Safely managing contractors ISO 45001

Thursday 2nd May 2019

Safely managing contractors; ISO 45001

ISO 45001 provides a practical, risk-based approach to safe contractor management. If you are managing an ISO 45001 Occupational Health and Safety management system, a real challenge can be safe contractor management, as these workers may work for another organisation and report to a separate line of management.

Accidents and incidents can often be attributed to the poor selection of contractors which can have a detrimental impact including loss of life, physical disability, mental health and financial impact. Because of this, ISO 45001:2018 requires you to implement and maintain a process to control the procurement of external providers (contractor management).

1. Adopt a Risk-based approach

Risk-based thinking is a central tenet of the ISO 45001 Occupational Health and Safety standard. Using a risk-based approach means that your organisation can allocate the appropriate level of resources to hazards depending on the risk they pose. For example, contractors employed for office activities would probably be lower risk than a mechanical or electrical contractor.

Risk assessment can be based on a variety of criteria, such as the negative impact of harm on workers, or the potential loss of building premises through fire and subsequent invalid insurance. Decision-making should be supported by appropriate evidence that provides confidence. This evidence might include:

  • Pre-qualification questionnaires supported with applicable industry related certifications e.g. Safety Schemes in Procurement (SSIP), UKAS certified ISO 45001 management standard, members of industry related trade associations,
  • Evidence of up to date approved safety training or evidence of specialist knowledge
  • Adequate resources including liability insurance, latest technology and ability to fulfil the scope of work

2. Comply with legal requirements

It is essential to ensure, during the contractor selection process, that the awarded contractor is legally compliant. Failure to obtain evidence of licensing or competency might cause detrimental effects on your organisation if an incident occurs at any time.

For example, if you are procuring a resource to manage Asbestos, ensure that you have identified the need for appropriately qualified asbestos contractors with correct documentation. If you fail to do this, it may lead to breaches of legal requirements, civil claims, loss of insurance and potentially, prosecution.

3. Co-ordinate and communicate with the contractors

Once a contractor has been selected, it is essential to ensure there are documented contracts that clearly define scopes of work. ISO 45001 requires evidence to satisfy its requirements, and more importantly, any regulator will review any documentation in the event of incident. Using a risk-based approach, a contract may be as simple as a short description, whereas a more complex scope of work would be written into a schedule of works with stipulated controls.

Prior to work being carried out and applying appropriate levels of resource to it, it is key to communicate effectively, for example:

  • Define responsibilities clearly between your role as the client and their role as contractor
  • Consider a reasonable structure and frequency to meetings in order to agree and review proposed activities
  • If necessary, conduct pre-start risk assessments and ensure that applicable worker groups are consulted
  • As appropriate, document schemes of work in a ‘method statement’ . This should define the sequence of work and highlight requirements such as plant, equipment and relevant permits to work
  • Provide documented induction programmes for contractors that include site tours, contact details, welfare facilities and emergency action plans
  • Establish and agree any further means of communication, particularly in the event of emergency. This could also include methods of accident and near miss reporting as well as incident management.

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