Health and Safety at Work - Safe Contractors

Gregg Masters, Managing Director at 4site Consulting advises on employing contractors and making sure they are competent.

When employing a contractor, you should be satisfied that the contractor you select is capable and competent to do the job safely and without unacceptable risks to health.

The degree of competency required will of course depend on the complexity of the work and on the level of risk. However, there are some questions in which you can ask contractors before you employ them, including:

  • What checks do you do on equipment, materials, etc.?
  • How will you check the competency of subcontractors?
  • Do you have a written health and safety policy? (if a workplace has 5 or more employees, then the employer must keep a written record of their health and safety policy)
  • What qualifications and skills do you have relevant to the job?
  • What health and safety information and training do you provide to workers?

Health and safety is not only the responsibility of the contractor but also of the person employing them. Therefore, it is essential that the contractor has been given information on any risks they may face in that particular building, before they start works.

Below, we have looked at some case studies which highlight the importance of using competent contractors and the potential consequences of contractors not having safe working practices.

Case Studies

Renewable Energy Fined after Work Killed in Fall from Height

In May 2012, Kevin Brookes, 35, from Tamworth, suffered fatal injuries when fell 7 metres to his death from a roof when he was employed by Midlands Solar Solutions Ltd to install panels.

The court heard that Mr Brookes was attempting to retrieve his drill which was sliding towards the edge of the roof when he fell over the edge of the building.

The Principal contractor, Alumet Renewable Technologies Ltd, was fined £66,000 as they failed to put an adequate health and Safety plan in place. The plan they had outlined did not have sufficient measures to protect workers and measures were not followed.

Sub-contractors, Midlands Solar Solutions Ltd, who employed Mr Brookes were also fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £12,491 in costs for breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

Rugby Scaffolding Services Ltd who were responsible for installing edge protection were fined £60,000. The protection did not meet nationally agreed standards and employees of Rugby Scaffolding had not been properly trained or supervised.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Amy Kalay, stated that the fatality was “entirely and easily preventable… all three companies had copious experience of working at height to install solar panels and as such should have been experts.”

“Alumet Renewable Technologies Ltd knew that the work was a high-risk activity, and the company should have known what measures to put in place to keep workers safe and making sure these precautions were followed by everyone involved.”

Electric Gate Company fined after Death of 6-Year Old

On 31st October 2015, a 6-year old was fatally crushed whilst playing with a sliding gate in an underground carpark in Leeds. The 6-year old was playing with friends and the children were pushing the gate open and closed before it fell, fatally trapping the child.

The gate was pushed beyond the retaining mechanism as no end-stop had been fitted to the gate track.

Bradfabs Ltd, the electric gate company from Bradford, pleaded guilty to breaching section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act. The company received a fine of £30,000 and ordered to pay fees of £12,411.46.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Julian Franklin, stated that it was a “tragic and wholly avoidable incident, which could have been prevented by a thorough commissioning check before handing the gate over to the building occupier.”

Legislation

In both of these instances, the contractors and subcontractors in question had breached The Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA 1974). The HSWA is the primary piece of Legislation regulation occupational health and safety in Great Britain. It is enforced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and requires that workplaces provide:

  • Adequate training to staff
  • Adequate welfare provisions for staff at work
  • A safe working environment
  • Delivery of relevant information, instruction and supervision

According to the HSE, falls from height are one of the biggest causes of workplace fatalities and major injuries. The Working at Height Regulations 2005 states that employees and those in control of any work at height activity, must ensure that work is properly planned, supervised, and carried out by competent people (sufficient skills, knowledge and experience). Ideally, employers should avoid work at height where it is reasonably practicable to do so. However, if it cannot be avoided employers should prevent falls using the right type of equipment or minimise the distance and consequences of a fall.

Another important regulation is the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 which states that an employer must suitably assess work-based activities and implement appropriate control measures to manage potential risks to the health, safety and welfare of employees and others.

Sadly, both of these instances could have been easily avoided had the correct health and safety procedures been followed in accordance with the law.

Gregg Masters is the Managing Director of 4site Consulting, providing independent safety and risk management for owners and managers of blocks of flats and apartments.