Many companies assume that simply because they have engaged a principal contractor (PC) to manage their project they can sleep safely, free from the risk of incident, litigation or any other negative consequence to themselves or their organisation, but this is not the case.
Just because a company has engaged a principal contractor does not mean it has discharged or ‘handed over’ all responsibility for safety and due diligence to the company they have engaged. They still have a number of duties to undertake and even if they have fully handed over control to a PC there are a number of adverse consequences they should still look to guard themselves and their employees against.
So what can you do to ensure you still get a good night’s rest?
Competent-Contractor Firm & Safe Workers
1. Ensure the Principal Contractor is safe and competent to perform the role.
- Conduct a thorough pre-qualification of the contrcator frim your looking to engage as a principal contractor, including their competencies, experience, safety record and safety system.
- What process do you have in place for ensuring the people on site are competent? Have they been pre-qualified, inducted site, have you assessed their competency in their own company's systems and processes? If not, then even if the company passes your assessment then the people on the ground may not fulfil to those standards. It up to you to ensure that they do.
Control of Work Areas
2. Clearly hand over control of the work area and process.
- There have been a number of famous cases (i.e. Telstra) where the company continued to exercise management control over the operations of the project for which they’d engaged a principal contractor. As such when an incident occurred they were deemed to have retained control and thus liable for the incident.
-You must clearly hand over control of the workplace to the principal contractor, this is particularly important for works in areas of multiple works or where you are still conducting your day to day operations. You need a clear process for determining who is responsible for what areas and at what times, for example if one of your employees needs to walk through a construction area to get to their office, have you ensured that the employee is aware to follow the PC’s requirements (e.g. induction, PPE) and does the PC know that nonconstruction workers will need to access their area of control? By clearly determining these issues and outlining the process prior to work commencing you ensure potential confusion and risk is managed.
- Ideally the PC’s area of control should be clearly defined e.g. by a fence with signage in place and all persons (workers, visitors, public) are required to comply with the PC’s system or moving barriers as work progresses.
Safe Practices and Work
3. Ensure the Principal Contractor performs the work per contract and legislative requirements.
- “Five (people) suffer injury in temporary wall collapse at Cranbourne Shopping Centre”. Not a good headline for the Centre is it? But when an incident occurs on your site particularly when the public is involved, guess whose name is going to be on the news, the PCs?, not likely. The protection of your reputation is vital in the world of business today and it is up to you to ensure even the safe, competent and clearly in control company you’ve hired performs the work up to your standard for the whole project.
- This is even more important when you have staff, members of the public or customers in the PC’s area of control. Even if you limit works to out-of-business hours, have you ensured they returned the area to a safe and clean condition, is the hoarding or temporary fencing securely established, have they prevented unauthorised access to hazardous areas?
- This is why more and more best practice companies are beginning to conduct random audits of their principal contractor works. To ensure that the legislative and contractual obligations of the company are being met and the workplace is safe for their workers and customers.
Safety Action conducts Principal Contractor Audits for a number of Australia’s leading companies to help ensure independent and experienced review of the contractor works, and providing clear advice and guidance to both the clients and the principal contractors to ensure everyone gets a good night’s sleep.
If you’d like additional information on prequalification of contractors, or to attend our 2 hour briefing on Tuesday 29 th September 2015, for a discounted fee of $180 + GST, please feel free to contact either Stephen Weber or the Safety Action office on T: 03 9690 6311