Confidence in Contractor Safety

by Dave Collins on June 8, 2015



Confidence in Contractor Safety

First posted here: http://yoursafetymentor.com/2015/06/07/contractors/

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In the past it was thought using contractors meant we didn’t have to worry about safety.  In fact, some company’s thought contracting out safety was the key to minimising the cost of safety.

Oh, how wrong these business leaders were in this belief!

Every business has a responsibility keep their workers and other persons (visitors, volunteers and CONTRACTOR’S) safe.

Sure, we may be bringing the contractors into our workplace because our own people don’t have electrical, plumbing and/or technical expertise, but we don’t want to be introducing new hazards in the workplace by bringing in an unsafe contractor!

Just because we don’t know how to re-wire a building, doesn’t mean we won’t be able to identify if someone’s working safely.  In fact, we can often identify if a person is working unsafely by observing and checking the hazards around us when they are working onsite.  What’s important though, is we raise the issues with the contractor and work together to come up with a solution to resolve the issue, so no one gets hurt.

Remember – Contractors are generally at your workplace for a very short time.  They may not necessarily know the day to day hazards in your workplace, so be sure to let them know what’s going on at your site so they are aware of their surrounds.

Think about it.  You may have a warehouse where forklifts and trucks are zipping around all over the place.  Your pedestrian walkways and barriers may be in place, however, if your contractor isn’t aware of these processes they may walk out into the traffic zone and get struck by a piece of plant!  No one wants this…

Everyone wants to have confidence in their contractors.  Particularly when they often work in hazardous environments where our own employees don’t have the expertise!

It’s with this in mind I thought I’d provide you with some simple and effective ways so you can be confident your contractors are working safely.

Define the contractors role

At the time of negotiating the terms of the engagement with the contractor, find out their responsibilities.  The person in your business who is managing the contractor will also need to understand their responsibilities!

Think and discuss:

  • Who will provide amenities (toilets, wash facilites, lunch/tea rooms, first aid)?
  • Does the contractor have safe systems of work they need to follow?
  • Will copies of risk assessments be required?
  • Will the contractor be working alone?  If so, what arrangements will be made for emergencies?
  • What licenses does the contractor have that supports the type of work they are doing?
  • If a contractor is injured what reporting is required?  Is first aid available?
  • Where and who does the contractor meet and report to?

The contractor and your business’ contracting manager should discuss the issues above (BEFORE commencing work) to ensure arrangements are appropriate for both parties.  It’s always better to communicate openly with contractors so there are no misunderstandings and all persons in the work area remain safe.

Do the background research!



We want to make sure the contractor we are using is safety-aware, conscious and behaves in a manner your business is accustomed to (or better!).  The best (and most common) way to do this is to ask the contractor some questions in order to determine if they check out ok.

  • Ask for evidence of their licenses and qualifications (we want competent people working for us, not a plumber doing electrical work!)
  • Enquire into references (you do this for employees, why not contractors…).  Find out first hand how the contractor works.  Do they work safely?
  • Verify your contractor has identified hazards and implemented controls to manage the hazards (see if they’ve done a risk assessment).
  • Review the plant, equipment and tools the contractor is using.  Are they safe?
  • Does the contractor have up to date insurance information (workers compensation, public liability, vehicle etc)
  • What does the contractor document?  Safe systems of work? Injuries? Risk assessments? Conversations?

Understand the work required

Your business may engage a contractor for a variety of reasons.  It’s important to know the type of activities the contractor is undertaking as the activity may require a closer look to identify hazards.  Work that involves confined space, work at heights, hot work, energised electrical work may require special permits, licenses, registrations and insurance.  Be sure to investigate so the contractor is prepared and ready to begin work safely when they arrive.

Provide an induction

Prior to engaging the contractor, you should have discussed a range of information such as amenities, first aid, work environment and job requirements.  Introducing your contractor to the site before they start work can help to communicate any day to day hazards and subsequent controls they need to be aware of when working for you.

Usually an induction involves walking the contractor around the area where they are likely to work and explaining:

  • site entry, parking, access and amenities (including the need for contractors to sign in and out of the workplace!)
  • work permits (and confirming what’s needed for the job)
  • safe work procedures / risk assessments needed
  • emergency response procedures
  • housekeeping (and other site specific requirements)
  • safe use of plant, equipment, hazardous substances.

Monitor and supervise the work

As I said above, you may not understand fully the technical requirements of the contractors job, however, you can understand the types of hazards that may be present.

You don’t need to stand and watch the contractor every second while they are working.  However, you do need to check-in regularly with them to be sure they are following their safe work procedures and are not putting themselves or others at risk of injury.

Popping in regularly and enquiring into how they are going while they are doing the task is useful.  The open communication and dialogue is a great way to stay abreast of the work activity and gives you the opportunity to see if there are any safety issues.

Preferred contractor list

If you find a contractor that works safely and is conscious of the people (and their safety) around him/her then hang onto them.  Create a preferred contractor list so you can quickly and confidently engage the contractor again if they are needed.  Once they come back to your workplace it’s a matter of confirming all the licenses and qualifications are current, identifying any new workplace hazards and then they can get straight to work.

What have you put in place at work to ensure your contractors are working safely?  Let us know below.

Look after yourself, your people and your contractors,

Trinette

Your Safety Mentor



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