Whatever your business, it is important to remember that as an employer, you always have a responsibility for the health and safety of people likely to affected by your work activity whether directly employed, working for you in any other capacity, contractors or members of the public. Sometimes it will be obvious that you have a duty to protect these people but in many cases that is not the case.

When you employee a contractor to carry out work on your behalf or of maintenance of your premises you must consider the risks to their health and safety and the risks they might create. You must be sure that their work and the way they work will not detract from or pose an additional risk to your workforce. You must not assume that they will work safely and without need for your involvement.

At the tender or quotation stage you need to ask them to explain how they are going to carry out the work, the risks to people nearby and the safety precautions that will be observed. Contractors should be able to provide risk assessments, method statements and where necessary detailed safe systems of work. Ask for these at an early stage, don’t allow work to begin until you are satisfied that it will be done without risk to health or safety. Don’t be tempted to accept generic documentation, it needs to be specific to your premises and your work. A good contractor will have no problem in supplying this information at this level of detail.

When the work begins you must also make sure that the contractor follows the method statement given to you. Don’t let them cut corners. If they say they are going to use a mobile elevating work platform for work at height make sure they don’t work from a ladder.

When things go wrong and the enforcing authorities become involved every party to the work is under scrutiny and liable to enforcement action. In a recent prosecution four different duty holders were prosecuted after a worker was injured while replacing a window in a prison.

Leeds Magistrates’ Court heard that the four parties were involved with the installation. Longcross Construction Ltd was the principal contractor. They employed Stuart Tombs of SJT Site Management Ltd as the site manager and sub-contracted the installation of the window to Fewell Engineering Ltd.

An employee of Fewel was operating a mobile elevating work platform and driving it to the location of the work when one of the wheels struck another Fewel employee and partially ran over his feet. The injured man suffered multiple fractures in his right foot, a fracture of his left ankle and significant soft tissue damage to both feet.

The court was told that although Fewell Engineering had prepared risk assessments and method statements for the work they were inadequate; in legal terms they were not suitable and sufficient. Longcross Construction failed to check those risk assessments and method statements properly and had not checked that Stuart Tombs was competent to supervise work with a mobile elevating work platform or carry out a suitable site safety induction. As a result SJT Site Management had not delivered a suitable site safety induction for those working on this job and did not competently supervise the mobile elevating work platform in operation. In the course of the investigation it was also discovered that Stuart Tombs had forged or fabricated health and safety documents in an attempt to deflect responsibility.

All 4 duty holders pleaded guilty to breaching requirements of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 Fewel Engineering was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay costs of £702. Longcross Construction Limited, was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay costs of £303. SJT Site Management Limited was fined £600 and ordered to pay costs of £199. Stuart Tombs was fined £100 and ordered to pay costs of £149.

Peninsula’s Business Safety clients have access to information and guidance on health and safety requirements when employing contractors and when contracting for others. It includes information on how to assess a contractor’s competence and risk assessment and method statement templates. They can also call our 24 Hour Advice Service, 0844 892 2785 to discuss requirements, issues and problems with one of our qualified advisors.