We’re all aware of the risks that ‘cowboy builders’ can pose to our homes, but for businesses the risks are different – and could even lead to prosecution and fines.
The HSE emphasises the importance of hiring capable contractors, and is not afraid to prosecute companies that fail to do so.
The Lundy Company was recently fined £30,000 following the serious injury of a roofer in 2015. The incident occurred as the contractor in charge of the project failed to implement safety measures that are required when working at height.
Although the Lundy Company was not managing the project directly, they had hired a contractor to manage and complete the work without checking their competence beforehand. The HSE found that the Lundy Company shared liability for the accident with the unsafe contractor, as they had failed in their responsibility to hire a competent person or company. So, what should they have done differently?
5 steps for choosing a contractor
Before appointing a contractor to carry out work for you, you must check that they can complete the job safely. If you fail to do so, you are liable under the Health and Safety at Work Act and could be prosecuted by the HSE – leading to a hefty fine or even a prison sentence! To avoid these risks, carry out a pre-assessment on any potential contractors by following these steps, as outlined by the HSE:
1. Find out what experience they have.
Has the contractor previously completed similar work to the job you need doing? Do they have references that you can check? This is the first indicator that a contractor is up to the job and has good knowledge of the type of work they will be undertaking. A specialist contractor is always desirable, as they should be experts in every aspect of their work activity.
2. Check their qualifications.
Qualifications help back up a contractor’s competence. Certain trades require qualifications to be passed, while they are highly advisable in others. You should also ask for any certificates of competence and find out whether they are members of any professional bodies.
3. Request their health and safety procedures and documentation.
It is essential to check that a contractor has the correct health and safety management in place. Ask for their policies, procedures, training records and examples of risk assessments as a measure of their commitment to safe working practices. If a contractor has five or more employees, it is a legal requirement that they have a written health and safety policy, so make sure this is in place.
4. Ask if they will be using subcontractors.
If they are, you need to ask how they will be determining the subcontractors’ competence. Your contractor may pass all your pre-assessment checks with flying colours, but if they appoint an unsafe subcontractor you could still be culpable. Your contractors should be carrying out a similar pre-assessment process on their subcontractors to the one you carry out on them.
5. Take their insurance details.
Make sure the contractor has all the required insurances, including public liability, employer’s liability and professional indemnity. This helps ensure that any large legal bills won’t end up on your desk instead of theirs!
By following these steps, you can be assured that you are hiring a capable contractor and complying with your legal responsibilities. Remember though, your responsibility doesn’t end once a contractor has been appointed – you must also monitor them throughout the project to ensure they are complying with their legal duties.
Pre-assessing contractors can be time consuming – by hiring a SafeContractor accredited contractor, you can be confident that our expert auditors have already completed these checks! Find out more about using SafeContractor to ease the burden of contractor pre-assessment.