Management of the contract / service
Developing a ‘partnering approach’ between you as client and the contractor can be an effective way of managing the contract (and might be an integral part of it). But this can take time to develop, requires trust and a two-way dialogue to ensure that it works. The case studies include examples of partnering approaches and more guidance is available from the Office of Government Commerce.
As client your staff involved in the management of the contract, including those involved in the monitoring, review and audit activities of your service provider, should have sufficient competence to carry out their role effectively. They should consider the contribution of and, where necessary, seek and use expert assistance from others either within your LA (such as in-house safety advisers) or externally (such as consultants, other authorities and LA network groups/forums).
When the service provider is appointed, the contract arrangements should include a robust framework for your monitoring and review of their health and safety practice and performance. Once the contract commences the following should be evident:
- An on-the-ground monitoring regime, run either independently or in conjunction with your service provider, to ensure that those delivering the service are actually working to the agreed methods, and to review the continuing suitability of those working methods. The monitoring practices should always include observation and questioning and have an agreed compliance/risk scaling consistent with BS 18004:2008 or equivalent. Monitoring should reflect the key health and safety performance indicators detailed in the contract;
- Periodic review of all relevant accidents and incidents, ensuring that appropriate action has been taken, and that lessons have been learned/applied more widely;
- Periodic and formal auditing of the health, safety and welfare standards of your service provider; and
- A suitably authoritative contract safety review committee with representatives from you the client LA (such as senior managers and elected members), your service provider and ideally any other parties affected by the contract, which will include the workforce.
To avoid the contract safety review committee becoming a forum for ongoing disputes, the terms of reference and powers should be clearly defined at the contract documentation stage. The committee should be expected to receive reports on the items mentioned above, and should also provide an opportunity for both you the client and your service provider to share matters of mutual interest, such as evolving best practice.
As the client the detail of your health and safety monitoring regime of your service provider should be proportionate to the level of risk. It should seek to focus on real safety issues in line with the principles of sensible risk management. A balance needs to be struck. If the regime causes your service provider to focus their attention on activities to avoid penalties rather than concentrating on managing real risk, it will devalue the whole process and may result in poor health and safety performance overall.
As client you should not be under the illusion that by merely issuing corrective actions you have discharged your responsibilities. It is important that you engage with your service provider and actively work with them to investigate and tackle underlying causes.
An outline monitoring checklist can be adapted for use by you as client and your service providers. The monitoring and review arrangements of your service provider may identify issues that need to be addressed partly or wholly by you as client. It is important that your arrangements properly cater for this especially if other departments from your LA are involved.
If as client your monitoring and review arrangements identify issues that require changes in your service provider’s practices or performance, and particularly where there may be an immediate risk to employees or the public, then it is important that the your client officers have the competence and necessary authority to intervene and deal with these, or ability to refer matters to those with such authority promptly. It is important that the role of your client officers is clearly identified and agreed.
There may be an element of ‘historical lag’ with existing contracts still having a substantial time period to run before they become due for renewal. However, this must not prevent you as client discharging your legal duties during the lifetime of the contract. You should explore ways to agree variations to existing contracts if their health and safety provisions are found to be inadequate. As client you should review the performance of the contract and your service provider to examine how they have met health and safety expectations and other performance targets throughout the lifetime of the contract, particularly as it draws to an end. There is a real opportunity to use such reviews to inform and benefit future contracts. Both you and your service provider should be involved in such reviews and can learn from the process. Steps should also be taken to involve the workforce in this review process.