Do You Have Contractor Controls In Place?

If not, the consequences could be serious

Posted on: 13/04/2016   By: Lee Rance

Anyone using contractors have health and safety responsibilities, both for the contractors and anyone else that could be affected by their activities. Contractors themselves also have legal health and safety responsibilities. In order to ensure everyone understands the part they need to play in ensuring health and safety, there needs to be certain controls in place.

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A lack of these controls is highlighted in the recent case of a Construction company Director being jailed for six years.

A construction company had been contracted to demolish large retail units and they in turn subcontracted another company to dismantle the roof which was made up of corrugated steel sheets with plastic skylights. The skylights had deteriorated and were covered with corrugated steel sheets.

Five days into the job, one of the four workers working on the roof stepped on a skylight and nearly fell through it. The following day another worker fell through a skylight, fracturing his spine, pelvis, right leg, heel and wrist as he hit the floor. Later that day, the worker that had the near miss the day before fell through a skylight and sustained fatal head injuries.

Both Companies appeared at Manchester Crown Court. The main contractor was found guilty of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act, the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM) and the Work at Height Regulations and fined £90,000 and ordered to pay £45,000 costs. The Director was also jailed for eight months.

The sub contracted company was found guilty of offences under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act and for breaching regulations 4 and 7 of the Work at Height Regulations, which require employers to properly plan and supervise work at height and ensure it is carried out in a safe manner. The company’s owner has been jailed for six years, fined £400,000 and ordered to pay £55,000 court costs.

The HSE inspector said that the work was not properly planned or supervised and that precautions to stop people falling to the floor, such as netting, were not put in place.

Effective management of contractors can be broken down into 5 basic steps:

  1. Selecting a contractor
  2. Planning the job
  3. Controlling contractors on site
  4. Checking the contractors work
  5. Reviewing the contractors performance, and the effectiveness of control

Selecting a contractor – for a particular job their competence should be properly assessed. This involves gathering information from the contractor which could include:

  • Ensuring experience of the type of work or industry
  • References from previous work done
  • Any enforcement history
  • All safety management documentation including policy, risk assessments, safe systems of work e.g. method statements and monitoring arrangements.
  • Accident and ill health data
  • Membership of trade/ professional bodies
  • Means of demonstrating employee competence e.g. Qualifications, experience, training etc.
  • Arrangements for selection and management of sub-contractors
  • Arrangements for ongoing liaison with the client
  • Arrangements for managing and supervision of employees

The depth of information required will depend on the risks of the job being undertaken.

Planning the job – information regarding the nature of the job, the task, site specific hazards and site rules will need to be communicated to the contractor which they can then incorporate into risk assessments and method statements.

Controlling contractors on site – this can involve general communication between contractor and client, ensuring site controls are in place i.e. permits-to-work and emergency arrangements and monitoring performance.

Checking the contractors work – Monitoring is critical in ensuring the contract terms and conditions are being met in terms of technical quality as well as health and safety.

Reviewing the contractors performance and effectiveness of control – This final step is an important step in evaluating the quality of the contractors work but also the effectiveness of the client’s control of the project. The information collected in the review may determine the future use of the contractor or instigate changes to the contractor management arrangements.

If proper contractor controls were in place this terrible tragedy could have been avoided.

Until next time.

Lee Rance