A ‘Contractor’ is anyone you ask to do work for you who is not an employee. This means any trade or profession, any of which could create risks in your workplace, or sue you if they are injured while working for you. If your organisation hires contractors, whether that’s regularly or not, you have health and safety responsibilities you need to be aware of. These responsibilities extend to the contractors on site also too, of course, and thus it’s important for you to be sure that all bases are covered. Safe management of contractors is therefore as important as any other aspect of health and safety management.
The key to ensuring all your health and safety responsibilities are being met is through good management. Your contractors need protection, and those they work with need protection too. All parties involved should, therefore, be kept informed of what they must do to ensure your work setting is a safe and healthy place to operate.
Key aspects to consider when you’re managing contractors
The HSE provides excellent advice on how to do this, which can be read in more detail here (http://www.hse.gov.uk/managing/delivering/key-actions/key-actions-in-managing-contractors-effectively.htm). But we thought it worth giving you a summary of the key points they make.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Does each contractor have a clear idea of what is expected of them?
- Are contingency plans in place to which they can refer?
- Does your work culture demonstrate how important health and safety is to your organisation?
It’s important that the leaders of a business walk the talk and don’t advocate cutting corners to reduce costs, for example. If tasks aren’t allocated enough time to be done properly, it’s likely that accidents will occur and mistakes will be made at some point. If any manager has concerns about health and safety, you need to support their decisions to mitigate the problem.
Your managers should monitor every contractor’s health and safety performance. This is not always easy to achieve, so it’s worth asking these questions:
- How will the work be managed and supervised?
- What are the contractor’s health and safety plans?
- What assumptions are being made?
It’s best to carry out a joint risk assessment with the contractor so you can point out risks they may not be aware of. This will also give the contractor the opportunity to raise any health and safety considerations their operation may bring on site. It’s then important to hold regular meetings to ensure any further health and safety issues are addressed as they arise.
It’s critical that you have the right procedures in place. These need to be documented and accessible. And all staff, whether contracting or not, need to be aware of the salient points these procedures contain. Incident reporting must be taken seriously and each event investigated.
It’s important that all your staff, contractors and employees, are involved in ensuring that the work place is safe. There must be clear lines of communication, and everyone should know what is expected of them.
What training is available?
At Griffin, we’re more aware than most that contractors pose their own unique challenges when it comes to managing health and safety. We therefore encourage employers, and their managers, to attend our ‘Managing Contractors’ training course to ensure they are aware of the responsibilities they have regarding this.
A final thought
If you don’t appoint contractors who are safety conscious, or are made safety conscious through your briefing, it’s only a matter of time before an incident occurs. This can cost your organisation in time, money and reputation.
But to end on a positive note, there is a flip side too… Many contractors are very good in this arena. Information can flow both ways. And there’s no reason why an employer cannot learn from an experienced, safety conscious contractor. They are a resource that can benefit you in many ways.