When are Employers (Clients) responsible for Contractor’ and Subcontractors’ Health and Safety?
Contractor projects often involve the use of contractors and subcontractors on most projects. Even though each contractor has a responsibility towards their own health and safety, it is imperative for employers to understand when they are responsible for contractor and subcontractor health and safety.
It is rare for an employer, or client, to only use a single contractor to handle everything. From scaffolding, excavations, groundworks, and even service connections, electrical and mechanical work, and numerous other tasks, subcontractors are often used to carry out certain packages of work as part of their specialisation.
Contractually, the main contractor may take responsibility for delivering the project where quality of the finish and the deadline is concerned. However, the client may not know the details of every subcontractor that was used in finishing the project.
When a contractor is appointed by a client, should the contractor choose to appoint a subcontractor to complete portions of work, the client will still hold the main contractor accountable for the overall project, the quality thereof, that it is completed according to the deadline, and when something goes wrong.
Who is responsible for Health and Safety?
Each contractor carries responsibility for their own health and safety but contractors who use subcontractors also have some level of responsibility for their health and safety.
Employers have a legal obligation towards the health and safety of employees. However, what about those who are not considered their own employees who work on the same site?
When considering the Occupational Health and Safety Act, no matter what the size of the project, the duration thereof, or who the client is, the OHSA applies to the work of the contractor. It is a crucial regulation and in failing to comply with it, it may lead to penalties, fines, prosecution, or prison time.
There must be a principal contractor appointed to a project that has more than one contractor. Their role is crucial as they have overall responsibility for health and safety on site. This means that they must ensure the health and safety of their own people along with the people of other contractors on site.
Principal contractors are appointed by the client and principal contractors have additional duties relating to health and safety. Should an incident occur, both the principal contractor and the contractor involved must investigate failings in health and safety.
The principal contractor must plan, manage, and monitor the construction phase of the project. They must also coordinate matters which relate to health and safety of all employees involved in the project.
The principal contractor must ensure that subcontractors under their charge is provided with a site-specific induction. The reason for this is that they oversee the site and they therefore have certain specifications and requirements, and all who work on the site must be made familiar with this through an induction.
In addition, the principal contractor must ensure that other contractors:
- Cooperate with one another as well as the principal contractor.
- Comply with all health and safety laws, requirements, and regulations.
- Apply the principles associated with prevention, and
- Follow the construction phase plan.
Should a subcontractor fail to adhere to the health and safety requirements, both the principal contractor and their subcontractor can be subjected to severe consequences.
For this reason, it is imperative that the principal contractor has effective procedures in place to manage subcontractors. These rules can be laid out in the construction phase plan and it can form part of a vetting procedure when subcontractors are appointed.
To ensure continuous and effective management of health and safety on site, it is imperative to ensure that subcontractors understand their duties and how they overlap with that of the principal contractor and client.
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, click here.