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28 May 2018

Are you as safety savvy as your contractors?

The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) aims to protect the health and safety of all workers, including contractors and subcontractors. With contractors increasingly aware of their rights, and the safety requirements an organisation should have in place to adequately support their employment, knowing your obligations is essential.

Relevant to every organisation in Australia, navigating your contractor’s safety rights within an organisation can seem overwhelming. Even after you identify all of the laws and regulations that apply to your organisation and set up your operations accordingly, new ones are brought in (and old ones change!)

What you need to know about contractor safety that they already know. 

First things first: you need to know who counts as a worker in your organisation. It’s a broader category than you might think. The phrase used in Section 7 of the WHS Act is, “a person who carries out work in any capacity for an organisation.” 

Not only are contractors “workers” for the purposes of the Act, but so are subcontractors, and so are their staff. In other words, organisations are accountable to manage workplace health and safety for workers up to three degrees removed from the organisation itself. 

Before even pre-qualifying contractors, your organisation needs to have in place a designated employee (or employees) who is accountable for managing contractors, with clearly defined responsibilities. If an inspector asks, this person must be able to provide documentation of the organisation’s workplace health and safety program, showing just as much compliance oversight for contractors as for regular employees. 

Next, you need to ask for the contractor’s health and safety documentation prior to employment. Any good contractor should be able to prove that they’re certified, licensed and compliant with all of the applicable regulations. For example, when hiring an electrician, organisations need to ensure that candidates have the required insurances, a registered electrical contractor license, can effectively produce SWMS and have a suitable safety policy.

Finally, all contractors on your site need to undergo induction training. This isn’t just about liability or fulfilling a requirement; this is where your organisation sets the standard for workplace safety. Contractors observe how induction training is handled to see how seriously the organisation takes safety, so it’s important to have a program in place that shows you understand your safety obligations. 

Effectively managing contractors is a real challenge. However, as with most things, a common-sense approach can help avoid 99% of potential problems. Contractor management comes down to formalising that common-sense approach in your practices and processes, backing it up with the appropriate documentation, and extending it to additional worker categories, including contractors, subcontractors and their staff. 

iPRO understand that contracting is not just about managing potential liability; more holistically, it’s about creating a framework and setting the tone for the entire working relationship. We can help your organisation verify the compliance of your contractors, along with ensuring you’re managing your legal obligations adequately. Contact iPRO for a free assessment of your organisation’s risk now. 

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