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September 17, 2019


How are pre-qualification services affecting your business?

John Bestman

More and more hiring clients rely on third-party pre-qualification services such as ISNetworld, PEC Premier, PICS and Avetta/BROWZ.  These online databases review information supplied by the contractor and then report their findings to the hiring client.

ISNetworld is one of the largest third-party pre-qualification services in the construction and pipeline industry.  Established in 2001, ISNetworld (ISN) supports more than 575 hiring clients and 70,000 contractors and suppliers with operations in over 80 countries. ISN grades contractor approval on multiple levels of health, safety and environmental compliance, safety and training programs, financial/insurance documentation and regulatory statistical history. Audits are also performed periodically to ensure up-to-date regulatory compliance and for client-specific needs.

Why should you be concerned with third party pre-qualification databases?

  • You may have a long standing relationship with a client that starts to use third-party pre-qualification services such as ISN.
  • You may have a long standing relationship with a client that gets acquired by a larger corporation that requires you to be approved through ISN.
  • Your business may be growing into markets that require an ISN subscription to be considered for the work.

How do you get approved?
ISN uses a scoring system based on a number of different criteria. Typically, the scoring system uses an overall point scale that results in a letter grade of “A” through “F”. If you don’t have a “B” grade or higher you probably won’t be considered for the work without a variance. 

Scoring systems can vary widely depending upon the hiring client. Typically, there are 10 to 15 subcategories which are individually evaluated and scored by ISN, some examples of typical subcategories may include:

  • Contractor safety information
  • Subcontractor management program
  • Safety statistics
  • Written program review
  • Training documents
  • Insurance
  • Experience Modification Rate (EMR)

What can hurt your score?
While the ISN scoring system looks at a number of variables, there are three items that can have a significant impact on your ability to achieve a passing grade:

  1. A 3-Year OSHA Recordable Injury Rate (RIR) that is greater than industry average
  2. An OSHA citation or a fatality within three years
  3. An EMR greater than 1.00

In most ISN scoring systems, these three items are weighted more heavily than other subcategories and can account for more than half of your score

What can really help your score?
Review the scoring system that the hiring client is using and get maximum points where you can.  Making updates to your existing written programs and developing new written programs that are required by ISN are ways that you can easily improve your overall score. 

How much is an ISN subscription going to cost me?
An ISNetworld subscription lasts for one year and fees are based on the number of employees your company has (costs typically range from $1,700 to $5,000 per year).  Keep in mind, the subscription is only part of the costs that goes into managing your ISN subscription, there can also be significant indirect costs required.

Examples of the direct costs associated with an ISN subscription:

  • An ISN subscription requires an annual fee and one-time set-up fee
  • These costs are based on number of employees
  • You need a subscription BEFORE you can submit your information
  • The fee is not refunded if you do not get a passing grade

Examples of the indirect costs associated with an ISN subscription:

  • Additional insurance costs based on the ISN requirements
  • Administrative costs for managing your subscription such as uploading, revising, and developing written program requirements.
  • Even if you already have the required written programs, estimate an hour of time to make updates and answer the questions required by ISN for each program.
  • You may need to develop and implement a new written program, there are third-party written program assistance
  • The written program requirements change frequently, requiring updates.
  • You may need to provide training to employees on updated requirements, etc.

Are you ready for ISN?
Before purchasing an ISN subscription, ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Do you have an OSHA Recordable Incident Rate (RIR) that is greater than Industry Average?
  2. Do you have any OSHA Citations or fatalities on your record within the past 3 years?
  3. Do you have an Experience Modification Rate (EMR) that is GREATER than 1.0?

If you have answered “YES” to more than one of those questions it may be difficult to receive a passing grade and your company may not be ready for ISN. Engage with an MMA Safety and Risk Consultant to develop a long-term plan to improve your safety performance in order to achieve a passing grade.