Health and Safety Considerations beyond the obvious...instructing a contractor

Fiona Togher BSc (Hons) MRICS, Partner at at Hamilton Darcey looks at responsibilities and considerations when instructing a contractor.

As a firm of Chartered Surveyors, the health and safety aspect of our day-to-day activities, sites, clients and our advice is a constant.

We actively follow the RICS Guidance Note: Surveying safely: Health and Safety Principles for Property Professionals (2nd Edition, November 2018). This guidance note provides advice to RICS members and other professionals who are involved with the property industry. It also clarifies that health and safety responsibilities extend to everyone involved in a project. In this article we will specifically look at responsibilities and considerations when instructing a contractor.

Who is responsible?

It should never be assumed that someone else will take responsibility. The landlord, the property owner, the tenant and the managing agent all have an obligation to ensure the planning for works to a property, the relevant information and site conditions in which the contractor is expected to work, are suitable.

What are your responsibilities when instructing a contractor?

The person instructing the contractor has a duty to do the following:

  • Think carefully about what the work will involve. Does the work need to be tendered or is it a straightforward maintenance job?
  • Ensure that the contractor undertaking the work has the skills, knowledge and experience to carry out the works. At Hamilton Darcey LLP we carry out due diligence on contractors at pre-tender stage to ensure the contractor is the right person/company for the specific job. This includes checking if a contractors’ insurance is the correct level and up-to-date, checking if they are part of a relevant professional body and requesting references.
  • Provide any relevant information about the property to the contractor before work starts. This can include:
  • Site/access restrictions;
  • Asbestos reports/surveys (it is often overlooked that many materials, including artex, pipe lagging, adhesives, tiling etc. can all contain asbestos).

What other information should you request from contractors?

Before instructing works you should request a risk assessment and method statement or both (often known as RAMS). It is important to thoroughly review and scrutinise these as they should be specified to each and every job. Well thought out and presented RAMS will indicate that the contractor has carefully considered the health and safety issues and has a good understanding of the complexities of carrying out the works.

They should include at least the following items:

  • The safety of and interaction with tenants/occupiers
  • Site security
  • Reporting of accidents
  • Disposal of waste arrangements
  • Emergency arrangements
  • Hours of work
  • Maintaining fire escape routes
  • Minimising noise, dust and exposure to hazardous materials
  • Storage of materials

Once the works are complete, it is prudent to review the works undertaken with the contractor in order to establish if lessons can be learned from the instruction. Health and Safety is not simply a tick box exercise but is a process that is constantly seeking improvement and it is important to be able to reflect and implement any of the lessons learned.

For every instruction, always ask for a full breakdown of the quotation to ensure H&S has not been compromised to be awarded the contract.

Fiona Togher is a Partner at Hamilton Darcey LLP, a RICS regulated Chartered Surveying practice based in London who undertake instructions relating to all aspects of Building Surveying and Design services with a particular specialism in the high end residential sector.