Under Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, every organisation has a duty of care to anyone entering their premises, whether they’re an employee, customer, visitor or contractor. The specific legislation relating to contractors is the Management of Health & Safety at Work 1999 (MHSWR) Regulation 12 – persons working in host employers’ or self employed persons’ undertakings.
Contractors visiting premises to work will usually be unfamiliar with the workplace and its surroundings. Also, they’re likely to be carrying out more hazardous duties than those normally working on the premises. These duties may vary from the low-risk servicing of vending machines to hazardous activities connected to construction works.
Organisations need to manage contractors on their premises, both to safeguard contractors themselves and protect others who are using the building. If there’s an injury and the employer’s deemed negligent because of poor contractor management, the civil and criminal outcomes can be severe.
Organisations and individuals in the organisation responsible for health and safety (such as directors and health and safety representatives) can face prosecution. Plus, the injured party may bring a civil action for negligence against the organisation and any responsible individuals.
Make sure any contractors undertaking work are competent and can reduce health and safety risks attached to the contract. Choosing a competent and able contractor is essential, so depending on the task, you may need some or all of the following:
• Details of previous work, especially contracts similar in nature
• References from previous contracts
• Relevant trade association membership – e.g. NICEIC for electrical contractors or Gas Safe for gas installers
• A copy of the contractor’s health and safety policy
• General risk assessments
• Details of the contractor’s health and safety training – e.g. their employees’ CSCS qualifications
• Emergency procedures and first aid provision
• How they select and manage sub contractors
• Details of safe systems of work – e.g. method statements and permits to work
• Evidence of adequate public liability insurance
Once you’re happy, your contractor must carry out specific risk assessments relating to the contract before starting work.
You won’t need all of the above information for every contractor. For example, cleaning or office machine repairs only require evidence of competence. And if you already use a contractor regularly, you only need evidence of competence at the start of the contract, and after that confirmation of suitable insurances, annually.
Once you’ve considered the potential risks arising from contractors coming onto a site and the selection process, consider ways to control their activities.
As a basic control, ask contractors to display identification showing they’re part of the contracting team, including their name, company, position and photograph. Make sure they sign in when entering the site, so you know who’s on the premises if there’s an emergency.
Another way to manage contractors is to use work permits when you need to carry out hazardous work, such as using heat, working in confined spaces, or working on hazardous plant including electrical equipment. Work permits detail:
• The nature of the activity
• The period it’s valid
• Signature and details of the person authorising the work
• Acknowledgement and acceptance by the people carrying out the work
• Sign-off when the task is finished, the area is safe, and the permit cancelled
The main way to manage contractors for large construction projects is the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM). CDM safeguards contractors and anyone affected by their work, by making various duty holders in the construction process responsible. Namely, the client, planning supervisor, designer, contractor and principal contractor.
Overall, CDM regulations require all projects to identify, reduce and eliminate any foreseeable risks in the construction process, by incorporating health and safety into the design stage.
In essence, CDM ensures responsibility for creating a realistic project programme, and early appointment of key people, competent duty holders, and their cooperation with each other. It’s also responsible for identifying and reducing risks early and providing information throughout property design, construction, maintenance and demolition.
In summary, your organisation is responsible for managing contractors as much as anyone else using your premises. If your contactors’ work is hazardous, you need to regulate and control their activities carefully. That way you can avoid penalties, delays, and the time it takes to investigate accidents and undertake remedial works.