Contractor Health and Safety

The selection and management of staff and contractors with event safety expert Chris Hannam

As far as the event industry is concerned, it is perhaps in the area of staff and contractors that quality, competence and Health and Safety are linked most closely.

Every month there are prosecutions where clients falsely believe that contracting out work is the same as contracting out liability, where responsibilities between clients and contractor (and sub-contractors) are not defined, where accidents occur and, in most cases, client fines are higher than those paid by contractors. The aim of this article is to ensure safety of events throughout the whole procurement chain, from client to stage hand.

Selecting Staff & Contractors
You need to use investigative means to ensure the health and safety competence of the staff and contractors you appoint, as ultimately it is the employer who is responsible for deciding if a person or company is competent. This can be quite a daunting prospect and something you want to get right, especially if things have already gone wrong – the only consolation then is knowing that only the courts can decide if the person you appointed was in fact competent! If in doubt, employ the services of an event safety consultant.

A number of factors including training and qualifications should be considered, not just experience and a “can do attitude”. The latter can be dangerous as staff may take on activities far beyond their capabilities in order to please a client, particularly when last minute changes occur. It is considered good practice to have a ‘pre-qualification questionnaire’ to help assess suitable contractors.

Competence can be described as the combination of training, skills, experience and knowledge that a person has, their ability to apply them to perform a task safely, their willingness to increase experience and knowledge, and awareness of their own limitations. Other factors, such as attitude and physical ability, can also affect someone’s competence.

When it comes to levels of responsibility for employees it is suggested they are categorised as follows:

Manager: A competent person able to define, create and implement a safe system of work applicable to all workplaces
Supervisor (crew chief or crew boss): A competent person responsible for implementing and supervising a safe system of work at a particular work site
Technician: Competent user of PPE, able to carry out a specific task under supervision.

I advise having a written set of procedures (including a pre-qualification questionnaire) for selecting contractors and staff; this may include one or more of the following techniques:

• Formal or informal interview

• Checks on records of training, experience and qualifications

• CVs and references

• Recommendation and reputation

• Observation and previous experience of working with that person

• Health and fitness checks if these are felt necessary, or the nature of the work dictates.

As a minimum, the information required for each individual should include:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Date of Birth
  • National Insurance Number
  • Nationality
  • Who to contact in an emergency

It’s a sad fact that in our industry the selection of suppliers, providers, contractors and staff is primarily based on a network of informal personal contacts and ‘experience’ is considered to be the primary proof of competence at all levels (from management to crew). There is little requirement to provide evidence of competency. This is a situation that must change. We need to encourage the use of pre-qualification questionnaires – remember, you can contract out work but not the liability; you are legally responsible for your contractors.

Contractor Health and SafetyContractor health and safety
The kind of information normally required when selecting contractors to ensure they are ‘competent’ to fulfil their Health & Safety responsibilities is as follows:

  • Accident Records and Reporting System; what is their safety performance like?
  • Risk Assessments (it is not necessary to get site or job specific risk assessments at this stage, risk assessments for jobs of a similar nature and scale are sufficient to assess a contractor’s ‘competence’. You can obtain the job or site specific risk assessment after they have been appointed)
  • Health & Safety Policy (in addition to the basic Policy Statement, this document must include information on the management structure and organisation in respect of Health and Safety, and the Health and Safety arrangements they have in place)
  • Method Statements (but only where appropriate) and Safe Systems of Work
  • Details and Records of Staff Training and Qualifications and/or Safety Passport schemes operated (staff training is usually a very good area to check thoroughly)
  • Test/Inspection/Examination Certificates or records for equipment including fire, electrical equipment, work at height etc.
  • Does the contractor have appropriate experience?
  • Are they a member of a trade or professional body?
  • Check their management arrangements: What are their procedures for managing Health and Safety?
  • Do they have the required insurance?

All this seems a lot to ask for, but it is now quite normal within most industries to gather this kind of evidence and we are just going to have to get to grips with it. Personally, I have found training records are one of the best methods of assessing an organisation as they are far more difficult to fake.

The level of Health and Safety competence should be suited to the level of risk in the operations the contractor has to fulfill. High risk operations such as rigging, work at height and stage construction will require high levels of training and competence.

Should a supplier/contractor have a serious accident at the site that an employer is in charge of, the employer could be in serious trouble if they have not obtained copies of, checked and recorded this information from the contractor in question.

As we have already seen, you can’t just appoint contractors and ‘let them get on with it’. If your contractors fall foul of Health and Safety laws while working on your show or event then you may well be held responsible and can be prosecuted.

Top Tip

A tip for those appointing contractors: always ask a contractor to provide a Health and Safety Policy, Sample Risk Assessments, details of staff training and qualifications, insurance information etc. with their quote.

