Taking Contractor Safety Standards to New Heights in India at the DuPont Knowledge Center

Published: 2009

DKC achieved more than 3.5 million safe hours, over 5 million hours without a lost workday case and has a total recordable cases rate of 0.04, while completing the construction project under budget.




In 2007, DuPont India announced plans to invest more than US$30 million to construct its first research and development center, the DuPont Knowledge Center (DKC) in Hyderabad, India. When the DKC construction project was conceived and approved, workplace safety was a top priority for DuPont with an additional focus on reducing its contractor injuries and instilling safety practices for contract workers. The company’s primary consideration was to hire safe contractors and subcontractors, and then influence and enforce their safe behavior at the construction site.       

Contractor safety during construction is of major concern to most of the companies in India, as well as elsewhere, when having to deal with issues such as:


  1. Lack of leadership commitment for safety
  2. High illiteracy rate
  3. Lack of training
  4. High labor turnover rate
  5. Lack of safety commitment because safety is considered a cost not an investment
  6. Belief that work can be done faster if safety rules and regulations are eliminated or overlooked


In the design and construction of DKC’s state-of-the-art discovery research and application center, many critical safety factors were considered. The DKC design team had to work under an extremely tight timeline and budget, deal with a labor-intensive construction industry in India, and compete against the backdrop of a booming Indian economy where all national-level contractors were occupied with mega-infrastructure projects in the country (leaving little time and expertise for smaller-scale projects)

“Our objective from the beginning was to create positive change in the culture and mindset of those involved with construction. The challenge was to have construction contractors and workers first accept and then embrace safety personal protective equipment as essential tools of the trade. By sharing our safety knowledge and experiences with our contractors and working with them to ensure the construction practices matched DuPont safety standards, I believe we have made a lasting impact on the local construction industry and on a significant population beyond our company.”

Mr. Homi Bhedwar Director, DKC

DuPont Knowledge Center


As a result of the foregoing issues, DKC elected to invite qualified local-level construction companies to bid for their construction project. While these construction companies have their own safety management processes, most did not comply with DuPont safety criteria and best practices. DKC developed a series of contractor selection requirements, including visits to bidding companies’ existing projects to gain first-hand knowledge of and observe implementations of their on-site safety standards.


A roadmap based on the six-step dss+ Contractor Safety Management System was used to help navigate this effectively. Following this rigorous process, Indu Projects was selected based on their safety standards and practices, as well as their meeting other specified criteria. More importantly, Indu Projects had demonstrated leadership commitment and willingness to embrace and implement the dss+ safety management processes. While Indu Projects was the main contractor, some contractors including Micron, Blue Star, Fire Pro, Eleganz and Honeywell were also appointed to complete the entire construction process based on their positive attitude towards safety.


Engaging 9,000 construction workers from multiple contractor companies and ensuring their compliance with DuPont safety practices enabled DKC to begin work on their new facility in June 2007.


Managing system to keep contract workers safe


Many steps were developed and implemented to ensure that a coordinated safety program between DKC and Indu Projects and their subcontractors started on the right track, and that subsequently, construction progress and safety performance would be maintained and sustained. One of the critical success factors was DuPont ownership of the site safety performance and its direct involvement in the management of the entire construction process.


Beyond safety orientation, training and equipment, DKC provided comprehensive health examinations, medical treatment, and health awareness program for the contractors.


As a result of its unwavering commitment to safety, the DKC project team achieved the significant milestone of more than 3.5 million safe hours between June 2007 and May 2008. To date, DKC has achieved more than 5 million hours without a lost workday case and has a total recordable cases rate of 0.04, while completing the construction project under budget. These landmark achievements are 5 to 6 times better than average site safety.


The six-step dss+ contractor safety management system.     


On any given day, DKC counted more than 550 contractor workers on their job site, and yet DuPont was able to maintain one of the lowest contractor injury rates, with associated dollar savings in the thousands.

The dss+ Contractor Safety Management System consists of six steps. Each step is equivalent to a signpost along the journey of sustained safety improvement.



Step 1: Contractor selection 

To kick-start the contractor selection process, a DKC Project Management Committee (PMC) comprising representatives from the safety, construction, sourcing, project management and legal teams was established. The team was empowered to identify contractors who are compatible with DuPont expectations on safety, quality, delivery and cost.


Once the bids were received, the PMC evaluated their safety performance on criteria such as injury rates, safety systems and programs they implemented, and competency of contractor people to be assigned to the project/ construction site. To have first-hand information on the short-listed contractors’ safety matrix, on-site validations were conducted on their on-going projects. A spread sheet on evaluations was compiled and scoring was assigned for comparison.


The outcome was a qualified bidders’ list, which indicated companies pre-screened for their safety capabilities.



The shortlisted bidders were those who had a management commitment to safety and agreed to follow the DKC Construction Manual in totality. They were thereafter thoroughly evaluated on various aspects of safety management including safety personnel, equipment and system.


