We often hear that managing contractors is extremely difficult, and that there is uncertainty surrounding the extent of the clients obligations. We also hear that some organisations feel contractors are not their responsibility and they are also unaware that this is not true. In this article we explain some strategies for managing contractors in a way that will reduce the burden and mitigate your risk.
There are many requirements associated with the management and control of contractors and consultants. It is important to ascertain that contractors are selected and accredited, and to ensure that their conditions of work and the state of the equipment is not going to cause them harm. It is also important that the contractor’s activities do not cause harm to others or the environment, the plant or the equipment.
A contractor by definition is a person providing a service to any part of the organisation but who is not an employee. This includes labour hire and sub- contractors.
What are our legal obligations in relation to contractors?
Managers and supervisors must be made aware of their legal obligations in relation to contractors, and particularly that the engagement of contractors does not remove the organisation’s Health and Safety related legal responsibilities or primary duties. This includes the duty to consult, cooperate and coordinate.
How do we ensure we are not spending too much time managing contractors?
A system can be established for the selection and, where appropriate, accreditation of contractors, like a pre-qualification register.
The selection process should take into account licences or registration required, the contractors' own Health and Safety Management System and the contractors' history of safety and health performance.
Your contractors should be required to provide sufficient documentation to demonstrate the existence and effectiveness of their Health and Safety Management System. This could include things like:
- Accident and incident statistics
- A demonstrated system to identify and manage risk
- A documented system for specific tasks and working environments (e.g. procedures and work instructions)
- Records of Health and Safety training
- Records of Health and Safety audits and inspections (particularly for larger contractors)
- Records of prosecutions, and improvement and prohibition notices (if any).
What about contractor’s equipment and materials?
Managers should inspect the equipment used by contractor’s prior to use. It’s important that managers and supervisors responsible for the contractor’s activities satisfy themselves that the contractors have the right equipment, and its in good condition. Managers and supervisors are not expected to have specific expertise in the nature of contractors activities, but they are expected to demonstrate due diligence and question the relevant parties until they are comfortable that they have done everything within their power and competency to ensure the activities are carried out safely.
Material Safety Data Sheets for example, should be provided for all substances, for which they are required, and the appropriate measures to ensure health and safety implemented.
How much monitoring and reporting is necessary?
The Manager responsible for the contract should also conduct regular monitoring of the contractors' activities, to ensure compliance with the contract's WH&S requirements. The frequency and nature of the monitoring is dependant on the nature of activities being undertaken. As a guide, high risk activities should monitored almost constantly, however low risk activities depending on their nature could be monitored at the start of the day and once again after lunch and again at the end of the day. Its important to note this is general guidance only, it really does depend on the risk profile.
All accidents and incidents involving contractors' personnel must be investigated and reported. Corrective and preventative actions should be applied as soon as practicable. High risk issues should be addressed immediately.
Where there is a breach of contractor Health and Safety requirements by the contractor, appropriate disciplinary measures should be executed immediately.
Should we give every contractor the same induction?
No, not necessarily.
A comprehensive programme of induction training (including emergency response training) must be conducted for all contractors' personnel.
Induction should include entry and registration requirements (i.e. site access, identification tag to be displayed or able to be produced upon request).
However, the induction of contractors’ personnel should also be as appropriate to:
- The length and nature of the contract
- The hazards associated with the work to be carried out
- The working environment the contractor’s personnel may be exposed to.
- The level of risk the activities give rise to.
Some organisations have successfully implemented programmes where the extent of the induction process and the subsequent requirements are directly proportionate to the risk profile assigned to the activity. i.e. Consultants, sales people, professions, auditors, etc are deemed low risk and trades deemed high risk. This has the effect of matching the level of management resources with the level of risk.
Our comprehensive Contractor Pre-qualification Service (CPS) takes the hassel out of contractor management requirement sfor you.