Health and Safety for Contractors and Suppliers, who is Responsible? You or them?


Introduction to Health and Safety Responsibilities

It is common for organisations, clients, or employers, to make use of contractors to help them perform essential activities as well as skill-specific tasks. However, an important consideration with regards to health and safety for contractors and suppliers, is who is responsible? You, or them?

The business owner, or client, may already have a reasonable handle on the health and safety responsibilities where their own employees are concerned. However, a lot of employers may not be sure where contractors fit into the picture.

When engaging with contractors who are not familiar with the safety procedures of the employer, there may be a substantial number of risks, which could lead to the employer in failing their responsibility as a business owner.

This is something that employers cannot afford, neither can they afford to be ignorant regarding the duties that they owe their contractors. It is therefore vital to understand who is responsible for contractor safety when they are on the premises of the employer.

Contractors may not possess a full understanding or knowledge of the employer’s safety management systems. They may also not be trained or overseen in the same manner as the direct employees of the employer.

This results in contractors posing a considerable risk to safety on site. Not only will the appointed contractor be exposed to risks which exist on the employer’s premises, there is potential that they may introduce new risks, which may pose a threat to employees.

Employers are legally obliged to produce a healthy and safe working environment, where there is no danger to the health, safety, or wellbeing of employees, but how can employers manage risks introduced by their contractors?

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Is the Employer accountable for their contractors?

In short, the answer is yes. Employers are tasked for the health and safety of a contractor’s employees when they work on the employer’s premises. There cannot be sole reliance on the contractor to identify hazards, regardless of whether they have been hired for their specialist knowledge. It is also not acceptable for the employer to delegate their responsibilities.

To ensure that the duty of care is fulfilled, the employer must provide the necessary information, training, and supervision to enable everyone on site to conduct their work in a safe manner.

This also includes the contractor’s employees as they are no different from the employer’s direct employees. Once engaged, the contractor forms part of the system of work for which the employer carries responsibility.

Should the contractor be exposed to hazards and risks, the employer must put the necessary safety systems in place.


How can Employers exercise their duty of care towards contractors?

By making use of an effective and comprehensive contractor management system, employers can ensure that they meet their health and safety obligations towards contractors.

To effectively exercise their duty of care towards contractors, employers can address the following:

  • Selection criteria – by ensuring that the contractor is selected based on their expertise and their knowledge of workplace health and safety relating to the task.
  • Documentation – by reviewing all documents including, but not limited to qualifications, licenses, insurance, and safe work method statements.
  • Safety Induction – by ensuring that contractors are familiar with the workplace health and safety policies and procedures before work commences, and
  • Monitoring of activities – by ensuring that contractors are monitored and supervised to ensure that they work in accordance with the contractor management processes as well as workplace health and safety legislation.


What are the responsibilities of contractors?

In addition to the responsibilities and duties of the employer, contractors also have certain responsibilities towards their health and safety. Contractors can meet their duty of care by:

  • Demonstrating an effective Occupational health and safety management system.
  • Consulting with the employer regarding workplace health and safety risks.
  • Complying with contract-specific workplace health and safety requirements, rules, and regulations.
  • Implementing processes to effectively deal with any safety and health-related issues.


Be proactive with contractor safety

The employer must intervene should there be any indication of unsafe work practices in the workplace, regardless of whether it is a direct employee or contractor at fault. Worker ignorance is a liability that can count against both the employer as well as the contractor, and it is something which must never be overlook.

The extent of either the employer or the contractor’s responsibility will depend on their degree of control regarding the matter at hand. By demonstrating solid contractor management, risk management practices as well as safe systems of work is imperative.

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Employer and Contractor cooperation

The employer and the contractor must cooperate and collaborate on health and safety. Both the employer and contractor can be held responsible for non-compliance under workplace health and safety regulations.


What are the risks involved in engaging contractors?

Where specialised work is needed, the obvious solution may be to turn to a contractor. This allows to bring in the right skills to get the work done on time and according to the budget. However, there are things that clients need to consider before allowing the contractor to start working.

While there are numerous business benefits attributed to using contractors, they may also expose the client and their business to increased risk factors.


How can SafetyWallet help Employers and Contractors’ Health and Safety Compliance?

SafetyWallet works to ensure that its subscribers are supported and assisted in all matters relating to health and safety, and through a partnership with MAKROSAFE and OHS Online, subscribers can ensure that they are a part in creating a safer, healthier, and more compliant working environment. To find out how you can ensure employer and contractor’s Health and Safety compliance, Contact Us.

Posted date: 13th Mar 2021