More and more organisations are now contracting out some of their services, this can include the traditional work undertaken by contractors such as building alterations and electrical work in addition to cleaning and catering services which are now quite often undertaken by an external contractor.
Some employers are under the false impression that if they call in a contractor then safety responsibilities rest solely with the contractor which is definitely not the case.
The main problems that may arise from employing a contractor with inadequate health and safety arrangements are:
• Failure to ensure the health and safety of their own employees.
• Failure to ensure the health and safety of persons other than their own employees
• Failure to provide safe systems of work
Legal duties start with the common law duty of care, employers owe a duty of care to those they can foresee being affected by their activities and site. Therefore any contractor working on the employer’s site are owed a very similar set of duties to those provided to their own employees. The main general duties of care are to:-
• Select competent workers
• Provide suitable information
• Provide safe plant & equipment if the employers equipment is to be used by the contractor
• Ensure a safe working environment and a safe place of work
• Supply safe access and egress to the workplace
There are several statutory duties within the Health and Safety at work Act 1974, the Employer, i.e. the person in charge of the company or building still has overall responsibility for health and safety even though the contractor has a responsibility as well. This point has been argued in the courts and case law has established just how far the duty of the employer extends.
HASAWA Section 3 – Employer to Non Employed Persons
The employer must take steps, so far as is reasonably practicable, to protect non-employees on the premises. This involves issuing information, training and PPE if necessary to ensure others are not exposed to risks. This section also covers the self employed who have the same duties to others affected by their actions. A case against Swan Hunter (ship builders) established the clear requirement on employers to pass on H&S information, not only to their own employees but, to contractors on their site as well.
The prosecution of Octel who allowed a contractor to use a lamp from their store in a flammable atmosphere, the lamp was not suitable and caused an explosion and the overall responsibility was established to be Octel’s rather than the contractors.
House of Lords ruling S3 HASAWA
The employer free to decide labour arrangements but is under a duty to exercise control over the activity and to ensure that it is done without exposing non-employees to risks.
Employers can no longer simply rely on the safety systems presented by their specialist contractors to satisfy their duties under Section 3. Employers will be expected to develop their own procedures to prevent injury to contractors which must include protecting them from risks associated with the employers own premises as well as the risks arising out of the safety systems developed by the contractor for the job.
It is important that contractors not only provide their own equipment but that it is also in good working order and has up to date statutory inspections where applicable.
HASAWA Section 4 – Duties on the Controller of Premises
This section aims to protect people who are not employees but who are using the premises for work. e.g. an engineer working in another company’s premises in the lift shaft. This may include safe access and egress as well as safe plant.
The duty is to take measures, so far as is reasonable for a person in his position to take, to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the premises, all means of access and egress available to those using the premises, and any plant or substance on the premises are safe and without risks to health.
There is a legal requirement under the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations to co-ordinate and co-operate, this applies where employees of more than one organisation will be working together.