What is contractor safety management?

Whenever you need the expertise of someone outside of your company for building works or specialised trade services, hiring a contractor can be an option that is cost effective, quick, flexible and means the job will be completed to a good standard. But something you need to be aware of prior to outsourcing to a contractor is the management of their health and safety during the time they spend with you.

If you’re looking for someone to plaster a wall, add a new section to your office or fix an electrical or plumbing problem, the contractor you’re using will have to deal with some level of danger. As such, contractor health and safety is a factor that requires consideration to cover the individual should the worst happen.

With a view to informing business owners, this piece looks at the management of contractor safety, including whether you as the hiring company are responsible for their safety, various health and safety implications around hiring a contractor and tips on what you should look for when it comes to choosing a contractor.

Who is responsible for contractor safety?

When you outsource a contractor to carry out work for your business, it’s important that you know whether or not you are accountable for the welfare of these individuals. However, the person responsible for the health and safety of contractors depends on the nature of the work being carried out.

Multiple factors play a role in ensuring contractor safety. While it’s crucial that you choose a contractor with the necessary training and experience to successfully carry out the work you need, it’s also important that the contractor follows the relevant health and safety guidelines for the task at hand.

As such, there’s responsibility on both sides, just as there is when you have health and safety protocols in place to protect permanent employees. For instance, it’s equally as important that you inform contractors of your health and safety protocols as it is that contractors pay attention to these guidelines.

A business owner explaining his company’s safety guidelines to a contractor

Should contractors have a safety induction?

As a business owner, it’s important that you fully inform contractors of your company’s health and safety guidelines. A formal way of doing this is by performing a health and safety induction. If you’re unaware of this process, you may be wondering how you might go about carrying out an induction to contractors.

If, for example, you were having construction work done, you should first ensure that every contractor has completed the necessary training for the work you’re having done and any qualifications that you’d expect for this type of work. At this point, you can explain the company’s safety guidelines, fire safety protocols and provide any further information in regards to health and safety in a thorough induction.

For company accountability, you should keep records of all contractors and note that they have been suitably informed of the business’ health and safety procedures. You can also choose to provide copies of the company handbook to prove that you’ve given the contractors all of the information they need.

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How are contractors protected by health and safety?

You may have preconceptions around the health and safety of contractors that you aren’t required to provide as much consideration for the health and safety of your contractors or maybe even that you must put more of an emphasis on it due to these individuals only being temporarily with you.

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Do contractors have to follow health and safety regulations?

Once a contractor begins to work for a company, it’s crucial that the company makes the contractor aware of their health and safety regulations. However, it’s equally important that contractors follow these guidelines as it is likely to be their fault if an accident occurs after they were given sufficient knowledge and training by the company they’re working for.

It can be difficult to provide proof that the company has provided the necessary health and safety induction. One way of ensuring that you have is by outlining that an induction has taken place in the individual’s contract and gaining acknowledgement of the induction from the contractor. This is strengthened by a strong pre-contract process where contractors are only selected providing they possess adequate insurance and prove assurances of their own competency.

What is the government’s good work plan?

In some situations, a contractor may be deemed to be an employee of the company rather than a worker or self employed. To assess whether this is the case, different factors would need to be considered such as how long the contractor had worked for the company, how fixed their hours/days were, who controlled the work, who supplied the equipment and whether they could send someone else in their place. The written agreement or contract with them is a useful starting point, but if this doesn’t accurately reflect what happens in practice then the reality would be considered as well/instead.

The Good Work Plan was introduced by the UK government on 6th April 2020 to improve modern practices for all workers, benefitting both permanent and temporary members of staff, so it is a factor that could impact the way you treat contractors working for your company.

Under certain circumstances, the plan is useful to contractors that want more stability over their current contract and help with finding future work. For example, it is helped by making workers equally as entitled to ask an employer for a written statement as permanent employees.

Can independent contractors get health benefits?

The likelihood of a contractor earning health benefits while working on a temporary contract is dependent on a number of factors including whether they’re self-employed or working as part of an agency.

As the employer of a contractor, it’s not up to you to offer additional health benefits to temporary workers. However, if they wish to apply for additional health benefits, they are within their right to do so. The same could be said for general employee benefits such as the opportunity to offer paid annual leave. If the contractor is self-employed or working on behalf of an agency, they won’t be entitled to these benefits as you are not responsible for providing them to contractors.

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Do contractors get health insurance?

Similarly to additional health benefits, health insurance for contractors is something that can vary. For added security around the health of contractors, a business may want to pay for coverage that includes contractors, or it may be something that’s covered by the contractor or the agency they work for.

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How to choose a commercial contractor

As a business owner that requires an external service, you will not only want to get the best person for the job but also ensure that you choose someone that isn’t actively looking for an opportunity to put forward incorrect accusations of unfair treatment. Although it can be difficult to identify whether an individual is respectable and professional, there are several factors to bear in mind.

Questions you should ask yourself when choosing a contractor include:

  • Is the contractor qualified to do the job?
  • Does the contractor already have or require some level of health insurance?
  • What is the contractor’s track record like? Do they have testimonials or reviews?
  • Has the contractor worked on similar jobs in the past?
  • Can the contractor provide evidence that they meet safety standards? Do they have a good track record for adhering to safety guidelines?
  • Is the contractor qualified and accredited?

Another indication of a contractor’s reliability would be if they work for an agency. If the agency is respected, notable and established, it’s likely that they wouldn’t hire someone that would breach health and safety rules and potentially cause harm to themselves or your workforce. However, while you may feel more confident hiring a contractor through an agency, there are no guarantees and it will always be your responsibility to inform a contractor of your company’s health and safety procedures.

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