety programs, management systems, and advanced initiatives or leading indicators.

A higher score represents strong past performance, programs, and management systems.

A lower score is representative of poor past performance and/or a lack of programs or management systems.

Many clients use a score of 80 as a threshold or indicator. Contractors with scores below 80 are reviewed more carefully and may be required to develop a corrective action plan or CAP before beginning work on site.

Contractors can use the Highwire safety score to benchmark themselves against their peers. Strengths and weaknesses are presented and contractors can use the results of the assessment to find opportunities for improvement.

Contractors with scores of 95 or better receive a Platinum Badge. Contractors with scores between 85 and 95 receive a Gold Badge. Many contractors display their badges proudly on social media and especially on LinkedIn.

 

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