Managing contractors – How not to fail

We are all rushing to get all the important jobs completed before the long Christmas holiday, we will use many different contractors to supplement and to complete these tasks, but are you sure of the health and safety regulations when a contractor is working on your site?

We spoke with 22 directors and managers across 4 industries and the results were shocking:

  • 15 failed to realise they had a responsibility
  • 5 had the view that ‘what contractors get up to is their business’
  • 2 said ‘we are covered thanks’ i.e. we didn’t get a chance to ask the question

So what are the regulations you need to comply with?

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 applies to all work activities. It requires employers to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of:

  • their employees
  • contractor’s
  • members of the public

Employees and contractor’s have to take care not to endanger themselves, their colleagues or others affected by their work.


Both you and the contractor you use have responsibilities under health and safety law. Everyone needs to take the right precautions to reduce the risks of workplace dangers to employees and the public.

So how much more do you need to do to get your organisation operating within the law?

This article should give you best practice guidance in keeping you and your contractor’s safety, efficient and in line with the health and safety law

Who Counts as a Contractor?

A contractor is anyone who carries out work for you on a one-off, occasional or regular basis without being an employee. Works for which contractors are being used in your company may include: maintenance, repairs, installation, construction, demolition and many other jobs.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) recommends that you think about how their work may affect each other and how they will interact with your day-to-day activities.

Managing contractors in your organisation

Think about your current practice when working with contractors. Sometimes you may have more than one contractor on site. You need to think about how their work may affect each other and how they interact with your activities.


Poor communication can create accidents; don’t exclude contractors from your usual methods of safe working.

Always ensure your safe methods include

  • Identification of the hazards of their job and steps to be been taken to minimise risks;
  • Standards and procedures to make sure the contractor follow health and safety rules on your site.

If your staff don’t know there is a contractor working nearby or contractors don’t understand the dangers on your site will only increase the risk of accidents.

Coordinate and corroborate.

Don’t allow contractors to be excluded from your health and safety procedures, strangers to your site and won’t know:

  • about the hazards on your site
  • your site rules and safety procedures
  • what specific PPE is needed
  • any other special equipment needed
  • what to do in an emergency

Never assume your contractors understand your good working practices, even regular contractors will need reminding. At the next health and safety meeting, ask your team:

  • do we need to improve our procedures for work with our contractors?
  • are we sure our standards and procedures cover all contractors, all of the time?
  • are we just lucky we haven’t yet had an accident?


It’s easy to assess your existing procedures and practices, the following checklist as detailed by the HSE (health and safety executive) should be able to summarise your company’s current strengths and weaknesses and allow you to draw up an action programme based on an analysis of your own arrangements.

The HSE recommended five steps to success checklist help you gain an overview of health and safety and managing contractors. It covers five aspects of health and safety management:

1.   policies – your health and safety policy needs to include arrangements for contractors;

2.   organising – involving those working in the organisation, in-house staff and contractors; lines of communication and authority;

3.   planning and checking – practical arrangements and methods of working should be detailed and understood, Always document it.

4.   monitoring – keeping track of what actually happens, audit your contractors.

5.   reviewing and learning – checking on how your team is getting on with contractor management, deciding what needs to be improved and how to go about it.

So when you have completed your checklist, think about your company’s current approach and see if any improvements can be made:

  • do you need to start doing more? you don’t yet have any good practices in place, or if you do, they are not used (if we are honest, we all need to do more)
  • do you need to improve?: Means you don’t think current approaches are effective enough, you have room for improvement (again a very honest approach)
  • or is what you have very effective? means you are happy with the way things are because they are effective (please re-think to make sure you are complying with the law)


Both you and the contractor you use have responsibilities under health and safety law. Everyone needs to take the right precautions to reduce the risks of workplace dangers to employees and the public. Make sure everyone understands the part they need to play in ensuring health and safety.

  • Define the job and job parameters
  • Create your site and Identify the hazards
  • Select your approved and preferred contractor
  • Review competence of the contractor’s staff
  • Ask to review the contractor’s risk assessment and method statement
  • Get contractors to sign in and out so you know who and where they are on your site.
  • Reinforce site rules
  • Complete audits
  • Sign off relevant permits once the job is complete

Keeping up to date

Follow news and events in your industry, disseminate alerts and notifications to your workforce, this will help you in keeping your health and safety policies and risk assessments up to date. Keep continuous checks at H&S news bulletins and RSS feeds to get essential information sourced and the out to your workers, to prevent accidents.

                                  ‘Truly effective health and safety management requires competency across every facet of an organisation and through every level of
the workforce.’ The HSE

Closing message

Both you and the contractor you use do have responsibilities under health and safety law.

It is important to ensure that all contractors are properly briefed on and understand hazards and risks associated with your activities in order for them to be able to work safely and to safeguard the integrity of your processes.

Please visit our web page for free HSE downloads to help you understand more about how we can all better manage contractors to become compliant. Click here to check out the contractor management page

So do you want to take an honest test to find out how well you manage your contractors?

We’ve put together a 2-minute quiz based on the HSE’s HSG159 guide to Managing Contractors and Using Contractors for employers. See how you currently rate against the HSE’s requirements by taking our quick quiz. There’s also a useful PDF guide to Using Contractors available to download on completion of the quiz.

Once you’ve completed the quiz, take a look at a recent accident and large fine where all three companies including the BBC all failed to successfully manage a contractor.

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