Last month was National Safe Work Month, encouraging Australian organisations to think of ways to make their workplaces safer and healthier.
Naturally, your attention will turn to the wellbeing of your employees. But what about consultants and contractors?
Bringing in external people to deliver work is every day business for most Australian companies. But hiring contractors does not remove the organisation’s Health and Safety-related legal responsibilities or primary duties. When contractors and consultants come to your worksite, there are many WHS requirements to follow.We were all reminded of this in June when the NSW Court of Appeal adjudicated over a case made by an unsuccessful plaintiff in claiming for liability insurance and workplace law proceedings.
The case concerned a cleaner, Ms. Drew who was employed by Menzies Property Services Pty Ltd, which served a contract with the NSW state for providing their cleaning services at Campbelltown Public School.
In November 2005, while working at the school, Ms. Drew walked through a classroom that was being used as a storage area for an event, where she either caught a bucket or tripped on a box that caused her to fall and eventually sustain some injuries.
She filed and commenced proceedings against the State, accusing it for being liable for the school staff’s negligent acts and/or omissions, and the agency Menzies Property Services Pty Ltd, which she accused for having breached its non-delegable duty of care as her employer.
The District Court, however, found that neither State nor employer breached duties of care as she accused them. Their ruling was upheld by the NSW Court of Appeal.
Although the NSW State and Menzies Property Services Pty Ltd were cleared, it’s an important reminder that we must take contractor and consultant safety very seriously. If the same case were brought against your company, would the court’s ruling be the same?
Here are 7 tips to help you manage contractor and consultant safety:
- Select contractors who are properly accredited
- Ensure that they have a safe working environment and that their equipment is properly maintained to prevent incidents
- Managers and supervisors must be made aware of their legal obligations in relation to contractors
- Make sure you have a system in place for the selection of contractors, and a way to monitor their level of accreditation, such as a pre-qualification register.
- Your contractors should provide documentation that demonstrates the existence and effectiveness of their own Health and Safety Management System.
- Before contractors begin work, managers should inspect their equipment to satisfy themselves that it’s correct for the job and is in good condition.
- It’s also the manager’s responsibility to regularly monitor the contractor’s activities and ensure compliance with the relevant WHS requirements.