The management of contractors in todays safety environment is some what challenging to many organisations, having regard to legal responsibility for their risks with minimal control over their actions and responses.
The applicable health and safety legislation does outline the employer's duty of care to employees that includes an independent contractor engaged by the employer, where there is any extent of management and control and if not for any agreement purporting to limit or remove that control. In simple terms, it means the duty of care is owed to both employees and contractors is identical.
There is also some confusion over the term Principal Contractor that is referenced in the OHS Regulations 2017. In many cases the owner, employer of a construction project would be the principal contractor as described in the Victorian OHS Regulation 2017 Regulation 333.
The question must be, how does an organisation manage these obligations? Generally, poor contractor management comes down to some fundamental deficiencies, which may include:
To manage these challenges the organisation should establish an effective Contractor Management System, which may include, but not limited to:
Standards Australia have a general guideline that could be applied with meeting these challenges that is known as AS 4000-1997 General conditions of contract. Clause 11 in the standard details legislative requirements that would be a great start for an employer.
The next step in the process is monitoring the contractor's activities to ensure the organisation can demonstrate due diligence when meeting its OHS obligations with regards to contractors. The extent to which the monitoring will need to take place will be affected by a number of factors:
Increased monitoring may be required where activities are of a high risk in nature and there is a high level of interaction with others at the workplace who are involved in the job.