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The Ultimate Guide to Creating a GovCon Safety Plan

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As a government contractor, it's essential to ensure compliance with safety regulations while protecting your team from workplace hazards. The Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established safety standards that contractors must follow to prevent accidents and injuries. In this article, we'll discuss the best practices and templates for developing a GovCon Safety Plan, which may be called a Safety, Health, and Environmental (SHE) Plan by some federal agencies.

A Safety Plan requested by the RFP must take into account all safety related information contained within the RFP released by the government agency. It might be included in the Performance Work Statement (PWS) or Statement of Work (SOW), in Section L Proposal Instructions.

Most often the RFP will contain a Contract Data Requirements List (CDRL) or Data Requirements Description (DRD) that details:

  • The Safety Plan Title

  • Distribution to government contacts

  • Submission date and format

  • Frequency of submission, including updates

  • Scope

  • Applicable documents

  • Required Contents of the Safety Plan

  • Date and format for Plan submission - usually after contract transition, or possibly a Draft Safety Plan with the proposal submission.


In NASA RFPs, the delivery items are listed as DRDs, and their SHE Plan includes a detailed outline for the plan, containing only the applicated sections that are relevant to that contract. Do not overlook reviewing the CDRL or DRD list – your Safety or SHE Plan will become a simple task when following exact directions of the RFP.

As a GovCon, your company should have their own Safety Plan, which all employees are familiar with and receive access to when on-boarded. This is not the agency and contract-specific plan that is requested by most RFPs. But having a company Safety Plan is a good practice, since it shows your commitment to the safety of your workforce, the public, and property.


Understanding GovCon Safety Requirements

Before developing your Safety Plan, it's essential to understand the safety requirements for government contractors. OSHA sets standards that apply to all employers, regardless of their industry or size. Additionally, government contractors must follow specific safety regulations depending on the type of work they perform.

For example, construction contractors must comply with OSHA's construction safety regulations. These regulations cover a wide range of safety topics, including fall protection, electrical safety, and hazardous materials. On the other hand, contractors performing research and development work may need to follow the safety standards established by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Your RFP should detail all the regulations – federal, OSHA, state, local, and agency directives, procedures, and processes that must be followed to be in compliance. The regulations will be different for various locations, facilities, and equipment.

Your Safety Plan must take all of these things into account, and provide a customized plan that references all the regulations, policies, and procedures, cited in the RFP. You must also reference any required training or certifications for personnel who are performing activities covered by safety regulations, such as confined space training.


Benefits of Implementing a GovCon Safety Plan

Implementing a GovCon safety plan has several benefits beyond compliance to receive the contract award. First, it ensures compliance with OSHA regulations and other safety standards, reducing the risk of accidents and injuries. Second, it helps protect your team and company from liability if an accident occurs. Finally, it can improve your reputation as a responsible and safety-conscious contractor, increasing your chances of winning additional government contracts.

Many contracts require that you provide your safety statistics, including OSHA reportable incidents and lost-time incidents. Good recordkeeping is a must and a stellar record will help you score higher than competitors without the same stellar record.


Key Elements of a GovCon Safety Plan

A GovCon safety plan should cover several key elements to ensure compliance and workplace safety. These include:

Safety/Hazard Assessment: A safety/hazard assessment is an essential part of any safety plan. It involves identifying potential hazards in the workplace and evaluating the risk associated with them. Hazards can include physical, chemical, or biological agents that can cause harm to workers.

Safety Procedures and Protocols: Once you've identified hazards, you'll need to establish safety procedures and protocols to address them. These procedures should include steps for preventing accidents and responding to emergencies.

Training and Education: All employees must receive safety training and education to ensure they understand the risks associated with their work and how to protect themselves.


Develop Your GovCon Safety Plan

Developing a GovCon safety plan involves several steps. These include conducting a hazard assessment, identifying hazards and risks, and establishing safety procedures and protocols.


Conduct a Safety/Hazard Assessment

Before you can develop a comprehensive GovCon safety plan, you need to evaluate your workplace for potential hazards and risks. Conducting a safety assessment is a critical first step in the process. A safety assessment involves identifying potential hazards and risks, evaluating the likelihood and severity of each one, and determining the best course of action to mitigate these risks.

To conduct a safety assessment, you should start by performing a walk-through of your worksite. Look for potential hazards such as moving machinery, chemicals, and electrical hazards. Additionally, you should review injury and illness logs to identify any patterns or trends that suggest areas for improvement.

It's also essential to talk with employees about their safety concerns. They may have valuable insights into potential hazards that you may have overlooked. Encouraging employee participation in the safety assessment process can help foster a culture of safety and improve overall workplace safety.


Identify Hazards and Risks

After conducting your safety assessment, the next step is to identify hazards and risks associated with your work. Hazards can include anything that has the potential to cause harm or injury, such as falls, burns, cuts, or exposure to hazardous chemicals.

Once you've identified potential hazards, you'll need to evaluate the likelihood and severity of each one. Consider the frequency and duration of exposure to the hazard, the likelihood of injury or illness, and the severity of the potential consequences.

It's also important to identify risks associated with each hazard. Risks are the likelihood that an accident or injury will occur. For example, the risk associated with a chemical hazard may be low if the chemical is stored properly and used according to the manufacturer's instructions. However, if the chemical is used improperly or spilled, the risk could be much higher.


Establish Safety Procedures and Protocols

Based on your hazard assessment and risk evaluation, you'll need to establish safety procedures and protocols to address them. These procedures should be specific to each hazard and risk, outlining steps for preventing accidents and responding to emergencies.

