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Failing to ensure that contractors work safely can and does lead to many accidents and injuries to the contractor's employees, tenants, their visitors and people living nearby. This has resulted in civil claims for compensation and criminal prosecution against landlords. It is important to understand what the law requires of landlords and how to put this into practice to avoid such incidents.
The legal situation is spelt out in the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974:
Section 3 requires employers, and the self employed to ensure that the way they conduct their undertaking does not endanger persons not in their employ.
Using a contractor is one way in which a landlord "conducts" his or her "undertaking". You can therefore be criminally liable should the contractor cause injury for example, to a tenant.
It is important to show that you have done what is reasonably practicable to reduce any such risk.
In its widest sense, the term "Contractor" does not merely refer to building contractors.
It includes any individual or company who comes onto your property to fulfil a contractual obligation between the landlord and a third party company.
"Contractors" could include:
There are other more detailed legal requirements for construction work. If you are engaging contractors to undertake construction or demolition work (as defined), the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations will apply.
Selection of Contractors
Firstly, it is necessary to clearly identify all aspects of the work the contractor is required to undertake.
When selecting contractors, health and safety aspects must be taken into account as well as the competence of the contractor to complete the work. Landlords or their agents need to satisfy themselves that contractors are competent (i.e. they have sufficient skills and knowledge) to do the job safely and without risks to health and safety.
The landlord questioning a potential contractor should establish:
What experience they have in the work required.
Landlords or their agents are then in a position to decide how much evidence (such as taking up references) they need to take in support of what they have been told by the prospective contractors.
As part of the selection procedure landlords should also include a check that the contractor has adequate employers' liability and public liability insurance cover. It is recommended that Public Liability insurance should give at least £5 million cover and ideally should be sufficient to cover the full reinstatement value of the property where the work is being undertaken.
Many accidents involving contractors have happened because of a failure to plan the job properly. i.e. taking account of health and safety aspects which are likely to arise. A risk assessment needs to be made by the contractor and communicated to all involved.
Landlords should make any relevant information they have, available to the contractor.
Tenants need to be consulted on the nature of the work and how it will affect their occupation of the premises. It is helpful to seek their co-operation.
The work to be done, the areas in which the contractors can operate, together with what can and cannot be done, should be clearly defined.
Monitoring and Contractor Appraisal
The client is responsible for monitoring the health & safety performance of the contractor as work progresses. This could include periodic inspections. If the contractor is undertaking their work in a way that endangers your tenants or the public, it is essential that you draw it to their attention.
When the contractor has finished the work, an important decision has to be taken: In the light of our experience, would we offer the particular contractor the job again?
A simple log should be kept by the landlord or their agent of any incidents or concerns arising during the course of the works, which should be reviewed with the contractor with a view to improving performance.
Key Action Steps
The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
The Construction Design and Management Regulations 2015.
Managing Health & Safety in Construction HSE ACOP L144.
Managing Contractors, A Guide for Employers. HSE
Use of Contractors a Joint Responsibility HSE
All available from HSE Books
This document contains general information and guidance and is not and should not be relied on as specific advice. The document may not cover every risk, exposure or hazard that may arise and Aviva recommend that you obtain specific advice relevant to the circumstances. AVIVA accepts no responsibility or liability towards any person who may rely upon this document.
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