Blog   |   Jul 28th, 2017 Contractor Selection: 3 Key Considerations for Managing Coal Ash Construction Projects

Drilling And Surveying The Ponds

One of the most important aspects of successful coal ash unit closure project execution is the contractor selection process. How well this process is managed and executed will have a direct impact, positive or negative, on the quality of the work performed, how risk is managed during execution, and whether the project stays on budget.  As you work through the process of selecting a contractor to implement the construction phase of coal combustion residuals (CCR) projects, here are three key considerations to focus on:


Corporate safety culture is a critical area to evaluate when choosing a contractor to support your projects. Important statistics that document a company’s safety record include the Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR), the Experience Modification Rate (EMR), and the OSHA 300 and OSHA 300A Logs. But beyond accident data, understanding a company’s safety culture is likely the best indicator of how well the contractor protects its employees from injury. For example, it pays to understand a prospective contractor’s accident reporting and investigation procedures. Are these promptly and thoroughly investigated via follow-up interviews with all parties involved? Are “Lessons Learned” reports developed and shared with all staff to prevent future safety lapses and accidents? Is the senior management team fully invested in emphasizing the safety culture and worksite safety practices? All of these are important questions to have answered as you evaluate qualifications.

Financial Performance

Another critical evaluation criterion is company size and financial performance. It is important to determine if the contractor has sufficient cash flow to pay material suppliers, equipment vendors, and subcontractors throughout the execution phase of the project. Additionally, insurance limits and coverages should be evaluated in the context of the size, duration, and complexity of the project. Further financial considerations include bonding capacity and whether the contractor could provide a financial performance guarantee or surety bond should that be desired or required to ensure a project will be completed if the chosen contractor faces financial trouble. The company issuing the performance bond should be highly rated as well and have a satisfactory level of prior experience covering the contractor. Bonding companies can also be depended upon to have performed a high level of financial due diligence on the contractor.


The prospective contractor’s experience should be evaluated against the scope of work. Put most simply, have they done a project of this scope and complexity before? Do they have experience in a similar environment and/or geography? If the contractor’s experience aligns well with the scope, several other considerations should still also be evaluated:

  • Reputation in the marketplace
  • Effectiveness in working with similar clients, including collaboration and oversight
  • Recommendations and references from other clients
  • Risk-mitigation practices
  • Site safety program
  • Level of staff experience on similar projects
  • What staff performance in the interview process reveals about their knowledge, professionalism, and collegiality
  • Ability to work with local agencies securing required permits or licenses
  • Ability to work with oversight from regulatory authorities
  • Previous experience/relationships with the owners representative

In all construction, but especially in complex CCR projects that face extensive regulatory and public requirements, contactor selection can and often does have a direct impact on the outcome of a project. Qualifications, experience, and the project execution team are some of the most important criteria that make up an informed selection process. Doing the right research up front that enables you to choose the right contractor to support your project makes all the difference in meeting your schedule, staying on budget, and achieving a successful CCR closure solution.

For more information, join TRC at EUCI’s In-Depth Coal Ash Impoundment Closure Course September 25-26 in Denver, CO. Our team will be hosting an intensive workshop on September 25 dedicated to groundwater challenges and impacts, the contractor selection process, and construction approach and methodology. Please visit to register. 

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Blog Authors

Joel Roberts

Joel    Roberts