This guide covers all the basics and essentials of WHS Management of contractors. Learning this stuff could save you from lots of hassle and costly expenses, so go grab a coffee and get reading!
Contractors are an imperative part of our work life. If you run a small to medium-sized business, the chances are you use several contractors for your projects. And, there is nothing wrong with that, but this can have huge risks to your business if not managed correctly.
Many “Persons Conducting Businesses or Undertakings (PCBUs)” don’t fully understand their legal obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) when it comes to managing the health and safety of their contractors. This can mean they are unknowingly putting themselves at risk, leaving their business open to penalty notices and incurring costs.
So, how can you manage the WHS of contractors?
Let’s face it.. There are so many WHS rules, regulations and obligations depending on which state you operate in. Industry specific too. We understand that in this area you need all the help you can get.
This practical guide provides information on how to effectively manage the WHS obligations of your contractors while increasing workplace safety and productivity – both at no extra cost to your business.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
Duty, Obligations and Responsibilities
As a PCBU, you must ensure the safety of your workers and provide the highest level of protection that is both possible and reasonable in the circumstances. This means that you must eliminate or minimise any risks associated with things over which you have control and ensure the health, safety, and welfare at work of your employees members of the public, and any other affected persons
Furthermore, when you use a contractor to undertake specialist work that you do not have the skills to do, you are still responsible for ensuring that the work done by the contractor does not put your workers in danger. You are required to consult, co-operate, and co-ordinate with the contractor to guarantee the safety of your team and of the contractor.
Note the following:
- As an employer or business, you can rely on experts for specialized advice on matters of workplace safety, but the PCBUs must not relinquish or abdicate their duty to provide a safe work environment.
- All PCBUs should be diligent in checking that a contractor has the correct certifications and credentials to perform any work on site that may affect or impact the safety of workers, contractors, or patrons.
- When you commission a contractor to perform a duty on your site, you make an important decision. You rely on your contractor to finish the job safely and efficiently and they rely on you to give them detailed instructions and accurate notice of risks that may affect the project’s completion.
WHS Management of contractors – The Process
Be clear on the scope of work
The first step in the WHS Management of Contractors is to clearly define the scope of work. Before signing any contract with a contractor, ensure they fully understand the nature and needs of the project.
The objective of this task is to plan, in detail, how the work process is to be undertaken by a particular contractor on a particular project. The scope of work is vital to the performance of WHS in that it details what is expected to be delivered by the contractors and their subcontractors. The scope can also be used as a guideline for evaluation of the risk management approach.
Define the scope of the contract, and identify the services to be performed. It should include details like the hourly rate, amount, and client payment terms etc.
Accurately defining scope will save time and money in the future when estimating costs and offering bids.
Verify the contractor has the necessary expertise for the work
WHS Management of contractors is an activity which has to be done in order to have a safe and organized site. In other words, the contractors need to be approved via the proper channels before they begin working for you. This ensures that they are qualified for the specific job and their expertise is not compromised in any manner.
You must verify whether the person meets all of the requirements to get a contract, including whether they have the necessary qualifications. WHS requires all contractors to be assessed to ensure authorities are aware of their competency levels. Then, only the accurate qualified contractor will be able carry out the job duties.
This includes determining if they are qualified for the scope of the work, verification of their safety management system, exploring any legal issues that may arise, determining what specific qualifications the contractor will need, conducting an investigation of any past work histories to ensure that they are professional, identify whether each subcontractor complies with all applicable laws and regulations as well as WHS Management guidelines.
You want to be able to trust your investment with each contractor and know they will be able to deliver the quality work promised.
Consult regularly with the contractor and your team
A good general management procedure for contractors is to undertake regular reviews of their progress. You want contractors to be doing the best work for you, so ensure you are regularly communicating with them to ensure your needs are being met. You want the project to be progressing as quickly as possible, so it doesn’t pay to delay in telling contractors what you would like them to be doing.
