As the weather improves, the window cleaner welcomes in the spring with shiny windows and the first cut of grass is done. You might be forgiven for missing the basics.
Managing social care provision in care homes, extra care and supported living housing, domiciliary care branches and surgeries can present many challenges, so having contractors on site has to be managed effectively to protect vulnerable adults from harm and staff.
Who are contractors?
Essentially anyone who is not employed by the company either permanent, temporary or as a volunteer. The definition of the term “contractor” is defined as an individual, company or organisation which is engaged by the business (other than an employee) to carry out work for gain or reward. Some contractors use “sub-contractors” who work on behalf of the main contractor. The main contractor would be responsible for sourcing their own sub-contractors.
How do I manage the risk?
Before any work is completed it is important to assess what needs to be done by whom and when.
- Do I need to do this work?
- The environment in which the work is being done ie: a resident’s bedroom – say a damaged door or a leaking radiator etc.
- Time the work is being done
- The equipment being used
- Environmental factors ie: noise, dust, fire risk
- Other hazards.ie: electrics, cables, risk of asbestos, water
- Does the resident (s) need to be moved whilst the work is being done and for how long – is there a spare room if needed!
What do I need to do to ensure I have safe contractors?
Where the skill required to complete work does not exist within the staff team, this will be outsourced. Care providers often have an approved contractor list – companies that meet an agreed standard in terms of health and safety. Here are some basics that must be in place to protect your business, your staff and customers:
- Insurance – Full Public and Employers liability, and Professional Indemnity
- Enhanced DBS checked
- Trade affiliation – Construction Line, Considerate Contractor Scheme, CHAS registered etc
- RAMS (risk assessments and method statements)
- Qualifications of company Director and staff undertaking the work
- Permit to work (where applicable)
- Emergency procedures and contact numbers
- Accident stats (latest)
- Health and Safety Policy
A contractor questionnaire should be provided prior to the commencement of work which will cover these areas and must be completed along with original documentation to validate.
What are the reasons for sourcing contractors?
There are many reasons however the main ones are:
- Lack of capacity or skill set within the staff team
- A specialist skill is required. A specialist would not only have the skill to complete the task, they would also have the skill to manage any high risk works ie: electrical, gas, working at heights etc
- Financial – higher risks are managed by a specialist and overhead expenses reduced
The main disadvantage is that contractors may not be familiar with the workplace which could affect how they work safely.
What does the law require?
Social care providers not only have a duty to their own staff, consideration must be given to those who are not employed by the care provider (employer) but are required to do works for the employer. The main piece of legislation is The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and namely section 3 which cites the following:
“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.”
3 (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.”
The first part refers to the employer who under section 3 (1) must not expose contractors to unnecessary health and safety risks by the employers undertaking.
The second part places a duty on the contractor (or self-employed) who under section 3 (2) must not expose other people to health and safety risks by their (the contractors) undertaking.
Contractors knowing the working environment – induction?
A key part of contractors being safe on site (and also your staff and residents) is ensuring that once the contractors have been approved and arrive on site, they receive a full induction. Induction of contractors will include the following:
- Fire arrangements (including evacuations)
- First aid
- Welfare facilities (toilets, hot and cold water, showers if needed) – these may need to be separately provided.
- Point of contract during the works (including emergency contact)
- The building layout (general tour of the building and various access points etc)
- Supervision arrangement and what contractors can and cannot do/ can and cannot access.
- The residents (customers) group ie: tools not left unattended by contractor!
- Professional boundaries (not providing personal information, arm’s length ie: personal space, appropriate language etc)
- Vehicles and tools to be locked away at all times when not in use.
- Do not block emergency access and egress points both for persons and emergency services.
No contractor must start work until the induction is completed and they sign/date to say they have understood and agree to the terms.
Health and Safety in Care homes – chapter 13 (HSG220)