Many people ask us about how far you have to go to manage the safety of contractors and some companies have gone too far and have incurred unnecessary liabilities.
Generally speaking, it is OK to rely on the expertise of specialist contractors, assuming you have done your due diligence e.g. they satisfy your contractor firm pre-qualification standards including insurance check.
However, those with control of the workplace e.g. owner or Principal Contractor (PC), have to ensure the subcontractor company has an adequate safety system, insurances and licences and SWMS. Every worker must receive a site specific induction which includes checks of things such as; current licences, emergency procedures and site hazards and rules are conveyed to all workers.
A recent court case supports this approach. The ACT Court of Appeal has over-turned an earlier decision to award damages to a worker. The subcontract worker was awarded $820,000 in damages in 2013 after sustaining a back injury while attempting to manually lift, with a co-worker, a piece of concrete weighing about 100kg.
The Court of Appeal determined that the Principal Contractor (Classic Constructions) was entitled to rely upon the expertise of the experienced subcontractor (Correct Concreting Pty Ltd) to break up and safely remove the unwanted concrete driveway.
The PC was found to have exercised their duty of care by ensuring site specific inductions were conducted and a “competent firm” engaged to perform the works.