Managing Health & Safety with contractors

The UK has one of the leading contractor markets in Europe, enabled by more tolerant attitudes towards flexible working arrangements and more lenient regulations.

August 12, 2021

There are around 5 million independently employed individuals and of those 1.8 million full-time contractors working in the UK.The value of working with contractors is the versatility they bring. The contractor market offers specialists to deliver projects on time and within budget and can provide an impetus for change.

Almost all organisations use contractors at some time. Working with safe, credible and ethical contractors is vital for business growth. Supporting those contractors to keep them safe and well is a fundamental factor for a positive partnership.

The Health & Safety at Work Act applies to contractors

First and foremost you need to know that the Health and Safety at Work Act applies to contractors and subcontractors as well as employees. If you have a contractor working for you, then both you and the contractor will have duties under health and safety law. This also applies when a contractor employs subcontractors.

The impact of neglecting risk assessments

How important is health and safety? It’s certainly more than ticking a box for compliance. A recent case earlier this year highlighted the impact of neglecting risk assessments when a construction company was fined £250,000 and ordered to pay costs of £100,000 when a self-employed worker lost an arm due to an accident.

Sourcing the right contractors

Planning for contractor work and managing contractors once on site requires attention to numerous actions to ensure the work is completed without risk to health and safety.

Your approach to planning the work will help you to source the right contractors for the job. Providing project specifications and requirements, which should include any hazards that will effect workers and to assess risks, will enable contractors to decide if they have the experience and equipment to carry out the work for you. It will also enable you to ask pertinent questions, assess their reputation, and request evidence and accreditations to ensure you shortlist and select the most appropriate contractor. The contractor will need to carry out their own risk assessment and their assessment should fit into your own.

Once selected you should manage contractors throughout the duration of the project. Provide explicit instructions, setting clear expectations, and ensure contractors have a written copy before the project starts. This will help contractors plan and understand how the work will be managed and supervised.

Contingency planning

Consider your contingency plans too. These should include emergency procedures and clear processes if there is a workplace injury or incident. It’s important everyone knows what to do.

Make sure contractors and workers know what they’re responsible for to avoid any risks escalating. Be clear when they should not try and intervene, for example if it is a risk that they are not qualified to fix such as electrical works and any plant or machinery operations, as the intervention could have the opposite effect and increase the danger. 

Health & Safety Matters
Healthy Working Lives

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