Most organisations have policies in place concerning the health and safety of their own staff to ensure they are fully competent and trained to carry out the required activities. However, when it comes to contractors, company and individual competence is not always verified as it should be, despite the fact that there are legal requirements to do so – and this often exposes an organisation to increased risks. When that organisation is an FM provider that runs contracts across numerous sites, utilising the services of many external contractors, many who visit the premises daily, then there is a genuine need and a security requirement to ensure that workers are sufficiently competent and have authority to be on site.
The Sentencing Guidelines introduced in 2016 have reinforced that organisations must be held accountable for their health and safety responsibilities and if they do not, there could be severe consequences. The Courts are now issuing larger fines than ever before where workers or contractors are exposed to potential health and safety risks, even where an accident or injury has not occurred. In some cases, incidents captured on smartphone cameras have provided enough evidence to lead to a prosecution.
Every organisation has a duty to protect its appointed contractors and sub-contractors from harm caused by their activities. Where adequate checks are not carried out and an incident or accident occurs involving a contractor, the organisation could face considerable financial (as well as reputational) exposure. Annual statistics from the HSE show total penalties have almost doubled since updates to sentencing guidelines were introduced almost three years ago. The £72.6m granted in fines during 2017/18, followed 493 successful prosecutions across all industries – with fines in the millions for larger turnover organisations.
Services provided by external contractors can include anything from ‘hard FM’ work, such as the repair, upkeep and maintenance of all buildings and services (all falling under CDM legislation), as well as external areas, grounds and premises, through to ‘soft FM’ activities, such as pest control, hygiene services, and maintenance services.
Both the client and the contracting company have joint responsibilities under health and safety law to ensure that individuals are competent to carry out the work that they have been appointed to do. Organisations need to fulfil their requirements to comply with the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 for the control of contractors and the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 and additionally, in the NHS, the Premises Assurance Model. They should also be able to provide demonstrable evidence, through an audit trail, to defend against any potential claims.