For example, if your hazard assessment identified the risk of falls from heights, you'll need to establish procedures for working at heights safely. This may include using fall protection equipment, such as harnesses and lanyards, and implementing procedures for inspecting and maintaining this equipment.

It's also important to establish procedures for responding to emergencies. This can include establishing an emergency response team, designating evacuation routes, and conducting regular emergency drills to ensure that everyone knows what to do in the event of an emergency.


Training and Education for GovCon Safety

Employee training and education are critical to maintaining a safe workplace. All employees must receive training on the risks associated with their work and how to protect themselves from harm. This can include everything from how to use PPE to emergency response procedures.

In addition to initial training, ongoing education for safety awareness is crucial for maintaining a safe workplace. This can include regular safety meetings, refresher training, and updates on changes to safety regulations or procedures. By keeping employees informed and aware of potential hazards, you can reduce the risk of accidents and injuries.


Implement and Maintain Your GovCon Safety Plan

Developing a GovCon safety plan is just the first step in ensuring workplace safety. Once you have created your plan, you must implement and maintain it properly to ensure its effectiveness. This involves ensuring that all employees understand and follow safety procedures, conducting regular safety audits, and updating the plan as needed.

Your Safety Plan will include names of management and contract personnel who are responsible for implanting and enforcing the Safety Plan. All employees must know who the Safety Officers are and when and how to report safety incidents. All employees must be empowered to enforce safety in their work area and are free to call a stop to work when unsafe conditions are discovered.


Ensure Employee Compliance

The success of your GovCon safety plan depends on employee compliance. Therefore, it's essential to ensure that all employees are aware of the safety plan and understand their roles in implementing it. This can include providing training and education on the safety procedures outlined in the plan, as well as regular reminders and updates to ensure that employees stay informed.

Supervisors and managers should also be trained on how to enforce safety procedures effectively. They should be equipped to recognize and correct unsafe behavior and to address safety concerns in a timely and effective manner.


Conduct Regular Safety Audits

Regular safety audits are essential for identifying potential hazards and ensuring that safety procedures are being followed. These audits should be conducted at regular intervals and should involve a thorough review of workplace conditions and practices.

During a safety audit, you should evaluate the effectiveness of the safety plan and identify areas that need improvement. You should also check for compliance with OSHA standards and other relevant regulations.


Update Your GovCon Safety Plan

As your business evolves, your safety plan should evolve with it, but always maintain compliance with the contract, agency, and federal, state, and local regulations. It's important to review your plan regularly and update it as needed to reflect changes in your business practices, equipment, and regulatory requirements.

If you identify areas that need improvement during a safety audit, update your safety plan accordingly. This could include adding new safety procedures, modifying existing ones, or providing additional training to employees.


Measuring the Effectiveness of Your GovCon Safety Plan

After implementing a GovCon safety plan, it's essential to measure its effectiveness regularly. This can help you identify areas that require improvement and ensure that your workplace remains safe and compliant. There are several ways to measure the effectiveness of your safety plan, including conducting safety audits, tracking incidents and near misses, and soliciting feedback from employees.


Conducting Safety Audits

Regular safety audits can help you evaluate the effectiveness of your safety plan and identify areas that require improvement. Safety audits should be conducted by a competent person who can assess the effectiveness of the safety plan and identify any gaps or deficiencies.

During a safety audit, the auditor should evaluate the physical conditions of the workplace, review safety records and incident reports, and observe employee behavior to ensure that safety procedures are being followed.


Tracking Incidents and Near Misses

Tracking incidents and near misses can help you identify patterns and trends that require attention. This can include tracking the frequency and severity of accidents and incidents, as well as near-misses that were narrowly avoided.

By tracking incidents and near misses, you can identify potential hazards and implement corrective actions to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.


Soliciting Feedback from Employees

Employees are often the best source of information when it comes to evaluating the effectiveness of a safety plan. By soliciting feedback from employees, you can identify potential hazards and areas that require improvement.

Employee feedback can be solicited through surveys, focus groups, or one-on-one meetings. This feedback can help you identify gaps in employee knowledge or training and identify areas where safety procedures may not be effective.


Continuous Improvement

Measuring the effectiveness of your GovCon safety plan is crucial for continuous improvement. By identifying areas that require improvement and implementing corrective actions, you can create a safer and more compliant workplace.

Remember, safety is an ongoing process that requires constant attention and effort. By regularly measuring the effectiveness of your safety plan and implementing corrective actions, you can create a workplace culture that values and prioritizes safety.

Many companies use a Safety Reward program where employees are given small awards for all working as 'Safety Officers' as part of their daily tasks. When they discover a safety issue or hazard, they report appropriately and receive recognition immediately and at employee events to promote a culture of safety across their team. Many companies also promote safety 24/7/365 and provide training and PPE to employees that can be used away from work. Note: this is not government equipment that is being used, it is a company program where they provide kevlar gloves, safety goggles, or other basic safety equipment to keep employees safe and reporting to duty on their next work day.


Protecting Your Team and Winning GovCon Contracts

Developing and implementing a GovCon safety plan is essential for protecting your team and winning government contracts. By understanding safety requirements, identifying hazards and risks, and establishing safety procedures and protocols, you can ensure compliance and workplace safety. Employee training and ongoing safety education, regular safety audits, and measuring the effectiveness of your safety plan can help you continuously improve and maintain a safe workplace. Remember, workplace safety is everyone's responsibility, and a strong safety plan can help protect your team and your business.



This is the 5th blog post in the 11-part series, "Playing to Win: Strategies to Scoring Higher and Winning Federal Government Contracts". There is a companion download, which includes editable customizable PowerPoint and Word graphics based on each blog post topic. 

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