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Contractors and agency workers

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Employing contractors

If you employ contractors, both you and the contractor will have duties under health and safety law - responsibilities cannot be passed on from one party to another by a contract. Make sure you do not contract out anything which means you lose control of critical areas of your work. Think through the health and safety implications of the job, and what arrangements you need to make.

Select a suitable contractor

Make sure you take on a contractor who is competent to do the job safely and find out: whether they have relevant experience, qualifications and skills in the type of work you want done - ask for references; how they select subcontractors; whether they provide a safety method statement (for building work); if they are members of a relevant trade or professional body; whether they or their employees hold a 'passport' in health and safety training - this is a growing trend in some industries.

Assess the risks of the work

Agree beforehand exactly what is to be done, by whom and how. Agree with the contractor the risk assessment for the job and the procedures for safe working that will apply when the work is in progress. If subcontractors are involved, they should also be part of the discussion and agreement.

The hazards

Contractors are often used for particularly hazardous jobs, so it is essential that you work with them to make sure the job is carried out properly while protecting workers and anyone else (eg visitors or members of the public). Agency workers may be at increased risk of work related illness and injury compared to permanent employees, because they are unfamiliar with the business and its hazards.

The law

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (the HSW Act) places duties on employers and contractors to protect the health and safety of employees and other people who may be affected by their work activities. It also deals with information, instruction and training. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require all employers who share a workplace to co-operate and co-ordinate their work to ensure everyone is complying with their legal duties, and to keep workers from other undertakings working on their site informed about risks and measures to protect their health and safety. The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 1994 place specific legal responsibilities on clients, contractors and others (see Chapter 6).

Provide information, instruction and training

Make sure the contractors' employees understand your rules for safe working, as well as any hazards and precautions, and that you understand theirs. Each new employee coming on site should receive appropriate instruction and training and be made aware of the hazards in your workplace and any emergency procedures.

Manage and supervise

Liaise with contractors, check their health and safety performance on site and make sure you keep each other informed about hazards and changes to plans or systems of work which may affect health and safety.

Where health and safety requirements are not being met, you and the contractor need to find out why and sort out the problem.

Find out more

Managing contractors: A guide for employers. An open learning booklet HSG159 ISBN 0 7176 1196 5 Working together: Guidance on health and safety for contractors and suppliers (web only) Use of contractors: A joint responsibility Leaflet INDG36

Agency workers

Employment agencies and employment businesses have specific legal responsibilities under the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003 to provide information to businesses who use their workers.

Both employment businesses and hirers need to do the following to protect agency workers:

Make sure, before they start work, that they are included in risk assessments, and that they know what measures have been taken as a result to protect them.

Make sure they understand the information and instructions they need to work safely, and that they have had any necessary training.

Remember to consider any language needs there may be for agency workers who do not speak English well or at all (see Chapter 23).

Check, before they start at the workplace, that they have any special occupational qualifications or skills needed for the job.

Agree on arrangements for providing any necessary health surveillance or computer screen eyesight tests, and for providing/maintaining any personal protective equipment needed.

Agree on arrangements for reporting relevant accidents to the enforcing authority.

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