One of the most common mistakes companies make when it comes to minimising their health and safety risk is not realising they are responsible for contractors operating on their site. And the results of this oversight can be costly: a recent case saw a UK company fined £220,000 along with £107,000 in court costs (and their contractor fined the same amount in court costs and a £190,000 fine) for the contractor's accident.
This case, along with other recent case law and legislation, will be discussed at a series of HSCE briefings held by EEF at locations across the UK to help those responsible for health, safety, climate and environment at their organisation understand what it all means for their organisation in practical terms.
So what are companies who bring contractors onto their site responsible for and how can they ensure they have the right legal protections in place?
It’s all in the risk assessment (or it should be)
As established by the Health & Safety at Work Act Section 3 and 4 (1974), companies are responsible for workers on their site that aren’t employees (including contactors).
The key to staying on the right side of the law when it comes to contractor safety is to ensure the contractor has a proper risk assessment for the work they will carry out.
The key to staying on the right side of the law when it comes to contractor safety is to ensure the contractor has a proper risk assessment for the work they will carry out. The HSE has a 5 step process for evaluating the strength of a risk assessment and three of those steps relate specifically to contractor risk assessments:
- Are all foreseeable hazards identified?
- Have all people that could be affected by hazards been considered (including people on the site, not just the contractor’s workers)?
- Have hazards been prioritised by seriousness and proportionate control measures put in place?
If a contractor does not have a strong risk assessment, it is wise to suggest they seek specific training on how to complete an effective risk assessment. Training is also advised for health and safety managers as well as those who deal regularly with hiring and overseeing contractor agreements. After all, how can an insufficient risk assessment be identified if the person looking over it doesn’t have a strong background in this issue?
There are two courses that health and safety managers and those responsible for contractor agreements should take:
- Managing contractors: This one-day course will enable those who engage contractors to improve health and safety and avoid the pitfalls that may lead to accidents. It will provide valuable information and practical guidance for any manager, supervisor or other person responsible for devising policy or contractor procedures, or for the day-to-day control of a contractor’s activity.
- Risk assessment: This one-day course is aimed at those required to conduct or oversee risk assessments in compliance with the Management of Health and Safety at Work regulations 1999. Mixing theory and practical content the course will improved delegates' risk management skills and enable them to confidently assess workplace risks.
On-going or one-time risk assessment review
HSCE managers who want expert reassurance that their company’s risk assessments or contractor policies are up to speed should consider bringing in a consultant for a best practice review.
For ongoing advice on HSCE advice and guidance, many companies turn to an ongoing support package, such as EEF’s HSCE advice and guidance membership.