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January 9, 2019

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Control of contractors made simple

Gary Duce, Managing Director of Reset, the contractor and competence management system, looks at how organisations can better manage contractors working on their premises and ensure compliance.

“The construction sector (including Facilities Maintenance) has one of the highest accident rates of any industry, with around 80,000 workers suffering work-related ill health every year and, on average, 30 fatalities. Most organisations have policies in place concerning the health and safety of their staff to ensure they are fully competent and trained to carry out the required activities. However, when it comes to contractors, company and individual competence is monitored much less closely, despite a legal requirement to do so, and this often exposes an organisation to increased risks.

“The Sentencing Guidelines introduced in 2016 clearly demonstrated to organisations that if they did not face up to their responsibilities relating to health and safety then there would be severe consequences. The courts are now issuing larger fines than ever before where workers or contractors are exposed to health and safety risks, even where an incident has been avoided.

“In some cases, incidents captured on smartphone cameras have provided enough evidence to lead a prosecution. Every organisation has a duty to protect its appointed contractors and sub-contractors from harm caused by their activities. Where adequate checks are not carried out and an incident occurs involving a contractor, the organisation could bear the considerable costs. Annual statistics from the HSE show total penalties have almost doubled since new sentencing guidelines were introduced three years ago. The £72.6m in fines during 2017/18 followed 493 successful prosecutions across all industries – with an average fine of £147,000 and several in the millions for larger organisations.

“The risks become increasingly large when you consider the size, scale and range of tasks undertaken by contractors in large organisations such as the NHS, but also in Local Authorities and major Facilities Management companies. However, research suggests that many of these organisations have limited control over monitoring their contractors’ competencies and accreditations.

“Both the client and the contracting company have joint responsibilities under health and safety law to ensure that individuals are competent to carry out the work that they have been appointed to do. Contractor control and management is key to providing assurances that the staff contracted to work on the premises are appropriately skilled and qualified.

“The responsibilities for organisations that engage contractors include ensuring that contractors are adequately accredited and insured and that the health and safety and provisions are adequate to protect all.

“Organisations need to fulfil their requirements to comply with the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 for the control of contractors and the Construction (Design and Management) Regulation 2015 and additionally, in the NHS, the Premises Assurance Model (PAM). They should also be able to provide demonstrable evidence, through an audit trail, to defend against any potential claims. When an organisation puts its trust in a contractor and competence management scheme, it needs to ensure that it is one that uses the latest technology, is cost effective to contractors, simple to use and offers the flexibility to be effective on any type of facility or site.

“Services provided by external contractors can include anything from hard FM work, such as the repair, upkeep and maintenance of all buildings and services, as well as external areas, grounds and premises, through to ‘soft FM’ activities such as pest control, hygiene services, maintenance services etc. who are carrying out regular visits to carry out their activities.

“There has, therefore, never been a greater need for robust processes and contractor management systems in order to reduce risks and ensure safety for contractors, employees and the general public.

There is significant potential exposure when you consider how many contractors can be working on large or multi-site premises at any one time. Managing these contractors is essential and Reset’s technology is enabling this to happen in a more simple and effective way than ever before. To compound this, research has also shown that visiting contractors can introduce a higher risk due to their lack of knowledge or familiarity with the environment and employers’ policies.

Reset“Gone are the days that Estates Management staff need to spend time manually assessing the paperwork or cards of every single contractor that enters their premises (in many cases, no checking is carried out at all). Through Reset’s Virtual Card app, a contractor simply places their smartphone close to a check-in point which allows them to log their arrival on site and enter what they will be doing. It also enables them to select where they will be working, then an individual report is sent to the relevant manager to allow them to check the worker’s competence. GPS tracking ensures that the contractor is logged off when they leave site.

“It may be the case that contractors are being employed across a range of dispersed or remote sites. The system requires no power or data to function and can therefore be deployed on remote sites

“All private and public sector organisations who engage contractors have legal and moral duties to ensure that they are competent to carry out their duties safely, before setting them to work. Our technology not only helps organisations to do this quickly and efficiently, but also keeps those all-important records to provide an audit trail of compliance.”

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