A contractor is anyone who is called in to work for a company but who is not an employee of that company. The contracting of certain types of jobs is common place, for example:
- window cleaning
- the cleaning of premises
- the installation and maintenance of plant
- grounds maintenance
- waste disposal, etc.
Health and safety law applies to all work activities and to everyone including the self employed no matter how small the business.
The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations are the main pieces of legislation for employers and contractors.
However, there are a number of other health and safety regulations relevant to contractual situations for example:
- The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH)
- The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM)
- The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations (PPE)
- The Manual Handling Operations Regulations etc.
Some contractors must be licensed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or belong to a body approved by the HSE, for example:
- asbestos contractors must be licensed by the HSE
- gas installation contractors should belong to Corgi, the body currently approved by HSE to operate a registration scheme for gas installation
Contracted jobs can be particularly risky because they are done on sites and in situations that are unfamiliar to the contractors.
Accidents and incidents often happen because contractors do not know about the dangers on site and the employees of the company who have engaged the contractors do not know that contractors are working nearby. Therefore before engaging a contractor:
- Find out about their health and safety performance, for example, ask to see their health and safety policy, accident record book etc
- Discuss the proposed working methods
- Find out the expected timescales for completion of the proposed work
- Discuss the time of day or night that the work will be done
- Find out what equipment and facilities they expect to be provided
- Find out what equipment they will bring on site
Before the contractor commences work:
- Ensure they sign in and out of your site
- Make sure the emergency procedures, the sound of the alarm, the location of first aid facilities etc. is known
- Agree what has to be done
- Agree how it is going to be done
- Identify who is in charge
- Determine what other work will be going on at the same time
- Ensure that information is shared with regards to any changes to the proposed work activities and health and safety issues
During the contract keep a check on:
- How the work is going with regards to the agreed work method
- Whether the contractor is working safely and as agreed, for example are they using the necessary personal protective equipment?
- The introduction of new workers who haven't been on the site before who need information
On completion of the work evaluate:
- The health and safety issues with regards to the choice of contractor
- The quality of the work carried out by the contractor
- The effectiveness of your own contact and supervision of the contractor
By paying close attention to all the stages of the above process you will be able to ensure that safe contractors are engaged to work on your site.
Lone workers are those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision. They are found in a wide range of situations, for example people in fixed establishments where:
- Only one person works on the premises e.g. in small workshops, petrol stations, kiosks, shops etc
- People work separately from others e.g. in warehouses, leisure centres etc
- People work outside normal hours e.g. cleaners, security officers, maintenance staff etc
Mobile workers working away from their fixed base:
- On maintenance work, vehicle recovery, delivery drivers etc
- Groundsmen, greenkeepers, gardeners etc
- Estate agents, sales representatives etc
Although there is no legal prohibition on working alone the broad duties of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations still apply.
- identifying the associated hazards
- the assessment of the risks involved
- the putting of measures in place to avoid or control the risks
Establishing safe working for lone workers is no different from organising the safety of other employees. The control measures should take account of normal work and foreseeable emergencies, for example, fire, equipment failure, illness and accidents.
Control measures may include instruction, training, supervision, personal protective equipment etc.
Situations where people work alone should be identified and questions asked:
- Does the workplace present a special risk to the lone worker?
- Is there a safe way in and out for one person?
- Can all the plant, substances and goods involved in the work be safely handled by one person?
- Is there a risk of violence?
- Are women especially at risk if they work alone?
- Are young workers especially at risk if they work alone?
- Is the person medically fit and suitable to work alone?
- What training is required to ensure competency in safety matters?
- How will the person be supervised?
Procedures to monitor the health and safety of lone workers may include:
- Supervisors periodically visiting and observing people working alone
- Regular contact between the lone worker and supervisor using for example a two way radio or telephone
- Checks that the lone worker has returned to their base or home on completion of the work
- Established emergency procedures, for example the carrying of a first aid kit suitable for treating minor injuries and basic first aid training
There are some high risk activities where at least one other person may need to be present, for example electrical work at or near exposed live conductors where at least two people may be required.
Therefore, it is important to talk to and carry out the risk assessment with the lone worker as they are a valuable source of information regarding the hazards associated with the tasks being carried out.
- INDG 268: Working Together: Guidance on Health and Safety for Contractors and Suppliers (HSE)
- INDG 368: Use of Contractors - A Joint Responsibility (HSE)
- Managing Contractors - A Guide for Employers (HSE)
- INDG 73: Working Alone in Safety - Controlling the Risks of Solitary Work (HSE)