Step 2: Contract preparation 

Every detail in the contractor safety management process was reviewed. Documentation from bid document to Request for Proposals (RFPs) had DuPont safety expectations clearly stated, including:


  • Site Safety Plan as part of the contract document
  • Development of contract package(s) that used specific customized language in the documentation to clarify DuPont safety expectations for a particular contracting need
  • Assistance to the appointed contractor to develop a system on how to enforce their contractor safety requirements


Some of the specific points included in the contract were:

  • Compulsory on-board safety orientation for supervisors, workers and visitors
  • One safety steward for every 50 workers
  • Number of dedicated housekeeping personnel based on the total number of contractor workmen at site and requirement at each project stage
  • Contractor-operated workshop to provide basic needs and maintain good hygiene
  • Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) requirements – types of PPEs required for various tasks, including safety glass for all workers and use of safety harnesses with double lanyard
  • Supply of PPEs chargeable to contractor in the event where they failed to replace workers’ damaged PPEs
  • Definition of conformance
  • Penalty for every third non-conformance at Rs5,000 per day (approximately US$100)
  • Type of scaffolds, power tools and other tools required for various tasks
  • Weekly safety audits and compliance to act on audit findings


Step 3: Contract reward

An extended team comprising the PMC, the DuPont Project team and dss+ safety professionals then carried out the following:

  • Pre-bid meeting to apprise bidders on project schedules and scope of work, along with a review of their ability to fulfill requirements.
  • Evaluation of bids and short-listing of bidders
  • Bidder site visits and evaluation of these sites
  • Analysis of site visit findings and meeting with bidder’s top management team to ensure areas identified were covered/discussed
  • Award of job


Step 4: Orientation and training

Once the contractor was appointed, the next step was to ensure that the contract workers understood the project’s specific safety requirements. An orientation program for all the contractor workers was instituted with an additional craft skill program for specific jobs.


Detailed records were kept for the attendance, and the ID card necessary for site entry was issued only after each contract worker had completed the orientation segment and other necessary training programs.


More than 9,000 people were trained over a period of 17 months. The average per day manpower estimated for the project was 550 workers required for the job completion.


Step 5: Managing the contractor

The following processes were put in place to ensure construction work was carried out

according to the roadmap:    


  1. Conducting safety audits involving contractors’ management team
  2. Appointment of safety stewards - one steward for every 50 contract workers
  3. Sharing of audit findings and ensuring corrective actions were taken
  4. Tracking of week-on-week improvement
  5. Regular Safety Committee and sub-committee meetings and tracking of follow-up actions
  6. Designation of each week day for a specific purpose, for example, Monday- PPE inspection; Tuesday - tools inspection; Wednesday - electrical inspection; Thursday height works, fall protection inspection; and Friday - tool box meetings
  7. Sharing of trends with contractors’ management teams
  8. Sharing of ‘Unsafe Acts’ during safety assembly as required
  9. Celebration of milestone achievements including rewards and recognition
  10. Refresher safety training for all contract workers once every six months
  11. Assessment of red safety execution again contract requirements
  12. Periodic audits to reflect commitment to injury prevention vs just “policing”
  13. Installing a follow-up process that continuously drove improvement, thus avoiding repetition of common errors


“With a large contractor workforce where contractors might have operated under their own safety rules, imposing and maintaining site safety standards was a constant challenge. “There was finger pointing when an incident happened, and bickering was constant right down to arguments over housekeeping standards,” said Mr. Balamurugan Subburaj, Construction Safety Manager, DKC.


Step 6: Post-contract evaluation

The following performance criteria were critically evaluated by Safety Professionals, Project Manager and the PMC:

  • Number of non-conformance notices issued to contractors for safety violations observed in audits and daily safety inspection
  • Response to addressing identified unsafe acts and unsafe conditions
  • Participation in safety committee meetings, weekly assembly meetings, audits and awareness training programs
  • Internal SHE managing process such as regular safety review meetings, training by internal resources, and team recognition for best SHE performance
  • SHE performance metrics including near-miss cases and first-case cases


“Within a month, we saw effective knowledge and skill transfer through this combination of classroom work and field work. Each learning experience was tailored to the needs of a specific work group and they have been well-received by workers and management alike,” added Mr. Balamurugan.


dss+ also developed and maintained leading and lagging indicators for measuring the safety performance. They were used to continually design and develop safety improvements.


Some of the indicators used were:

  • Safe and Unsafe Acts Indices
  • Serious Potential Incident (SPI) Data and Analysis
  • All Safety Audit Findings
  • Quality of Safety Audits
  • Training Records and Effectiveness
  • Safety Meeting Completeness and Quality



DKC Phase I, built on a 15-acre campus was completed in a record time of 17 months, within budget and setting a new benchmark of safety in the Indian construction industry. The project team trained more than 9,000 construction workers and delivered the project with zero lost workdays (one restricted workday) while logging more than 5 million man-hours – a remarkable achievement in the challenging local environment.


Only one restricted workday case happened and from this experience, DKC helped to improve a deficiency.


Mr. Bhedwar attributed the following as reasons for the shift in safe behavior:


  • Implementation of consistent safety standards from housekeeping requirements to incident reporting throughout the site
  • Recognizing improvements through public sharing, awards and celebrations


Acknowledging individuals who had demonstrated good safety practices• Clear safety goals and expectations coupled with training and consistently tracking individuals who had demonstrated good safety practices


“It was rewarding to see the change in the contract workers’ attitude – from initial resistance to embracing the DuPont safety culture – and the results are testaments to the effectiveness of the system,” said Mr. Bhedwar.