Let's look at why it's important to assess your contractors.
Clients - how to assess risks correctly in the workplace
As an employer, your organisation has duties under Section 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and CDM 2007 (and in the new CDM2015 due for release in April 2015) to ensure the safety of your employees and those that may be affected by your undertaking – this includes the activities of any contractor you either directly engage with, or allow to operate on premises you are responsible for.
Client A fined £40,000 and ordered to pay an additional £5,854 in costs.
The use of any contractor - no matter how high or low the risk of the activity they are undertaking -poses a risk to employees of both the client and contractor, and other individuals which may be in the vicinity. Therefore all contractors need to be subjected to robust assessment and management procedures.
Below are examples where a client has not fulfilled its duty to assess the competency of its contractors:
Client A had not assessed the competency of a contractor engaged in what was assumed to be a relatively simple job of felling two trees. When a tree fell onto the track of an oncoming train this resulted in over £100,000 in repair costs to two rail companies. “Client A was fined £40,000 and ordered to pay £5,854 in costs.”
Client B was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £19,300 costs when an employee of a subcontractor fell through a fragile roof light, 8 metres to their death while cleaning gutters on a roof.
Client B had not assessed the competency of the subcontractor or determined how they were going to carry out the work.
Implementing a robust contractor assessment procedure is necessary for successful contractor management. You need to ensure that your contractors can undertake the work you require from them and have suitable arrangements to ensure that this is carried out safely.
Contractor assessment is commonly split into two stages:
1. A pre-qualification or ‘Stage 1’ assessment. This essentially determines whether contractors have generally compliant health and safety management systems and competency to carry out work even before they are allowed on-site.
2. A project specific or ‘Stage 2’ assessment focussed on whether the contractor has appropriate experience, project-specific documentation and competency.
How to ensure your contractors are assessed effectively
In order to ensure your contractors are assessed effectively, start with setting up an in-house assessment process to establish the criteria you expect contractors to meet before you allow them to work for you.
A recognised standard for a Stage 1 assessment is the core criteria of Appendix 4 of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 Approved Code of Practice. However, you may wish to add other topics e.g. environmental, quality, equal opportunities etc. where their assessment through your supply chain is important to your company or fulfilling your contracts with clients.
It will also require a set of procedures to be followed, trained administrators to implement the procedures and chase up outstanding information from your contractors, and individuals capable of determining what is an acceptable demonstration of competency.
Setting up a contractor assessment process can be time-consuming and it may prove difficult to maintain in a fast-changing business climate, when all you need to do is operate on a minimal budget, maximise profits, and most importantly, get the work done for your clients.
For the past 15 years, the SafeContractor risk assessment scheme has managed contractor assessments for over 230 major clients. The scheme’s highly experienced in-house health and safety professionals undertake pre-qualification assessments for over 22,000 contractors on an annual basis. Each contractor's expertise is used to interpret the robust criteria of the scheme and determine what is acceptable in proportion to the size of the contractor’s company, the risks inherent in its undertakings, and the complexity of the work to be undertaken. The scheme is based upon core criteria but goes beyond legal compliance by asking activity specific information for higher risk activities so that clients can have added assurance that their contractors are competent to undertake the work for which they are accredited. Furthermore, there are bolt-on questionnaires which cover environmental, quality and equal opportunities management where contractor arrangements for these topics can be validated. In addition to this, SafeContractor can manage any bespoke client requirements you may need (e.g. providing contractors with your contractor handbook and receiving a completed declaration form in return etc.). This has allowed clients to focus their limited resources where it matters – getting on with their operational needs and managing the onsite activities of their contractors.