This generally involves regular correspondence concerning the work, time, project needs and budget. This is important because you are working with a third party and should not be working independently.
Consultation with each other provides mutual understanding and improves chances of quality control. It is considered good practice to:
- Share and discuss risk assessment information with contractors.
- Advise your employees of any planned interruption to business operation processes and/or utility services.
- Update workers regularly so they know what’s going on and who to expect in and around the workplace and at what times.
- Review and discuss complaints raised by workers with contractors where applicable.
- Discuss egress management and whether other persons should be allowed access to the workplace.
- Advise your workers and contractor on potential hazards
- Verify work is progressing and is being carried out as agreed.
Ensure relevant safe operating procedures (SOP’s) are in place
Contractors should not only be trusted to carry out work to the satisfaction of their contract and regulatory requirements, but should also have the facility to carry out personal safety measures. Every workplace is a risk-management exercise and contractors should understand that they carry personal risks when they operate in such a confined area. The hazard should be understood before disaster occurs, and the outcome considered prior to them resuming duty.
In that light, a contractor must have all necessary safety and security equipment at all times to ensure their safety and the safety of others on the site. This means, for example, carrying a mobile phone to report to the police if necessary during dangerous work sites. Before taking on any new task, be sure to discuss the existing safety procedures with the personnel who will be working alongside you on that project with the contractor.
Agree on workers supervision and training
It is essential that all workers fully understand their responsibilities. Not only is training and education a key element of WHS Management, but it is a critical incident management tool. Workers must be able to report incidents immediately and effectively. This requires regular training and should be established when working with a contractor..
Workers in a WHS regulated establishment will be expected to have a work supervisor they can openly discuss safety concerns directly with. A good contractor should provide supervisors and ensure adequate training of its workers.
A good supervisor will have their workers follow basic safety measures at all times. This will include wearing a safety whistle when necessary and following a hazard identification card protocol. They must also have methods in place to help workers report unsafe conditions immediately to management.
Agreeing on workers training and supervision is a process which has to be long drawn out and carefully thought out. It should include matters such as, who will be in charge, what areas will be covered by workers, who will pay for everything and when. The combination of things needed or suggested should balance so that it will be better for the company than not to have it, in case of any disputes or when problems arise.
Identify concurrent duties
Identify concurrent duties by performing a process review involving an analysis of current and planned work and a review of procedure. Identify any areas where information is lacking or procedural controls are inadequate. This generally includes gaining knowledge of direct employee responsibilities for each project and considering onsite control issues with responsibility management of any contractor or subcontractor performing work on behalf of your organisation.
Filing Reports and work appraisals
When a contractor works on your project there are a number of work reports and disputes to be dealt with. This includes incident reports and reports that will list tasks, costs, and time until completion with corresponding comments.
It is very important that you keep track of your contractors and report everything to the proper persons as and when required, according to the WHS policies, procedures and regulations.
Keeping contractors on track as regards to WHS policies and procedures is essential to have a happy workforce. First, evaluations and audits should be conducted by a qualified, observant and understanding team leader who will detect, determine and report on violations of WHS regulations. All staff must continuously report violations to their supervisor as needed for the safety and security of employees and customers. The supervisor then makes a final decision on whether or not disciplinary action will be taken by actions such as reprimand, fine or suspension.
And for you, the employer, it’s critical. Measuring the effectiveness of a contractor requires not just assessing compliance against regulations, but also evaluating how a contractor impacts the working culture at your own workplace.
Use relevant Software for WHS management of contractors
The workplace health and safety of employees is a major concern for both employers and employees. An effective approach to emulate the planned and safe work practices across all areas of your company is using the WHS management system. In general, If you are working with a contractor, a system for whs management is essential for keeping track of those records and knowing what needs to be done as well as how to comply at all times with safety regulations and laws.
You can automatically organise all contractor events and data into reports, reviews and evaluations. This is fully automated – meaning you can get on with the job at hand rather than maintaining spreadsheets. This helps businesses avoid any potential liability and disputes in the future.