How effectively are you managing your contractors?

Accidents involving contractors (including fatalities) are not uncommon and subsequent investigations have identified the joint legal duties of the contractor and the business engaging them had not been fully understood by both parties.
Contractors are generally engaged to carry out activities which you are not able to, or chose not to, deliver yourselves. In doing so there is a common misconception that while the risks arising from that activity have been transferred to the contractor, sole responsibility for the activity have transferred also. This is simply not the case.

In 2015 an electrical contractor was fined £20,000 following an incident in which two employees suffered severe electrical burns after a component which they were replacing on a client site came into contact with a live conductor. In this case the court not only punished the contractor but also fined the client £24,000 for failing to effectively manage their contractor.
How then do you ensure that their legal duties to manage contractors are being effectively met?
Before any works start you must clearly define the activity to be delivered, identify the hazards and assess the risks arising from the activity and consider the measures required to control these risks. But do you actually understand the activity and the risks arising from it?
Selecting a competent contractor to undertake the activity is of vital importance.
Competency may be defined as having sufficient knowledge of, training in and experience of the planned activity. Again, if you do not fully understand or appreciate the risks involved in the activity how would you know if the contractor you have selected is competent? Are you sufficiently competent to make an informed decision on whether to use a particular contractor or not? 

If the answer to these questions is ‘no’, then specialist advice should be sought to assist in the decision making process. A subsequent review of the contractors submitted evidence to undertake the activity should also be considered.
This evidence of contractor competency could be checking:

  • Are they a member of an accredited scheme which has assessed how they manage health and safety?
  • Have they provided specific risk assessments and method statements relevant to the activity they have been asked to deliver? 
  • Are their staff sufficiently trained to safely carry out the activity?


When the contractor has been selected, the two parties must agree the ‘rules of engagement’ such as, the site rules or for example how accidents will be reported.
Once the activity commences you should monitor the performance and conduct of the contractor to ensure safety precautions as agreed are being observed.
On completion of the activity a review of how it was delivered will help in deciding whether the contractor would be used again, or to determine if all applied controls were adequate, or if further measures are required when undertaking similar future activities.
This may seem like a lot of work but given the potential for legal action should things go wrong when engaging contractors, can you afford not to apply a sufficient degree of due diligence? 

If you would like to discuss this topic in more detail please contact the TL Dallas Risk Management team by emailing