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Make sure your sub-contractors comply with their duties!

by , 04 June 2015
In the construction industry, a major impact was brought by the Construction Regulations changes. As a consequence, you must ensure your Principal Contractor and sub-contractors are doing their new duties so they can all successfully carry out any of your contracts.

When talking about the new sub-contractors' duties, by sub-contractor we mean a person who your principal contractor employs. It doesn't matter if you're a principal contractor or sub-contractor, the OHS Act sees you both as employers and the same rules apply.

Below we refer to sub-contractors as contractors contracted by principal contractors.

Your sub-contractors must ensure their employees, supervisors and operators of machinery, vehicles and plants are aware of your contract obligations. They must know what their duties are in terms of statutory and common law. And they must ensure their employees get the right training and instruction. This ensures they're competent to carry out their work while complying with the health and safety regulations.

Here are your sub-contractors' three duties

1. Sub-contractors' duties to their employees

Your Principal Contractor is responsible for the general safety and health overall on site. But each of your subcontractors is equally responsible for their own employees. They must:

(i) Take all reasonable measures to ensure all employees or anyone on the premises obeys the OHS Act and its regulations. Keep a copy of the Act and its Regulations available on site;
(ii) Enforce discipline at the workplace, or on site where his employees use machinery;
(iii) Ensure a competent person supervises all work and machinery. The supervisor must have the knowledge and experience to assess the work and machinery;

(iv) Instruct all employees on the scope of their authority (what they can and can't do) (Section 8(2)(e) and (j), OHSA);
(v) Identify, as far as is reasonably practicable, any dangers to the safety of persons attached to any work performed, any article processed, used, handled, stored or transported and any machinery used in his business. Decide what precautionary measures they'll take for work, article or machinery; to protect the safety of everyone on the site he must provide these controls and enforce them;
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3 Tips to get your employees to comply with health and safety laws

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(vi) Take all necessary steps to remove any threat or potential threat to the safety of employees as far as is reasonably practicable; and

(vii) As far as is reasonably practicable don't let any employee do any work or process, use, handle, store or transport any article or to operate any machinery unless the precautions can be taken by the employee, and the employee is complying with the precautionary measures.

2. Sub-contractors' duties to other people

As employers, sub-contractors must work in a way that doesn't expose everyone to any risks to their health and safety (Section 9, OHSA). This protects anyone who their work affects. For example, the sub-contractor must protect any visitor who comes onto the site, people passing the site and employees of other principal contractors and sub-contractors.

Keep in mind that sub-contractors are responsible for providing information to these affected people. This means giving instructions (induction) and information (signage and posters).

3. Sub-contractors' duties in the workplace

Regarding this aspect, you should know that if the sub-contractor works on a part of the site, he must ensure (as far as is reasonably practicable), that part of the site, i.e. the premises and the access to and from, is safe and risk-free. And that any plant and equipment or materials there are also safe and risk free (Section 8, OHSA).

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