Choosing the right contractor for you

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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

(Last updated )

What is a contractor?

A contractor is anyone you ask to do work for you who is not an employee. This might be a company or a single person carrying out a specific job for you. Some of the most common types of contractors carry out building work, catering, or cleaning, to name but a few.

But what if your contractors aren’t as dependable as they seemed when you hired them? What if they injure themselves on your site and the words ‘civil claim’ start getting bandied about?

Contractors are at higher risk than your employees – they’re not as familiar with your site procedures to control hazards and risks. It means they’re much more likely to have an accident than anyone else.

What are employers legally required to do to manage contractors?

By law, contractors must take care not to endanger themselves, their colleagues or others affected by their work. When you contract out work, your arrangements with contractors need to be clear and consistent.

When you’re creating risk assessments, think of everyone in the workplace. If contractors are ever present in your workplace, your controls need to cover them.

Why is it important to manage contractors?

A ‘hands-off’ approach to managing contractors might seem like less paperwork at the outset, but it can have disastrous consequences for a business.

Equitas Academies Trust wanted to replace some old windows. They appointed Birmingham Glass Service Ltd (BGS), who tore the windows out with no safety induction, or indication of any asbestos on site.

They soon came across strips of asbestos insulating board (AIB) packers. Instead of stopping work immediately to get it removed by specialists, they took the strips out with crowbars. They broke them up and dumped them elsewhere on site.

BGS workers had no training on asbestos awareness, and no protective equipment to keep them from breathing in asbestos fibres – not to mention staff and students around them.

Equitas had no emergency procedures for asbestos exposure, despite knowing there was asbestos on the premises. Clean-up and decontamination cost the academy around £20,000, and parts of the school had to be sectioned off to prevent further exposure.

On top of this, Equitas were handed a £7,500 fine from Birmingham Magistrates’ Court for breaching Section 3 (1) of HASWA. BGS were fined £5,000 for their part, pleading guilty to a breach of Section 2 (1) of the same Act. 

How does contractor quality control work?

Responsible contractors factor the costs of managing safety into their tender. The popular myth that ‘safety slows down work’ is bogus.

Follow these steps carefully and consistently to ensure you manage contractors:

Pre-qualify contractors to check they have the skills and competence to complete the work

Carry out a risk assessment to determine the potential for injury or illness

Provide contractor induction training to inform them of hazards present on site

Draw up a control of contractors policy to ensure a consistent approach is taken for selection, supervision and communication between parties

Monitor, review and actively manage issues so you can assess contractors’ performance, incident reporting, and compliance with safety rules.

Remember, if they’re a safe contractor, they’re an efficient contractor.

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