Select contractors by a combination of quote price and suitable and sufficient Health and Safety information. It’s no good asking for the information after you have confirmed the contract; you’ll be lucky to get it and you won’t know if you’re appointing competent contractors if you haven’t seen their documentation.

Remember; “There is hardly anything in the world that someone cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price alone are that person’s lawful prey”.

Do you know what it all means?
All too often I have seen event managers brandishing handfuls of health and safety policies and risk assessments from contractors that have never been read, and even if they did read them they would probably not understand them. This is where the use of safety consultants who have the required experience and knowledge of the job, work system or process (as well as Health and Safety experience) is recommended to advise on such matters.

To sum up, it’s a total waste of everyone’s time to ask for suppliers’ Health and Safety policies, risk assessments and other documents just to file them away. You need to be ‘competent’ or have access to ‘competent’ persons that can advise you so that you are able to act upon the information you have gathered and ensure your contractors are correctly vetted.

Health and Safety Management
While not a legal requirement, it is considered ‘good practice’ to have a Health and Safety policy for contractors that clearly sets out what is required in terms of Health and Safety management. This may be part of your main company’s Health and Safety policy or a separate document, but it obviously needs to be issued to and brought to the attention of all contractors and suppliers to be effective.

Having appointed ‘competent’ contractors and/or staff it is still your responsibility to monitor their activities on site to ensure compliance. You also have a responsibility to ensure that all contractors are advised (preferably in writing) of all hazards on site and of the activities of other contractors and workers; you are required to coordinate all work activities to prevent risk.

All contractors must be informed that their Health and Safety control, management systems and performance will be monitored and measured, and that financial penalties and/or disciplinary action will be introduced if the minimum statutory requirements are not met.

Health and Safety procedures
As part of the on-site monitoring and management process employers must ensure contractors follow set procedures such as:

  • report to site office both on arrival, before starting any work and also when leaving the site
  • meet the site manager on site before starting work
  • ensure the site manager knows what/where the work is to be carried out on site
  • inform the site manager of any hazardous substance(s) and equipment to be used on site
  • provide a safe system of work, based on risk assessments where necessary
  • park vehicles in the designated area or as instructed by the production or site manager and observe on-site speed limits
  • ensure the emergency procedure is made known to all contractor employees and sub-contractors
  • ensure access for emergency vehicles is maintained at all times
  • wear identification badge/passes as provided at all times
  • wear appropriate clothing
  • act courteously to staff and members of the public
  • use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • segregate their work area wherever possible and/or as agreed, or take such steps as necessary to prevent unauthorised access to their work area, tools and equipment
  • keep fences secure and intact to prevent unauthorised access
  • maintain local security arrangements eg. not leaving doors open which should be kept locked
  • keep their work area in ‘good order’ to avoid slips, trips and falls
  • control waste material and remove all waste from the site at the end of each working day and/or on completion of work
  • report accidents on site and provide a copy of accident and RIDDOR reports to the site manager
  • ensure their own staff are aware of the arrangements made for welfare (eg. toilets etc.) and first aid
  • ensure their own staff are aware of the requirement to provide fire fighting equipment as necessary
  • follow the Health and Safety policy (as applied to contractors) and make all staff and sub contractors aware of this document.

Contractors must NOT:

  • leave tools, equipment, access equipment, chemicals etc. accessible by unauthorised persons eg. when their work area is left unattended
  • obstruct fire exits or fire exit routes
  • smoke in buildings or structures on site
  • remove items of plant or site vehicles from the confines of the site
  • use any tools, equipment, access equipment etc. belonging to the site or venue without the required permissions.

Remember, you must also share information with your contractors to make the whole operation safe, this includes making them fully aware of any hazards on site and the activities of other contractors so there are no safety conflicts. Much of this should be covered during production meetings, on site briefings and inductions.

Employees must also be adequately monitored and additional training, supervision, instruction or information must be provided if necessary.

In conclusion
The pre-qualification assessment and the monitoring of contractors’ level of Health and Safety compliance is a vital function of Health and Safety advisers and consultants
A Health and Safety consultant must have access to contractors’ assessments and policies etc
Contractors must be informed that these monitoring procedures will take place and of the systems in place to deal with those who’s Health and Safety systems fail to meet the minimum statutory requirements.

About the author
Chris Hannam runs Stagesafe, offering health and safety consultancy and training for the live music and event production industries. With over 35 years’ experience he advises event organisers, production and tour managers, promoters, freelancers, service companies and businesses at every level on all H&S documentation, site planning, crowd management, CDM compliance, steward safety training, contractor safety management and more

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