Incident Data

Knockin’ Down the Little Guy

As someone who has had to evaluate contractors on a regular basis, I can tell you that when injury statistics are used to “Grade” contractors....

As a follow up to our last blog post, we have a guest author – Aaron Frost – who will go into more detail on why using Total Recordable Injury Rate (TRIR) is not the best way to evaluate a contractor.

Knocking down the little guy

As someone who has had to evaluate contractors on a regular basis, I can tell you that when injury statistics are used to “Grade” contractors, it forces the hand of all contractors to “manipulate” or – worse yet – just not report correct statistical information. This is especially true with small contractors and has unfortunately become an industry best practice. 

Let’s say that a large client is requesting an RFP from contractors to complete a job which is a two month contract, and fits for a small local contractor. Within the background of the RFP the client expects the TRIR (Total Recordable Injury Rate) to be below 5.0. The bids come in and the contract is awarded to a large corporation that does not hire local workers and costs more. This sounds ridiculous, but it happens all the time.

Here are some calculations to demonstrate why:

Small Contractor: 2 (Incident) x 200,000 / 22,000 (approx 10 Workers) = TRIR 18.18

Large Contractor: 2 (incidents) x 200,000 / 220,000 (approx 100 workers) = TRIR 1.81

This is obviously not comparing apples to apples. The numbers are very skewed for a smaller company.

Now, let’s look deeper into the incidents:

Small Contractor’s 2 incidents:

  • 1 Doctor visit with 2 stitches due to a sharps interaction
  • 1 Restricted work for an employee that rolled their ankle on a rock

Large Contractor’s 2 incidents:

  • 1 Lost time (60 days) due to a fall from 10 feet
  • 1 Restricted work due to a broken arm
Man scratching head

Technically all four incidents are recordable. However, as you can see the larger contractor’s incidents are far more severe but their TRIR is lower. Severity of the injuries is not taken into account – how is this grading system even fair?

We should be asking ourselves:

  • How were these incidents managed?
  • What were the corrective actions?
  • What is the company’s culture around injuries?

…and so many other questions on “which” company is safer.

Someone please explain to me why any contractor would be honest on these reportable safety stats for contracts and RFPs?

I still talk with friends and family that work on large projects such as oil sands, pipelines, and other various industries. They are still told that if they sustain an injury on a client’s site NOT to disclose, or if it is significant, to tell WCB (Workers’ Compensation Board) that the injury happened off site. This is directly related to clients “kicking” contractors offsite for any incident that is considered recordable! The numbers are the only thing they care about. 

Without proper reporting, how in the world are we supposed to get better? Using TRIR and removing contractors due to injury reporting is a poor practice, and incites lying and manipulation that does not help us improve. 

For the most part our statistics are lagging indicators; they remain with us for years as a reminder of human performance indicators of slips, lapses, and mistakes. They also remind us that our safety systems have gaps or holes, and that our human behaviour (culture) is in need of improvement. If as a company we don’t react in a positive way, this is unsafe, not the statistical fact that something happened!

We recognize that of course we have to look at incidents and injuries – that is the only way we will learn. But as far as evaluating a company’s safety performance and culture, we need to develop some new key performance indicators. Stay tuned for more on that!

Aaron Frost - Strategic Natural Resource Consultants
Aaron Frost

Aaron Frost is the Health & Safety Manager at Strategic Natural Resource Consultants (, Founder at Qwest Safety ( and Co-Founder of ROC Mobile Training Institute. Aaron has been working in health and safety across multiple industries for many years and brings an optimistic perspective to decreasing injuries and overall improving the industry.

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