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Managing flexibility: Contractor management on and off site

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Contractors can provide one of the most valuable things on a mine site - flexibility. 

By using contractors a mining company is able to quickly scale up to get the most out of their site and production and meet the ever changing operational requirements found on mines. 

However, as contractors are not part of the wider company there are occasionally problems, as each worker is not vetted by the mining company, and the two may not have the same safety standards. 

A perfect example of this was at Solid Energy's Ohai coal mine in New Zealand. 

Solid Energy was forced to terminate its work with its contractor after a series of safety incidents, such as a welder using a telehandler to lift a platform he was standing on into the air after which he welded it to a container, all the while working not only unsupervised, but also without any safety harnesses either.  

And on top of these differing standards are the issues faced with ensuring contractors have valid certifications and tickets. 

While many firms carry out initial insurance and certification checks at the point of employment, a number of companies find that tracking expiration and renewal of certification is a difficult task; often failing to follow up on this problem with effective contractor management.  

"When a contractor is uninsured or does not have up to date training or certification firms contracting workers can be left exposed financially and have their reputations significantly damaged," Adrian Manessis, from safety management software company myosh, explained. 

"Companies have lost large contracts as a result of the mismanagement of contractors. 

"To compound the issue, under the new OH&S harmonisation laws, the term 'employee' was changed to 'worker', making it even clearer contractors and volunteers need to be included in safety plans." 

Manessis went on to say that while contractor administration is time consuming, management systems are now available that allow for contractors to maintain their own records while the contracting company stays in control. 

"Regardless of the size of the firm, compliance, meeting legislation and demonstrating due diligence will be difficult without the use of safety management software to automate the process," he said. 

"Contractor management is just one of the processes safety management software can automate.  

"Firms need to act decisively to get these processes bedded in now."

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