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Managing Contractors on the Premises
This article will provide information on the management of contractors on your premises. More and more healthcare service providers will have a mixture of different types of people working on their premises ranging from employees, agency workers to self employed contractors. The word ‘contractor’ and ‘sub-contractor’ are used interchangeably and cause confusion. The definition of a ‘Contractor’ means an individual, company or organisation engaged by the business (other than an employee) to carry out work for gain or reward whereas ‘Sub-contractors’ are individuals, companies or organisations employed to undertake works, for gain or reward, by the contractor. This article will use contractor to mean both.
Some of the higher risk jobs contractors are generally taken on to do are electrical work, fire inspections, maintenance, repairs, installation, and construction.
Employers within the workplace have a duty of care to everyone on their premise including contractors. Employers need to think carefully about the type of contractor they may engage with to deliver a service. The contractors need to provide the service to the same high level of standards expected on the premises.
Advantages and Disadvantages
The employer needs to consider both the advantages and disadvantages of taking on contractors to fulfil a role or provide a service. Some of the advantages of taking on a contractor are:
- Financial benefits - It is a cost effective way to fulfil a service with reduced overhead costs such as healthcare coverage, travel costs, expenses, payroll and other benefits minimising business expenditure.
- Specialist Skill Set - The contractor generally has acquired skills and comes to the work relationship with specialist education and experience background. The service may not be filled with in-house staff as it could be specialist high risk work.
A disadvantage of taking on a contractor is:
- Increased Risk - Introduce a hazard into the workplace by not carry out their role safely
The legal Part
There are general duties of employers and the self-employed to persons other than their employees within the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states:
"3 (1) It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.
(2) It shall be the duty of every self-employed person to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that he and other persons (not being his employees) who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety."
3 (1) places a duty on the employer not to expose persons not in their employment to health and safety risks.
While 3 (2) places a duty on the self employed person not to expose any person to health and safety risks.
Unfortunately contractors may feel they get an unfair reception from some businesses because of the amount of documentation requested before they begin work. A lot of contractors may be one person or more working in a small business but still need to provide evidence that they will carry out their work safely. The management bringing in the contractors has to undertake due diligence on the contractors to ensure they are not a risk to the business.
They may be requested to complete contractors’ questionnaires and provide evidence of their training and references from previous work completed. In addition they may be required to issue a safe system of work on the work they will be completing. It may seem a lot to provide when it is seen as a small job undertaken by two individuals but it is important to ensure risks are known and understood and then managed and contained.
Sadly, all too often contractors are involved in a lot of the accidents in the workplace either directly, or as a result of the hazards they created whilst carrying out their work. Understanding what they are allowed to do and not do needs to be discussed and recorded. It is also likely that a business may have several contractors doing different jobs within nearby areas. Communication is key between the management of the business and all contractors so everyone understands the other persons work and how it may impact on their area.
Induction of Contractors
The business as a starting point will need to approve the contractors working for the business through their approval process. Once all documentation has been received and the contractors starts work then the manager in charge of the contractors will need to issue them with a identity pass and carry out a health and safety induction on the building. This induction will need to cover all the topics covered in an employee induction such as fire evacuation procedure, first aid arrangements, emergency contacts, welfare facilities and specific building layout detail. The safety rules of what the contractor cannot do needs to be discussed and recorded, such as high risk ‘hot work’ which would require a ‘permit to work’ or other safety rules prohibiting contractors to enter unauthorised areas.
The next article will continue to review managing contractors and discuss the HSE five steps to managing contractors within your business.
QCS provide full health and safety management systems to help your business create the framework for contractor management.