Contractor management in renewable industry

Contractor management in renewable industry

The present decade marks the realization of environmental concerns – technology has truly influenced the renewable energy sector as it offers more and more opportunities to incumbents and new entrants. The landscape is evolving, countries and companies are embracing the steady transition to sustainable energy generation – the shift from the ‘next big thing’ to becoming the major driving force is now well known.

To develop wind-farms, massive deployment of wind turbines are needed in the locations that are not ideal – such as complex terrain landscapes. Here, turbulence and wind shear is higher, and in general, wind conditions are harder to predict.

In this sector, workers are exposed to resins, styrene and solvents, physical risks such as manual handling during blade manufacture and maintenance. While in the construction phase of a turbine, there are fire hazards due to electrical components, materials or lubricants.

In addition to the traditional risks that are already known at the workplace (physical, chemical and biological), workers are exposed to new technologies (nanotechnologies) and hence, new hazards. Eg. In the photovoltaic sector (solar industry), health and safety risks affect the whole lifecycle of every plant – from design and planning, manufacture, transportation, installation, integration with the infrastructure, dismantling and disposal/ recycling. New generation of PV cells, based on cadmium telluride, hazard is toxicity of cadmium.

During installation and maintenance, main hazards are associated with working at height – access issues, falls and trips caused by slippery glazed tiles or tiles with moss and algae deposits on roofs, large roof pitches.

Although hazards in these worksites resemble only electric power transmission and distribution hazards, there are nuances within the actual ongoing activities. Simultaneous operations are being performed – where if one is working with wind-turbine settings, other is busy working at height.

This work diversity needs contractors – they are the ones who bring specialized competencies to the table, and their involvement enables a company to operate competitively.

Intrinsic importance of contractor management

But, regardless of their involvement, one must not forget that accommodating them at site isn’t risk-free – some classic well-known risks are associated with contractors. Primary are variable contractor tariffs, temporary workers, resource allocation, trainings, technical competencies and procedural compatibilities.

One cannot 100% rely on their work style, for their approach is more result-oriented than process-oriented. There are possibilities that small-scale contractors and their teams arrive with limited information against each scope of work, hurriedly evaluate EHS considerations – which can go against the company standards, especially in a risky business like renewables.

Eg. On wind-energy sites, roads to and fro are usually not in a good state (difficult-to-reach terrains). But once the project is undertaken, it is tough to restrict the movement of heavy machineries, materials and workers onsite as work completion becomes a priority. This hence, makes it even more important for employers to have plans in place for the rescue or evacuation of workers before an incident occurs. All of these tasks require real-time worker and asset data to keep vigilance and overview over all the processes.

Managing them requires a dedicated approach from the company’s side, wherein there is a constant communication and feedback at every step.

A software is a sustainable means to centralize and streamline contractor tasks – it emphasizes on a standardized way of dealing with tasks, right from the beginning. Minute details can be captured – these involve workforce man-hours, asset registration, training-associated activities etc. Such attention-to-detail, when ignored, can cause the ‘domino effect’ – spiral into huge problems and affect the viability of the project as a whole. In order to execute projects successfully, organizations and contractors must have a detail-oriented mindset and remain meticulous about the same.

Contractor management software helps in information-capture, sending out notifications and reminders and brings out consistency in the process. With the software, effectively managing risks becomes a lot easier, and by monitoring the contractor lifecycle, safety professionals can identify and mitigate issues, address them as they crop up.

Same goes with the compliance – the relationship between contractor management and compliance is a close one, for both the processes have a great deal of overlap. Together they seek to ensure good organizational performance, and contractor software enables them to be better positioned for success.

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