Asking the Question - Do You Know Who is on Your Premises?

A big thank you to the North Manchester Health and Safety Advisory Group for organising a very engaging and well-attended October session.  The headline presentation posed the provocative question “Do you know who is on your premises?.” Mick Mann of Mann Training Services really brought this topic to life with some very practical advice drawing on real life experience in working safely with contractors and other visitors.

Looking after visitors is an area which can be neglected even if a business is taking all of the right steps in protecting the health and safety of its own employees.  Obviously a business has a large degree of control over its own employees. It can choose staff who are best for the job, give them the right tools and appropriate training. It can introduce a good set of Health & Safety processes which are understood and observed.  However despite these good measures, a business is always vulnerable to the person who just wanders through the door.  Every company has a regular stream of visitors – delivery drivers, contractors, engineers, cleaners, temps, trainers, even potential trespassers, it has is a legal responsibility for the safety of all of these people.

This principle is enshrined in three pieces of legislation:

  1. Health & Safety at Work Act 1974
  2. Occupiers Liability Act 1957/1984
  3. Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999

Typically it’s contractors that leave you the most exposed in terms of visiting personnel. They can spend long periods of time on the premises often involved in high risk activities in high profile areas.  The body of case law is quite clear that a company has a responsibility towards the safety of visiting contractors. This includes communicating all the information required that could impact the job in hand,  adopting a defence of ‘well I left it all to them, after all they are the experts’ will not wash if something goes wrong.

There are a number of practical steps a company can take to manage visiting contractors and they hinge around a number of key questions in assigning a job:

  1. Be clear about roles and responsibilities in managing a visiting contractor
  2. Have a good exchange of information between both parties
  3. Have an established route of communication if something changes or doesn't go according to plan
  4. Agree the working practices in approaching and completing the job
  5. Safeguard the security of persons and premises

Keep these principles in mind from the point you select your contractors to formally wrapping up the job. Do the due diligence in sourcing a contractor at the offset, do a bit of digging and ask for references. Unfortunately there are firms out there who will quote false accreditations.

Define the job beforehand – agree the limitations of the work and mechanisms for changing the job specification in advance. A formal handover is a crucial part of this process – a Permit To Work can often fulfil this function especially if the job involves Hot Work, Electrics, Confined Spaces, Hazardous Substances or Work at Height.

Having a formal booking-in process for contractors also helps make sure you know who is onsite and who is managing the contractors internally. Little things can help like providing the option of an armband rather than a neck lanyard for contractors. This ensures the pass isn’t removed if it gets in the way of a job and their identification remains fully visible.  Many firms use a touchscreen booking-in system designed to handle visiting contractors on a job by job basis from booking onsite, induction, all the way to completion. Important site health and safety information can be included in the touchscreen booking in process. The supporting database can capture and report on whatever information is required including risk assessments, insurance information, PPE issued and time logs.

SG World provides companies with solutions to manage contractors, solutions such as permits to work, contractor passes and booking-in software. We know using our products in isolation isn’t enough in itself – they can’t take the place of a pro-active health and safety culture. However SG World can give Health and Safety professionals the tools they need to adopt best practice in health and safety using simple yet effective ways of working.

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