Contracting out some specialised services makes a lot of sense for a business. The responsibility of managing these contractors on site often falls to the Facilities Manager; this is a serious responsibility that shouldn’t be underestimated.
The Construction sector has the highest number of accidents in the UK and in 2016/17 the HSE reported 30 fatalities. Case history repeatedly demonstrates that the legal duties of the contractor and the organisation employing them had not been fully understood by both parties, resulting in failures in the system of health and safety management.
The organisation employing a contractor/contractors must understand that health and safety legislation is criminal law and that duties under it are non-delegable ie: they cannot be passed from one party to another by means of a contract and each party will have duties which must be discharged. Convictions can lead to large fines for which it is not possible to buy insurance and the consequences of the loss of reputation for a business can be significant. Claims may also follow in the civil courts after a prosecution and can also be large. Furthermore, companies can be prosecuted under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 and individuals within an organisation can be prosecuted for gross negligence manslaughter.
The leading case law in this area is R v Swan Hunter Shipbuilders and Telemeter Installations Ltd (1981). The case involved a welding accident killing eight men. Swan Hunter knew of the fire risk connected with oxygen-enriched atmospheres, they had prepared a guide for Swan Hunter employees and had provided the information to them. However, they had failed to pass this information to Telemeter and other contractors and/or the employees of those other contractors. Swan Hunter was prosecuted and fined.
The BiFM have prepared a full guide on the matter giving detailed advice on how an FM bringing in contractors can fulfil their H&S obligations under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 including:
• planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of health and safety measures
• risk assessments and permits to work
• recruitment and employment of competent persons
• exchange of information, instruction and training for staff
• consultation with staff
• emergency procedures
“Good contractor management is all about communication”, said Russell Barnard, SG World Product Manager, “making sure contractors know your site safety rules, understanding and risk-assessing the job in hand, knowing where and when they are on site. And of course being able to demonstrate this in the event of an accident and investigation.”