Government safety and quality standards are high for a reason: There’s a lot at stake for projects to finish on time, on budget and without any reportable incidents. Government projects also are expected to stand the test of time. That means they must be designed so that quality standards are not just met but exceeded.

Most contractors can perform at the high level required for government projects, but it takes experience to do so consistently. Here are some of the key safety and quality processes required on government projects that should be built into everyday jobs.

Government projects typically have tight budgets and timelines, some of which are congressionally mandated. Because of this, contractors should seek information up front and submit safety and quality-assurance plans months in advance, which are typically reviewed again a few days prior to the start of work. Depending on the scope, this can range from five to 10 different safety plans for each phase and equally as many quality-assurance plans that document how every bolt, pipe and weld will be installed.

The best way to become safer as an organization and elevate your quality is to put safety and quality on repeat. This means doing daily safety briefings before tasks begin and daily site inspections on all equipment during all phases of the job. Depending upon the project, this can include briefings and inspections for electrical, aerial lifts and rigging equipment as well as advanced permitting and approval for high-hazard processes like confined space entry and lockout-tagout. Repetition elevates awareness and supports learning so the processes become second nature.

Repetition also helps ingrain safety and quality into the culture, which can be further enhanced through proactive rewards. For safety, an employee-driven, incentive-based program that’s focused on mentoring and training can provide the foundation to keep sites safe. This can be accomplished by having employees conduct daily audits and onsite inspections as well as regularly participating in training sessions.

Employees earn safety points for each activity, which are then traded in for company swag, helping to support the project and build morale. For quality, the organization can learn from mistakes through quality alerts, which track how a problem arose, along with lessons learned, ensuring everyone learns from the experience, not just the person or the team at hand.

While budget, schedule and safety are well understood and can be easily quantified, quality continues to be treated like a mystery. It is less explicit and can be interpreted differently, depending on one’s perspective. That shouldn’t be the case, given that reworking any given aspect of a project can cost an average of 5% to 20% of the total project budget, which has to come out of someone’s pocket. Proper quality documentation can help prove how and why an error occurred while also helping the contractor realize that quality is a cost if work must be redone. 

In the government world, your work is routinely reviewed on CPARS, a government website that hosts written reviews of a contractor’s work, provided by owners or government contractors the firm has worked with in the past. CPARS can be accessed only by source selection officials, providing them with a record of both positive and negative assessments, so it’s important to put forth your best work every day. It will be documented for years to come.

Dave Montoya is the safety director and Sean Miller the QA/QC director at Industrial Contractors/Managers Inc. (ICM), an industrial contractor with
offices in Denver and Pueblo