Recently Tesco was fined over half a million pounds due to health and safety failings.  The group had split its operations into various separate entities, one of which was Tesco Stores and the other Tesco Maintenance. So, Stores hired Maintenance as their contractors.An operative working for Maintenance was on the roof of a store when he fell through a roof light that had been painted over.  The 30m fall should have killed him but, miraculously, he walked away with minor cuts and bruises!  However, as Stores hired the contractors, the HSE hit them both for breaching various regulations.The whole point was that Stores failed to give the contractors sufficient information about the building and any hazards within it and the contractors were therefore unable (without making their own inspection – which they did not do) to provide a safe system of work which would have, in this instance, included making the roof light safe.

If you hire contractors to do work on your premises you as well as them, are likely to be liable if they fail to follow Health & Safety Regulations.  If it is building works that are being carried out the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations set out the obligations for you as client and them as contractor. If you regularly have contractors on your premises to do work and there are hazards that might cause serious injury or death, you should consider having a ‘Permit to Work’ system.  Basically this covers what work is to be done, how it is to be carried out and whether there are any restrictions on the contractor (e.g. they are not to drill in a certain area or may not stray away from the job into a warehouse where fork lifts are working), it is handed to the contractor who does the work and then hands it back when they leave.

The moral of this sorry tale is that, if you have contractors coming on to your premises to carry out work, you need to make sure of two things:-

  1. You ensure that they know about any possible hazard that might cause a risk to them.  This could be anything from fragile roofs, voids (such as cellar doors that open inwards), underground cables, trip hazards or even equipment or machinery that might be hot.
  2. You make sure that the contractor provides you with a copy of their safe system of work (in construction this is usually known as a Risk Assessment & Method Statement or RAMS) and confirms that it will be given to any operatives involved and that they read it.

If you wish to have any further information, please call us on 01206 363712.