07th Jun, 2022 Read time 5 minutes

Who is responsible for contractor health and safety?

Contractor management is an important part of many health and safety programs but many people are often confused as to where the lines are when it comes to managing contractors in the workplace within a safety context. Employers are not responsible for contractors to the same degree as employees, but there are responsibilities present that must be followed.


Employers still have a duty of care when it comes to managing contractors, with contractors also having safety responsibilities that should be followed.

Employer responsibilities in contractor health and safety 

The following details the responsibilities related to the client for contractor safety.

1. Carry out a risk assessment 

You must ensure that an adequate risk assessment is carried out on the site that covers all areas and work activities. Hazards need to be identified and controls put in place. Take a look at our guide to producing risk assessments for more information. 


2. Hire suitable contractors 

Employers must also ensure that they hire suitable contractors with the necessary skills and knowledge to carry out the tasks on site. The contractor’s policies and procedures around health and safety should also be checked. 


3. Communicate EHS information to contractors 

Information regarding workplace EHS management should be shared with the contractors at appropriate times. RAMS documents (method statements) relating to the contractors should also be shared, with specific training provided to the contractors if required. 


4. Review the health and safety in the workplace

Given the variations and changes that can occur in industries like construction over the course of a site’s lifecycle, employers should ensure that they regularly review their safety guidance and RAMS documentation to ensure that it is up to date and shared with the contractors in question. 


5. Supervise contractors 

Employers must ensure that contractors are supervised or that a relevant supervision plan has been put in place to ensure that tasks are completed in a safe manner. 


6. Appoint a principal contractor 

The appointment of a principal contractor should be made if the project is going to require more than one contractor. 


5. Ensure contractors are aware of their responsibilities

Employers must also ensure that contractors are aware of their own health and safety management responsibilities when the work is being carried out. These responsibilities should be clearly communicated to the contractor. 


Construction contractor responsibilities under CDM 2015

Any project that involves contractors will need to comply with the CDM regulations 2015. These regulations divide the responsibilities between contractors (which all types must adhere to) and principal contractors (which are the responsibility of the sole principal contractor of a project). 


Contractor responsibilities 

This section looks at the health and safety responsibilities of all contractors. 


Ensure the client is aware of their responsibilities

Contractors need to ensure that the client is aware of their responsibilities and roles when it comes to health and safety management. All those involved in CDM projects need to be informed of their duties. 


Select suitable subcontractors and/or employees 

It is the role of the principal contractor to select suitable subcontractors and/or employees to carry out relevant tasks, they must also be informed of their role when it comes to health and safety management. The subcontractors and employees must have adequate training, skills, knowledge and experience to perform the task. 


Ensure the site is secure 

Contractors must ensure that the site is secured before the work is carried out so that there can be no unauthorised access. 


Principal contractor responsibilities 

Principal contractors must carry out the above responsibilities plus the duties outlined below. 


Plan manage and monitor the work being carried out

The principal contractor must plan manage and monitor the whole construction phase of the project. 


Monitor all of the health and safety risks 

The principal contractor must also consider the health and safety risks that could arise during all phases of the project, ensuring the site is secure and that all risks are being monitored and suitable controls are in place. 


Communicate EHS information to the other parties 

The principal contractor must also ensure that all members and parties are aware of the different health and safety policies in place and engage with individuals when it comes to EHS management matters. 


Prepare a construction phase plan

The principal contractor must also outline a CPP (Construction Phase Plan) and ensure that it contains details on how risks and EHS hazards will be identified and managed throughout the construction stage of the project. 


Provide suitable welfare facilities 

Welfare facilities that include toilets, washing facilities, drinking water stations and first aid kits must be present before the construction phase of the project begins and this is the responsibility of the principal contractor. 


Manage contractors and workers  

Principal contractors must also make sure skilled and qualified contractors and workers are hired for the project and will be responsible for arranging work schedules, providing site and project information and supervise the work throughout the project.


Understanding the relationship between client and contractor 

To find out more about contractor management and why the term contractor may not be the best name for those working outside of employment but within the project, listen to our podcast on the subtleties of contractor/client relationships with Andy Barker of Paradigm. 


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