Is your company risking a $10,000 fine for contractor mismanagement? Learn from the recent case of Thames District Council's inflatable slide collapse and avoid the same fate. Here's what you need to know.
In a recent case by WorkSafe NZ, the Thames District Council was sentenced to a fine of $10,000 for its part in an inflatable slide collapse in December 2020.
This clearly signals WorkSafe NZ’s intent to start looking at the overlapping duties of PCBUs (Person in charge of a business or undertaking) and how that relationship impacts on incidents within the workplace.
It should be noted that the principal PCBU in this case, JTK Trustee Limited, was fined $390,000 (including reparations).
Paul West, WorkSafe NZs’ Investigation Manager, noted that “Over and above the operator’s obvious failures, the council plainly failed to do its due diligence on an operator with a poor safety record.”
This is a clear finding that while WorkSafe NZ acknowledged that the lion’s share of the responsibility lay with JTK Trustee Limited, the council had a part to play.
There’s a lesson to be learned here.
Contractor management is something that, overall, is not done well within NZ. However, this process forms a huge part of the necessary due diligence for any company that engages third parties to undertake activities on their behalf.
Simply rubber-stamping contractors is no longer good enough, with companies now being expected to, at the very least, check the contractor’s health and safety systems. However, what is recommended is that companies undertake a pre-qualification check (or pre-qual) to thoroughly check and verify not only the health and safety systems of a company but also that these systems are embedded and functioning within the company.
Commonly pre-quals check such things as:
Adequacy of Insurances;
A health and safety system relevant to the size, scope and risks of the business;
Health and safety systems relevant to the tasks being undertaken;
Previous incidents (if they have had any notifiable incidents);
Whom the company obtains health and safety advice from;
Whether the company holds any external certifications, e.g., ISO45001; and an overview of what they are going to be doing and how they intend to achieve this safely.
So, how can you, as the business owner cover your bases here?
You can have your contractor register with organisation to undertake a pre-qualification report of their health and safety as a condition of engagement and request a copy of that report to verify their systems meet your requirements prior to engaging them. There is a cost that is associated with utilising these third party prequal systems.
You can manage this yourself. Develop a system that sets the criteria for contractors to meet, including what information you expect out of them, and then analyse this information before deciding which companies you want to engage with. Question is - Do you have the time for this?
·Engage a company to give you some advice on what system is going to work best for you, and then to assist you in developing and putting the system in place.
There are questions that I would encourage you to ask yourself:
What are you doing in regards to health and safety?
What are the top five critical risks within your business?
Is contractor management one of those and are you managing this as best as you can?
Do your systems do enough to mitigate your critical risks?
And finally, the “Yes, Your Honour” test: If the worst does happen and you end up in court in front of a judge, can you, hand on heart, say you did everything to prevent a person from getting injured or killed, and can you sleep at night if that happens, knowing that you could have done better?
There is no one-size-fits-all health and safety solution. And what works for one business may simply not work for another. But ignoring health and safety won’t do you any good in the long run.
Steve Schroder is a Health & Safety Consultant with the vision to make NZ a safer place to work removing complexity and ensuring that practical, customised, and affordable H&S solutions are adopted with clients.
If you need help, we can provide guidance on this process. Please don't hesitate to contact us.