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Contractor Management - Blog

Posted by Andy Perry on 9 October 2018

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:

  • Lack of understanding of OHS obligations to contractors;
  • Insufficient checking of the contractor's safety systems prior to engagement;
  • Limited checking of the submitted safety documentation, such as Safety Management Plan, Job Safety Analysis (JSA), Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS), and/or Risk Assessments;
  • Minimal supervision and monitoring of contractor's operations with respect to safety performance; and
  • Responsibilities and accountabilities of various parties not clearly articulated or understood in relation to safety aspects.

To manage these challenges the organisation should establish an effective Contractor Management System, which may include, but not limited to:

  • Expected standard of work;
  • Continuous improvement of safety performance;
  • Consultation, co-operation and co-ordination between duty holders;
  • Robust reporting structure to ensure project timelines and incidents; and
  • Satisfaction of OHS legal obligations.

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:

  • The level of risk of the job and the activities associated with it;
  • Length of duration of the contract;
  • Number of persons involved in the work and the level of interaction with other parties;
  • The control the organisation has over the job or workplace; and
  • The size of the contract firm and experience.

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.

Author: Andy Perry
Tags: Andy Perry

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