No matter what the job is, or how fast you need it to be completed, health and safety of your contractors is a step that you cannot skip. Organisations that use contractors, or subcontractors have a responsibility under Health and Safety Law to protect them from harm that could be caused by company work activities.
It is your duty of care under health and safety legislation and is non-delegable, meaning that it cannot be passed over to another party. In principle, you owe the same duties to your contractors, as you do your own employees. But, contractors still have their own duty of care to comply with regulations during their time in your workplace.
Here’s three steps to ensuring the safe working of contractors while they’re in your workplace:
‘When I’m pressed for time it’s easy to rush too quickly into getting someone in to do a job. In my opinion the time I take in planning a job properly is time well spent.’ Engineering manager (Chemical company, employing 45 staff).
Health and safety doesn’t start when the contractor arrives on site. You must plan. The planning step includes defining what the job is, and what you will need your contractors to do, which will then inform your health and safety assessment, highlighting hazards and risks.
You must then work to eliminate or reduce the risks to your contractors, and provide them with any information, instruction or any relevant training that could impact on their health and safety. Once you have specified health and safety conditions, it is a requirement that you record, and discuss them thoroughly with your contractor so that they are aware of all procedures.
It is vital that this process takes place before any work begins on your project.
Choosing a contractor
Choosing a contractor is an important part of ensuring safe working. You need to determine whether a contractor has the skills and the knowledge to carry out the contract to the required standards without any risk to health and safety.
In order to assess whether or not a contractor is competent, you can request that they provide the following:
- Evidence and experience in the same type of work
- References from previous clients
- Accident/ ill health statistics
- Evidence of qualifications, ongoing training and health and safety training
- Risk assessments and method statements for the work to be carried out
- Statement explaining their criteria for selecting subcontractors (where applicable)
Only ever use a contractor that you have determined as competent – something you should check as part of your pre-qualifying questionnaire (POQ).
As stated in the introduction, contractors must take positive steps to ensure that the worksite that their workers are sent to does not pose a risk to their health and safety. This might require the contractor to implement their own processes to ensure that their workers don’t carry out work that is unsafe.
“The safest system of work will fail without training, instruction or supervision of the personnel involved ... supervision of contractors may need to be greater than that for permanent employees if the safe systems devised are to be complied with.” HSE
Even though you have chosen a competent contractor, and planned for their time working for you, your responsibilities don’t stop there. You need to monitor and supervise them.
This can be anything from ensuring that contractors and their workers sign in and out every day, always wear site passes, and have to sign the site rules each day. All contractors must also have a contact person while they’re on site, and make contact with that person each day to inform them of how well the job is going, and whether there are any new hazards or risks that hadn’t been accounted for.
Monitoring contractors is a critical step to controlling your job. Before the contract began, you will have set KPIs, so make sure that you check what is being done, and how, whether the job is going as planned, and is abiding by your health and safety requirements. You need to be aware if there are problems so that changes and arrangements can be made where needed.
Self-assess your contractor management
Do you need to improve any of your procedures or processes for working with contractors? Why not find out by downloading Managing your subcontractors: A self-assessment guide, where you will be asked questions regarding your processes of contractor management.
The self-assessment guide after completion will highlight any areas you need to pay careful attention to, and provide you with advice for making improvements.
Photo credit: PAT Test North East