Contractors can be engaged to perform many activities, some of which create high risks.

The use of contracting by organisations has greatly increased in recent years, allowing businesses to concentrate on their core activities. Accidents — and subsequent prosecutions — have led to a plethora of case law such as R v. Swan Hunter Shipbuilders Ltd, as well as huge sums having to be paid out in fines and compensation.

The client engaging contractors contractors may also suffer reputational damage and market loss over the actions of their contractors. As a consequence, there is a need to manage the risks of contracting.

The use of external contractors can be required for activities where there is the need to obtain specialist expertise which is not available in-house. It is particularly common for jobs such as construction, maintenance or equipment and plant servicing. It is also used for jobs which are hazardous and require specialist safety measures, such as working at height.

From the outset, employers should ensure that accountabilities are clearly defined, so that all relevant parties agree and understand what they are responsible for.

Prior to contractors starting work, a risk assessment should be carried out to determine the risks involved. The level of detail required in the assessment will depend on the level of expertise an employer has in relation to the contracting work being undertaken. Contractors should be notified of any hazards and risks that are specific to the workplace.

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