Managing contractors

Key messages

Employers need to choose and assess contractors as carefully as they do when recruiting their own permanent staff. This includes:

Where contractors or subcontractors are employed, the site operator or principal employer should make sure that they fit in with the overall work scheme, without increasing risks unnecessarily.

Questions to ask

Before the contractors begin, the site controller and any contractors due to work on the site should agree – in written contract – on the answers to these questions:

If either the contractor or the site controller anyone has doubts about the proposed safety arrangements, they should say so, and take all reasonable steps to improve the arrangements and revise the written contract before the work starts.

The site operator or principal employer should check that the contractor and (through the contractor) any subcontractor is fit and competent to do the work. Check, for example, that

Licensing systems can be a useful way of controlling the work activities of contractors and subcontractors. Licences to operate on site are issued for certain periods, and are only renewed if contractors have behaved satisfactorily.

When a contractor employs subcontractors, the contractor can clearly use similar checks and supervision to control the subcontractors' work. The site operator will usually need evidence from the contractor that adequate controls over subcontractors are in place.

Contractors should be in no doubt that they are responsible for their own employees and their activities.

Updated 2021-11-17