In this post, we aim to provide some basic guidance businesses with managing contractors.
We’ve broken the process down into 5 parts, to help you step through a logical sequence of actions when you are responsible for managing contractors.
What is a Contractor?
A contractor* is anyone you ask to do work for you who is not an employee.
In a typical workplace, this might include cleaners, waste contractors, builders, tradesmen and service engineers.
* Contractor: When we refer to ‘contractor’ or ‘contractors’ in this article, we are not referring to agency or temporary workers (also often referred to as ‘Contractors’).
This post will help inform you on how to comply with health and safety law when managing contractors.
Now that we’ve defined the term contractor in this context, let’s look at our first step when it comes to effectively managing contractors.
Step 1: Planning
Identify all aspects of the work you want the contractor to do. Consider the health and safety implications of the job.
Remember, the level of risk will depend on the nature and complexity of the work.
You should provide potential contractors with this information and make sure they know and understand the performance you expect of them. You could (and should) include this information in the job specification.
This step is about how to plan the contractor’s job. After working through it you will be able to understand more about the practicalities of risk assessment and planning to reduce risks.
You need to answer these two questions:
■ What is the job?
■ How can it be done safely?
Once you know what the job is, you need to build in health and safety by carrying out a risk assessment.
Managing Contractors | Assessing the Risks
Clearly, there is a need for communication and close co-operation between you (the Client) and the contractor so that all risks associated with the job are covered.
You should already have a risk assessment for the work activities of your own business. Make sure your assessment covers risks to contractors from your business (e.g. asbestos, production processes, plant movements, on-site vehicles). Equally, you need to think about any risks to your workers and members of the public, because you have contractors on site.
The contractor must assess the risks for the contracted work and then both of you must get together to consider any risks from each other’s work that could affect the health and safety of the workforce or anyone else. Their risk assessment should fit in with your own and provide you with critical information.
Contractors may prepare a detailed safety method statement on how they intend to carry out the job so that risks are controlled and managed. This should be based on the risks identified to the health and safety of employees and others who could be affected by the work.
Make sure you agree the measures needed to control risk with the contractor before work starts.
Safeti Check | Assessing Risks
Do you ask contractors to provide risk assessments or safety method statements?
■ Keep a check for those who don’t or are unwilling.
■ Make sure you agree exactly how to do the work.
Step 2: Choosing a Contractor
You will need to satisfy yourself that the contractor you choose can do the job safely and without risks to health. This means making enquiries about the competence of the contractor – do they have the right combination of skills, experience and knowledge?
The degree of competence required will depend on the work. Similarly, the level of enquiries you make should be determined by the level of risks and the complexity of the job.
The deciding factors about the contractor you choose may include:
■ Availability – contractor W is available … but do they know about the hazards
of working on a chemical site
■ Cost – contractor X is the cheapest … but are they the safest (or at least acceptably so)?
■ Technical competence – contractor Y seems technically competent … but last
time they were on site there was an accident
■ Reliability – contractor Z did the job last time … but they always sent different
people each day.
■ Health and safety – check their policy, performance and procedures
Key Points |
This step is about establishing the contractor’s competence. You need to:
- select contractors with health and safety as one of your key
- specify your requirements for health and safety;
- ask questions and get evidence. Find out their:
– health and safety policy and practice;
– training and competence;
– supervision arrangements;
- develop preferred contractors – those you can rely on, with established arrangements for health and safety.
Step 3 | Managing Contractors On Site
You and the contractor need to communicate with each other throughout the process. Make sure that the contractor and their employees have information on:
- Health and safety risks they may face;
- Measures in place to deal with those risks;
- Your emergency procedures.
When managing contractors, the information you provide to them should be in a form that is easy to understand. Similarly, you must provide clear instructions, information and adequate training for your own employees.
Decide what you need to do to manage contractors’ work.
The measures you put in place should be consistent with the level of risk, i.e. the greater the risk, the more you need to do.
You may want to consider the following:
- Who will be responsible for the work and what do you expect them to do?
- Who will supervise the work and how?
- How will the work be done and what precautions will be taken?
▬ What equipment should or should not be worked on/used?
▬ What personal protective equipment is to be used and who will provide it?
▬ What are the working procedures, including any permits-to-work?
- What are the arrangements for stopping the work, if there are serious health
and safety concerns?
Once the work has started, make sure you keep a check on how the work is going
against what you have agreed. You can do this by:
- regular checks – ask yourself ‘are the control measures working?’
- investigating if things go wrong, eg near misses, accidents, ill health. Ask yourself ‘what went wrong and what can we do to prevent it happening again?’
After the job is finished, there will be benefits in reviewing and learning from any
lessons to see if performance can be improved in future.
Arrival on Site
All businesses need to control the coming and going of people in and out of their premises. Maybe you already have a reception area with a book for visitors to sign. It is worth looking at your arrangements to see if there is room for improvement. Do you always know who is with you – and where they are?
You probably have site health and safety rules – such as use of eye protection or
other protective equipment; whether or not smoking is permitted; what to do in
the event of an emergency etc. Contractors need to be told about these. You may
have sent the contractor a copy of your site rules in advance. It is a good time to
recap on these when contractors arrive on site.
Contractors need to be told about the hazards they face when they come on site.
Often an induction talk/presentation is the best way of passing this information on. It is worthwhile checking that they have understood any essential points.
Standard information can be made up in advance, e.g. cards, notices, booklets. Some companies use an induction video about the company and the site. It shows the key health and safety messages before any work starts.
Contractors need a site contact – someone to get in touch with on a routine basis or if the job changes and there is any uncertainty about what to do. The site contact should be somebody nominated who is in a managerial position with
sufficient authority and competence
Step 4 | Keeping Check
Cooperate and coordinate with the contractor. You and the contractor must work together and coordinate your activities, to make sure the work can be done safely and without risks to health. One way of doing this is to have regular meetings throughout.
- The level of cooperation needed will depend on the job to be done;
- the number of contractors (or subcontractors) involved;
- the risks involved.
Safeti Check | Contractor Management
- Is the work being done as agreed, eg using necessary PPE according to the
conditions of the PTW?
- The scope of the job – is the contractor going beyond the scope intended?
Have any problems arisen which mean you need to rethink the job?
- Are any special arrangements needed, eg due to changes in timing, out of
hours or weekend work?
- Are there changes in workers – new people who haven’t been on site before
and who need information?
Step 5 | Contractor Review
The contractor’s job is complete when the work has been done according to plan and the agreement between you. Reviewing is about evaluating the quality of the work against both the job and the contractor’s performance.
The other reason for reviewing is to learn what will be done differently next time to
improve your practice. Review involves evaluating the health and safety of all other steps:
2 choice of contractor;
3 the work;
4 effectiveness of the contact and supervision.
Any surprises and lessons learned are recorded and used for the next time. The record can be used when revising your list of preferred contractors.
After the job is finished, review it to:
- evaluate quality;
- learn what went well and what didn’t so the lessons may be applied
Of course, it makes sense to keep a record of your findings and store it in your Health and Safety Maangement system!