Working with contractors: Selection, safeguarding, and management

Contractors add vital resources and expertise to your business – but hiring, managing, and safeguarding ad hoc workers can present complex compliance issues. How do you ensure contractors follow branch safety rules? Are extra security measures needed to protect your people and premises? What if a contractor sustains an injury on your site?

Whatever your reason for taking on contractors, understanding your responsibilities as an employer can promote the well-being of temporary and permanent staff, while avoiding prosecution and reputational damage.

This article provides simple safety strategies to protect every type of worker – and reduce your odds of costly contractor-related claims. 

Start by hiring a competent contractor 

Whether you’re working with electricians, scaffolders, or cleaners, safety is a two-way street. First, you’re legally obliged to employ a competent contractor. This means hiring skilled professionals with relevant experience, qualifications, and membership of appropriate trade or professional bodies. In return, your contractor has a duty of care to work safely and responsibly on your site. 

Always vet and compare potential hires to build a reliable picture of safety performance. Depending on the nature and risk level of the project, your checks should evaluate the contractor’s:   

  • Health and safety policy, including training and management of subcontractors 
  • Health and safety track record, including accident and near-miss rates
  • Safety method statement
  • Selection process for subcontractors
  • Public liability insurance 
  • Permit to work for high-risk jobs involving live electricals, asbestos, or external work at height 
  • References from past employers 

Set safety standards from the outset  

Open communication and collaboration are critical when partnering with external specialists. Before work begins, establish clear ground rules by sharing safety expectations, information, and processes. This should include the exchange and agreement of: 

  • Health and safety arrangements, rules, and emergency procedures
  • Scope of work, responsibilities, and risk control measures 
  • Required personal protective equipment (PPE) 
  • Training on safety protocols 
  • On-site risks, including any known asbestos locations  
  • Site layout information, including one-way systems, designated loading zones, and smoking areas 
  • Arrangements for signing in/out
  • Key contacts for reporting safety incidents, accidents, and problems
  • Risks, safety rules, and emergency protocols related to the contractor’s work 
  • A regular schedule of safety meetings and briefings 

Conduct a thorough risk assessment 

Ahead of the project, you or a competent person must carry out a detailed risk assessment. The assessment should highlight potential hazards associated with the contractor’s work, along with who might be harmed, such as staff, subcontractors, and site visitors.  

Once risks have been identified, put measures in place to control or eliminate them. Depending on the job, this might involve engineering controls like guardrails or safety barriers, administrative measures like safe working practices, or the introduction of personal protective equipment. 

Manage and monitor the works 

Businesses must maintain control over contractors to ensure they follow the mutually agreed safety plan. The level of required contractor management depends on the project’s effects on your team and customers. The more significant the impact, the closer the supervision. 

As an employer, you’re responsible for providing appropriate oversight, monitoring progress, and addressing any issues promptly. If you identify concerns that present an urgent risk, you must halt the work.  

Before agreeing your management and monitoring framework, ask these key questions: 

  • When and for how long will the contractor be on site? What hours will they work? 
  • Will the contractor receive a security pass? If so, how can you continue to safeguard your site and people?  
  • What equipment, materials, and substances will they use? How will they store them? Do they pose a risk to workers and the public? 
  • Where on site will the contractor work? Do these areas need to be segregated? Will their set-up introduce trip, slip, or fall risks? 
  • Will the project affect access to utilities like water and electricity? 
  • How will you monitor the contractor’s activities? What ongoing checks will you do?
  • How will you track who’s on site? 
  • Does the contractor need further details of your operations to do their work safely and effectively? 

Partner with a health and safety specialist 

Opus helps you maximise contractor expertise, without compromising safety and security. Talk to us about risk assessments, contractor management, and ongoing health and safety consultancy to raise standards across your entire business. 

We’re available on 0330 043 4015 or