HSE’s 5-Steps to Managing Contractors

The HSE advocates a five-step approach on how to manage contractors and ensure safe working.

Step 1. Planning

Defining the job

The client should clearly identify all aspects of the work they want the contractor to do, including work falling within the preparation and completion phases.

Risk management

The client and prospective contractor should be involved in risk management.

The client should already have a risk assessment for the work activities of his own business. The contractor’s role involves assessing the risks for the contracted work.

The client and the contractor need to agree on the risk assessment for the contracted work and the preventative and protective steps that will apply when the work is in progress. If subcontractors are involved, they should also be part of the discussion and agreement.

Specify conditions

Contractors must be made aware of the expected standards of performance. Health and safety arrangements, procedures, permit systems, and safety policy statement should be shared with the contractor, who should confirm their understanding and agree to work accordingly.

Step 2. Choosing a contractor

Contractors will be selected based on various criteria, including availability, cost, technical competence, reliability, health and safety.

The client must take reasonable steps to satisfy themselves that the contractor is competent to do the job safely and without risks to health and safety.

The degree of competence required will depend on the work to be done.

The best way to be satisfied with a contractor’s competence is through first-hand experience. A contractor is demonstrably competent if he has previously been used successfully on a similar job (through a cycle of risk management, monitoring and review).

A pre-tender questionnaire (PTQ) may be used to broadly determine a contractor’s suitability. Questions should be designed to check the contractors:

  • experience in the type of work to be one
  • health and safety policies and practices
  • recent health and safety performance (number of accidents etc.)
  • qualifications and skills relevant to the contract
  • selection procedure for sub-contractors (if sub-contractors are to be allowed), or their safety method statement
  • Arrangements for:
    • health and safety training, e.g. safety passport; supervision
    • consulting the workforce
    • independent assessment of competence
    • memberships of relevant trade or professional body

References may be needed to verify the information provided.

Once a contractor has been appointed, pre-commencement meetings will be required to clarify responsibilities and to ensure adequate management arrangements are in place.

Step 3. Contractors working on site

Specific arrangements will be required to:

  • Manage the movements of contractors on site through visitor sign-in controls and possibly permits-to-work
  • Ensure that all technical and management controls are in place before allowing the work to begin, e.g.:
    • numbers of persons and supervisor details are confirmed
    • the correct work equipment is provided
    • access and egress to the location of work are discussed and agreed
    • suitable personal protective equipment is available and being worn
    • a safe system of work/method statements is understood
    • any necessary permits to work are in place;
    • reporting, communications and monitoring arrangements have been agreed

Information, instruction and training

All parties must consider what health and safety information needs to be passed between them and agree on appropriate ways to ensure this is done.

Instruction and training must be taken into account the risks arising from each party’s work.

Co-operation and co-ordination

The client should set up regular meetings or briefings to ensure effective liaison between all the parties involved.


The workforce should be part of the client’s liaison arrangements and should be involved from the outset.

Management and supervision

The greater the risk posed by the contractor’s work, the greater the management and supervisory responsibilities of the client.

The client will require enough knowledge and expertise to manage and supervise the contracted work.

Step 4. Monitoring the contract

All parties should monitor their health and safety performance to check that risk assessments are current and that control measures are effective.

The level of monitoring depends on the risks – the greater the risks, the more frequent the monitoring.

Contractors and sub-contractors should carry out day-to-day checks to see that what should be done is being done, and clients should make periodic checks on the contractor’s performance to see if the work is being done as agreed.

Information from proactive monitoring and reactive investigations should be used to learn lessons and improve future performance.

Where requirements are not being met, the client should take appropriate action to ensure the work is undertaken to the required standard.

Step 5. Reviewing the work

Both the client and the contractor should review the work after completion to see if performance could be improved in future.

The client should review both the job and the contractor. Consideration should be given to the effectiveness of the planning, the contractor’s performance, and how smoothly the job went.

Lessons learnt should be recorded and used to influence future decisions.