Contractors and subcontractors

Where contractors or sub-contractors are employed, the site operator or principal employer should make sure that their activities fit in with the overall work scheme, without increasing risks unduly.

The person responsible for the site will need to provide the contractor with appropriate Health & Safety information in relation to the work to be carried out, so that the work can be done safely.

  • For example information about:
    • The workplace
    • The routes to be used
    • The vehicles and equipment on site
    • Specific hazards
    • Other people on site, including other contractors, visiting drivers, etc.

The person responsible for the site should check the suitability of the contractor and, through the contractor, any sub-contractor, in terms of Health & Safety standards. Check for example:

  • That the contractor selects and trains employees to the required standards and that they are suitably competent.
  • That, on previous contracts, the contractor has complied worked safely. Where possible, check the contractor's accident and ill-health record.
  • That any vehicles used by the contractor in the workplace are suitable for the job and are properly maintained throughout the contract.
    • Some employers inspect contractors' vehicles before allowing them to operate on site, others insist on a mechanic's inspection report covering essential safety components.
    • It may also be necessary to carry out spot checks to ensure that vehicles remain safe until the work is finished.
  • The contractor will also need to be made fully aware of the penalties of unsafe working.
    • It may be necessary to ensure that compliance with good Health & Safety practice, and with any specific site regulations, is included as a contract requirement. This may also help clarify the penalties for a breach of safe working practice (ie making unsafe working a breach of contract).
    • It is important to maintain a system of supervision of the contractor's work.
  • Informal licensing can be a useful way of controlling how contractors and sub-contractors work.
    • For example, licences to operate on site are issued for specified periods. They are only renewed if contractors have behaved properly.
  • When a contractor takes on a sub-contractor, the contractor can clearly use similar checks and supervision to exercise control over their actions. The site operator will usually need evidence that adequate controls over sub-contractors are in place.
  • Despite these precautions, contractors should be in no doubt that they are responsible for their own employees.

Is this page useful?