Health and Safety Update – Contractor Management Best Practice

General / 25 June 2017
Health and Safety Update – Contractor Management Best Practice

All businesses need to consider their contractor management processes and planning, to meet the requirements of the new Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (Act).  Our team has been delivering seminars nationwide on best practice contractor management, and this article discusses what is required.

Section 36 of the Act sets out a primary duty to any person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) to “ensure, so far as reasonably practical, the health and safety of workers whose activities in carrying out work are influenced or directed by the PCBU, while the workers are carrying out the work”.  For the purposes of the Act, the term workers includes employees and contractors, including employees and contractors of subcontractors.

Multiple PCBUs
Where there are multiple PCBUs carrying out works on the same premises the Act creates obligations on each PCBUs to work together by consulting, co-operating and co-ordinating with each other to ensure the health and safety of workers, contractors and each other.

For example, where construction work is occurring, the PCBUs involved are likely to need to:

Complete JSAs together
Determine what each PCBU is doing
Discuss the hazards and risks each PCBU poses
Discuss timeframes, and requirements for each job and how they can work together
Discussing emergency procedures for the worksite
Decide who will bring the first aid kit/s, where it/they will be found and ensuring together that sufficient first aiders are available
Have tool box meetings together
Prequalification, induction and monitoring are crucial contractor management best practice steps to ensure you are consulting, co-operating and co-ordinating.

Liability risk can’t be avoided by “passing on” the responsibility for health and safety to a contractor – prequalification is a necessary step, and just as important in terms of contractor engagement as discussing cost and billing.

Prequalification is measured dependant on the business and the task that is to be done, so that risky work would clearly require more significant prequalification.  PCBUs must determine appropriate prequalification for their contracting needs – ways of assessing prequalification can be as simple as:

Determining that the contractor takes health and safety seriously, by asking appropriate questions and reviewing information relating to their health and safety planning and history – including for example, their history of injury/incident reporting and management
Ensuring contractors are trained, qualified, experienced and have current certification
Assessing the suitability of the contractor for the work (taking into account the risks associated with the same).
Providing inductions to contractors into the worksite should become standard practice for businesses. With full health and safety support, consultation and co-operation, this simple step can practically reduce the risks relating to the contractor’s work.  A good plan for induction will ensure contractors are advised of workplace hazards and risks including no go areas. .  Providing a copy of the risk register and going through it with contractors is one best practice step that will apply across the board.

Other things that should be covered are:

Informing contractors what to do in an emergency
Advising how incidents and accidents are to be reported
Site sign in/out processes
Any rules and/or policies contractors need to follow while in the workplace, such as drug and alcohol policies or noise restrictions
Having contractors advise what hazards they are bringing into the workplace and how these are to be managed
Discussing what contractors require to work safely, such as an isolated area or the power off.
Finally, monitoring contractors to ensure they are meeting health and safety requirements is a crucial best practice step.  This doesn’t necessarily mean closely supervising contractors, but carrying out steps such as workplace audits, reviewing the JSA to ensure it is being followed, are key.

Where issues are identified, these should be addressed with the contractor immediately for rectification, or other action taken as appropriate.

What action a PCBU takes in contractor management will of course depend on their industry, business make up, and the nature of the contractors work, amongst other things.  All PCBUs must plan for contractor management that fits their needs.  If you would like advice regarding contractor management best practice, please contact us.

Disclaimer: We remind you that while this article provides commentary on employment law and health and safety topics, it should not be used as a substitute for legal or professional advice for specific situations. Please seek legal advice from your lawyer for any questions specific to your workplace.

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