Contractor Health & Safety

Contractor Health & Safety


James Rowland

Commercial Director James leads Account Management, Sales and Marketing at Neathouse Partners.


05 July 2023


17 July 2024
3 min read

Contractors form the backbone of many businesses, offering invaluable specialist skills.

Whether they are integral to strategic projects or crucial for everyday maintenance, they can commonly work in physically demanding or high-risk environments.

Health & Safety risk management should be the cornerstone of every business that engages contractors, so read on for a reminder of the relevance of contractor management, as well as the practical steps you can take to ensure your workforce is safe, productive, and legally compliant.

The Relevance of Contractor Safety

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which is the main piece of UK legislation covering workplace health and safety, makes it a legal requirement for employers to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of all their employees, including contractors.

As noted in research conducted by an independent analyst group Verdantix, the safety incident rate is typically three times higher for contractors than for permanent staff, highlighting the inherent risk often associated with contractor roles that frequently involve physically challenging or hazardous tasks in unfamiliar environments. 

Due to the changing nature of their roles, contractors may not receive the same in-depth safety training as full-time employees, so it’s important that employers who engage contractors act in alignment with UK regulations to carry out robust contractor management and risk assessments. 

The Implications of Getting It Wrong

Neglecting the appropriate health and safety protocols for contractors isn't just an ethical shortcoming; it can have far-reaching impacts on businesses from a financial, reputational, and operational standpoint.

From a financial perspective, failing to meet health and safety regulations can result in severe fines, as demonstrated by the £2.6 million fine Balfour Beatty Utility Solutions faced following the unfortunate death of a subcontractor.

There are also indirect costs to consider, such as increased insurance premiums, legal fees, and potential compensation payouts.

The reputational damage from such incidents should not be overlooked either.

Negative publicity from accidents can tarnish a company's image, leading to a loss of trust among clients and the general public, which could eventually impact your business relationships and market standing.

Finally, from an operational viewpoint, work-related accidents can lead to a loss of productivity. 

As an employer, investing in contractor safety isn't just a regulatory requirement—it's a strategic business decision that can save costs, protect your reputation, and ensure operational continuity.

Your Key to Success: Proactive Risk Management

Your Key to Success Proactive Risk Management

As an employer, managing risks should be an integral part of your business strategy, particularly when it comes to your contractors' health and safety. 

Here are a few key steps you should take to ensure effective risk management:

Comprehensive Risk Assessments

It's crucial to carry out risk assessments specific to your business activities.

This involves identifying potential hazards associated with each task, assessing who might be harmed and how, and then determining appropriate preventive measures.

These assessments should not only focus on physical safety risks but also take into account other factors like mental health and well-being.

Regular Reviews and Updates

Risk assessments should not be a one-off exercise.

As your business evolves, so too will the risks.

Regularly review and update your risk assessments to reflect any changes in your operations, equipment, or personnel.

It's also important to review them after a near miss or an accident, to identify and rectify any shortcomings in your current safety measures.

Effective Control Measures

Once potential risks have been identified, it's your responsibility to implement appropriate control measures to minimise these risks.

This could include providing appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), implementing safe systems of work, providing comprehensive training, or even redesigning a task to make it safer.

Contractor Management

Ensure that you are effectively managing your contractors.

This involves making sure they have the necessary qualifications and training, and that they fully understand their roles and responsibilities.

You should also establish clear communication channels for reporting safety concerns.

Engage Your Workforce

It's important to involve your workforce in the risk management process.

Encourage them to report any hazards or safety concerns they encounter.

This not only promotes a safety-conscious culture within your organisation but also helps to identify potential risks that might have been overlooked.

By adopting a proactive approach to risk management, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of accidents, ensuring a safer, more productive working environment for all.

Further Reading: Promoting a Culture of Safety in the Workplace


Ensuring your business and its practices are safe and compliant isn't just about avoiding penalties - it's also about building a more secure, sustainable, and productive work environment for everyone involved.

Remember to make provisions for your contractors when assessing health and safety at work, as they’re just as important as your employees, and taking care of them means taking care of your business. 

If you require assistance adjusting your workplace policies and practices to meet your Health & Safety obligations towards contractors under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Contact us on 01244 893776.


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