Many businesses use contractors to help with one off projects or on a long term basis.
A contractor is someone who is carrying out work for a company but is not actually an employee of that company. Similarly, a sub-contractor is an individual or a firm that is brought on by the contractor.
While they might not be technically employees of the company, that doesn’t mean that health and safety in the workplace isn’t applicable to them.
So, what do you need to do for contractors and sub-contractors from a health and safety perspective?
Why Are Contractors More Of A Risk?
One of the reasons why more attention has to be paid to contractors is that they often work in environments that are unfamiliar to them. While your core staff will know the workplace and associated risks, contractors often won’t.
Exposure to certain chemicals, unsafe areas and other risks are common in the workplace and if contractors aren’t brought up to speed with these safety issues then it not only puts themselves and other employee’s at risk but potentially members of the public too.
Contractors might have all the relevant training however being new in a working environment and perhaps only being there for a short period of time increases the risk of accidents and safety breaches happening.
Contractors And The Law
So, what does the law say for companies that hire contractors to work on projects?
When it comes to health and safety, an employer has the same legal duties in regards to contractors and subcontractors as they do with ordinary employees. The law states that employers have a duty to protect contractors and sub-contractors from harm and to ensure that all steps are taken to reduce the likelihood of accidents occurring.
Sections 2, 3 and 4 of the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) set out an employer’s duties in regards to contractors and The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999) further establish the legal basis for the employer – contractor relationship.
A Guide To Working Safely With Contractors
The key to working safely with contractors is to carry out due diligence beforehand and then operate good practices to select the right contractors for the job.
Have a look at a contractors’ accident statistics if available and also seek evidence of training, qualifications and health and safety development. Make sure that you also chase references from other firms that have hired the contractor and also carry out appropriate risk assessments.
When it comes to working with contractors after the selection process you should monitor their health and safety performance on a continual basis, conduct an assessment at the end of the contract and create a list of ‘approved contractors’ for future reference.
Working with contractors and subcontractors doesn’t mean that an employer can shirk away from the health and safety responsibilities that they have. The same laws apply to contractors as they do with ordinary employers and even though contractors provide a valuable service the risk is often increased with their presence so extra measures and caution should be taken.