The presence of contractors adds a level of complexity to workplace relationships that does not exist where an entire workforce is under the managerial control of the Management Unit. Consequently the management of these relationships will go a long way to influencing the safety of the workplace and the health of the workers employed there. The Management Unit (or those in control of workplaces) and the contractor, have responsibilities placed on them by health and safety law and these responsibilities cannot be passed from one party to another by means of a contract.
Management Units are reminded of Section 5.11 of the University’s Financial Regulations which sate “The Estates and Buildings Office has responsibility for the management of the University's estates. All repairs and renewals of University property should be carried out by, or under the supervision of Estates and Buildings. All building contracts are therefore the responsibility of Estates and Buildings”. Therefore, those contractors carrying out “construction work” (within the definition of The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 (CDM)) can only be appointed by Estates and Buildings and Management Units MUST NOT under any circumstances appoint contractors whose work involves disturbance to the fabric of the buildings without prior consultation with Estates and Buildings. (See also Asbestos Section above).
However, some Management Units routinely appoint contractors (or sometimes known as suppliers) to maintain their own office/lab equipment and appliances etc. A required first step should be a comprehensive review of the Unit’s risk assessments to take account of that fact. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 contain a duty for all employers sharing a workplace, to co-operate, co-ordinate and share information about risks which might affect the parties involved. (This would also include fire risks).
Proper communication between all involved parties is essential as is the sharing of risk assessments of the work arising from both the contractor and the workplace. Management Units share the responsibility for the health and safety of contractors working for them but should avoid taking detailed responsibility for the contractor’s methods of work but should check that the contractor has completed their risk assessments and use the documents to identify any residual risks which could affect the University’s employees or students.
Management Units intending to make use of contractors should develop a system for managing the contractors they engage. Such a system should allow for contractors to be fully integrated into the existing management system in place whilst allowing contractors to keep control and responsibility for their own activity. Management Units should make sure that control of any safety critical areas or elements are not contracted out.
The University Contractors Code of Safe Working Practice has recently been revised to assist Management Units (and Service Departments) to properly manage contractors whilst on university premises. Although primarily aimed at building contractors engaged by Estates and Buildings, the document does contain useful information for those Management Units who routinely engage contactors. Relevant personnel in all Management Units should be made aware of the requirements of this Code which should be freely distributed to appointed contractors. Management Units should only apply the relevant sections of the Code which are applicable to the work to be carried out by them.