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How to manage contractors at your worksite

If any contractor or subcontractor on your worksite is injured, you can be held concurrently liable.

Concurrent liability is when two or more parties are found independently liable for the same incident.

In terms of health and safety, this means that any person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) who is able to influence or control the safety of a particular activity can be exposed to liability if they do not take all reasonable steps within their control to eliminate or minimise those risks.

To reduce the chance of being found concurrently liable for any injury that occurs at your worksite, you will need to show that you have managed your health and safety obligations in regards to contractors.

To manage contractors at your worksite, you will need to do the following:

1. Perform a due diligence check

A due diligence check is when you take all reasonable steps to check that a contractor you engage will work safely in your workplace.

When performing a due diligence check, you will need to:

  • Verify that the contractor is qualified, licensed and authorised to carry out the work.
  • Assess the contractor’s ability to perform the required work safely and efficiently.
  • Inspect the tools and equipment the contractor will use to ensure they are suitable for the work and are well maintained. If you cannot inspect the tools or equipment directly, at least review evidence of their fitness for use, such as checking their latest maintenance record.
  • Ask the contractor what training they have received in risk assessments.
  • Review the contractor’s site safety plans.
  • Request that the contractor identifies safety issues with the work you require them to perform.
  • Review the contractor’s processes for safety induction, supervision, monitoring and risk assessment.
  • Check the contractor’s references from their past jobs.
  • Obtain evidence from the contractor regarding their history of workers’ compensation claims; lost time injuries, i.e. injuries that have resulted in a worker being unable to report to their next shift; medical treatment injuries; and operational safety, e.g. details of prohibition.
  • Verify the contractor’s willingness to submit to regular monitoring and supervision.
  • Review the contractor’s safety management system.

2. Carry out an induction

An induction also gives you an opportunity to assess whether the appropriate personnel have been engaged to do the work, and to check any licences or permits that are required to perform the work.

Your induction for contractors entering your worksite should cover:

  • site entry, access and amenities;
  • relevant business policies, e.g. sexual harassment policy, drug and alcohol policy;
  • relevant safety procedures for the work they are required to undertake; and
  • emergency response procedures.

It is important that you keep records of all inductions and a signed statement from each contractor indicating they have completed the induction.

3. Review the contractor’s safe work procedures

Contractors must prepare and provide you with safe work procedures for any work they perform in your workplace.

A safe work procedure is a document that sets out the work to be performed and any relevant risk controls, codes or legislation. It should clearly outline any steps workers need to take to control risks arising from the work.

Safe work procedures are particularly important for high-risk activities.

The safe work procedure provided by the contract or must not be a generic document that could apply to any business. In preparing the safe work procedure, the contractor is required to visit your worksite and assess the work environment.

Review the safe work procedure prepared by the contractor to ensure it:

  • is site-specific, i.e. tailored to your workplace; and
  • demonstrates that the contractor has gone through a risk assessment process at your workplace to identify the specific hazards and risks in relation to the work they are required to perform.

If an obvious defect or issue has not been addressed in the safe work procedure, raise this with the contractor. If you fail to do so, you could be in breach of your health and safety obligations and be concurrently liable for any subsequent incidents.

4. Monitor the workers

The following steps will help you to monitor contractors to ensure they are carrying out work safely:

  • Ensure the contractor has submitted a safe work procedure.
  • Check that they are complying with the safe work procedure.
  • Conduct an audit and review of the contractor’s work.
  • Regularly review your business’s safety performance information and ensure that contractors follow any controls or processes you introduce.
  • Implement an incident reporting system that extends to all contractors.
  • Require that contractors you often engage regularly report on safety issues, e.g. by completing safety checklists and self-audits.

If you do not take steps to ensure workers follow safe work procedures, your business may be exposed to greater liability for any health and safety incidents that occur because a worker failed to follow a safe work procedure.

If you identify a contractor’s worker who is not following a safe work procedure, you should:

  • require the worker to immediately stop performing the work until the issue can be addressed;
  • discuss the issue with the worker’s employer, i.e. the contractor your business has engaged, and require the contractor to reinforce the safe work procedure with the worker and any other workers they engage who are doing the same activity;
  • observe the worker again to check whether they are performing the task safely; and
  • follow up with the contractor to check what steps they are taking to ensure that all workers in the area perform work in a safe manner.
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