Tuesday 29th March 2016
Do your contractors know what you are up to?
|In today's Health & Safety Bulletin:|
- Are there risks in taking a ‘horses for courses’ approach to inductions?
|Have you ever wondered whether you can be liable for not properly inducting contractors who come to your premises? The answer is a resounding “yes you can”; but the more difficult question is what steps do you need to take to limit that risk?|
A challenge for most organisations is striking a balance between creating an effective system for inducting and managing contractors on site by taking steps to ensure their safety, with the reality that the contractor is the expert and should be left to do their job.|
The problem becomes even more complex when businesses engage a whole range of contractors. On site, you might have contractors who are short-term, others who are long-term, ones who are doing high risk work and those who only will be undertaking low risk activities.
So, do you need to apply the same degree of attention to a contractor who is only there for a few hours compared to the worker who is scheduled to be working all week, or a labour hire contractor who is there for months?
Should you approach contractor management in a consistent manner or can you apply a ‘horses for courses’ type of approach?
Always warn contractors of dangers
One case demonstrates that no matter what you do, you should always warn contractors of risks posed to their safety from hazards on your premises.
In the decision of WorkCover NSW v JMW Developments Pty Ltd , the principal contractor on a project was fined $75,000 for failing to warn a contractor of the hazards posed by overhead power lines that were in the vicinity of the scaffolding where they were working.
In that case, a worker was on scaffolding on the first floor of a building that was being constructed by JMW. The scaffolding was outside the building and the worker was placing metal poles in the cavities of building blocks to act as reinforcing for a concrete pour the following day.
The scaffolding had been erected within a few metres of live power lines, and while the worker had placed a number of poles in position without incident, as he was placing another pole it contacted the low voltage power line and he suffered an electric shock.
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|Before the incident occurred, JMW had been provided with a safe work method statement (SWMS) that very specifically identified the proximity of power lines and the risk of electric shock.|
As a control measure, the SWMS stated, “Stay 23 metres away from power lines at all times. If need to erect scaffold within this area, procedures should be taken”. It added, “Notify power authority before commencement. Do not commence work until prestart site meeting and risk assessment is completed”.
Those matters were not done and no warning was given the workers in question about the existing risk.
In this case, the principal contractor quite clearly should have ensured not only that the power was isolated and that the scaffold should have been erected elsewhere, but also that all workers should have been inducted into the SWMS, which would have drawn their attention to the hazard.
On the other hand, there will be many occasions where a contractor is not likely to be exposed to any significant risk of injury, either because the risks are low or the amount of exposure time is limited and the contractor has taken adequate precautions.
In either case, a business must decide what level of induction is necessary.
The key question to ask is whether you could reasonably do more to inform the contractor of potential risks to their health.
If there really is a very low risk of injury then you may just want a basic system of having contractors briefed on the risks in the area they will work in, coupled with directions on emergency procedures.
On the other hand, if there is likely to be higher risks or the workers could be at risk of injury as a result of the activities of others, you may need a competency-based induction which requires the workers to go through the safe work procedures of that site and consider how these will interact with the contractor's own safe operating procedures.
If you need advice about inducting contractors on to your worksite, or require assistance adjusting or constructing your safe work procedures, the Portner Press Health & Safety Handbook is the tool your business needs. Written in plain English by health and safety lawyers at Holding Redlich, the Health & Safety Handbook is just like having your own lawyer on staff.
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