Contractor Selection

If you have or are planning to have contractors working for you at your event or for your business, then both you and the contractor will have duties under health and safety law. This also applies when a contractor employs subcontractors.

Within the live music and events industry, this process is often ignored in favour of the cheapest price, this creates a "race to the bottom" with a lowering of standards and quality, and this is probably one of the greatest factors currently affecting health and safety in our industry. Don't be one of those who is helping to lower standards please, especially if it's just so you can profit more.  

When employing contractors you should:

  • select a suitable subcontractor – ensure they have sufficient skills and knowledge to do the job safely and without risks to health and safety
  • assess the risks of the work – the level of risk will depend on the nature of the job. Whatever the risk, you will need to consider the health and safety implications. 
  • do a risk assessment – you and the contractor should be aware of its findings. You should already have a risk assessment for the work activities of your own business. The contractor must assess the risks for the contracted work and then both of you must get together to consider any risks from each other’s work that could affect the health and safety of the workforce or anyone else who may be affected
  • provide information, instruction and training to your employees. You should also provide any information to contractors on the risks from your activities and the controls you have in place. You must consider, with the contractor, what instruction and training contractors will need
  • set up liaison arrangements for co-operation and co-ordination with all those responsible to ensure the health and safety of everyone in the workplace
  • decide what you need to do to manage and supervise the work of contractors and agree on the nature of the controls before work starts

The awarding of contracts is not only on grounds of price and technical ability but also on past safety and environmental records and present ability to carry out the work without risks.

  • As the client, you need to be certain that any contractor has the organisational structures in place and arrangements to make sure what it says it will do in fact gets done, ie a management structure and system for occupational health and safety.
  • Does the contractor have a policy, authorised by the most senior executive, outlining clearly the organisation’s commitment to and intentions for managing occupational health and safety?
    • Look at the overall policy and confirm that there is a named senior officer (director) with responsibility for implementing the safety management system.
    • Is the policy appropriate to the nature and scale of the organisation’s occupational health and safety risks?
    • Are roles, responsibilities, accountabilities and authorities documented and communicated?
    • Has it been reviewed/updated to ensure that it remains relevant and appropriate to the organisation?
  • Check the contractor’s monitoring and review procedures to make sure safe systems of work are operated in practice and are effective.
  • Check the contractor’s procedure for selecting, monitoring and maintaining hardware.
  • Check the contractor’s procedures to monitor and measure occupational health and safety performance on a regular basis.
    • Such measures should include both proactive (eg training, planned preventative maintenance) and reactive (eg ill health, incidents including accidents, near misses) measures.
  • Look at the contractor’s ability to record, investigate and learn from incidents (its investigation procedure).
  • Does the contractor undertake regular management review and audits of the occupational health and safety management system to ensure its continuing suitability, adequacy and effectiveness?
  • Check the contractor will provide all certificates of completion, test, installation, erection, inspection, maintenance and examination of all relevant plant and equipment including vehicles, plant, electrical equipment, lifting, fire safety, rigging and PPE.  
  • Check the contractor has adequate, current and valid insurance including Employers and Public Liability Insurance. Will it be valid for the duration of the contractor? Who are the insurers? What are the sums insured? Can they provide you with a copy of the insurance certificate? 

Hazard identification, risk assessment and determining controls

  • Does the contractor have a procedure for ongoing hazard identification, risk assessment and determination of necessary controls?
  • Do they demonstrate that the contractor has adequately assessed the risks?
  • Do they come to similar conclusions as your own risk assessments?
  • Do they cover all relevant known risks associated with the work?  
  • Do they demonstrate that the contractor has competence in health and safety?
  • Do they identify any areas of high risk?
  • Do they really relate to your work areas or are they likely to be generic at this stage of the process?
  • Are they appropriate to adequately cover the risks in your work environment to enable you to evaluate the bid?
  • At the early stages of the tender process where multiple bids are being considered, generic documentation may be more appropriate than towards the end nearing a final decision where more contract specific documents may be required.

Statements of safe working practices/operational instructions

  • These are developed using the findings of the risk assessments to define how the risks will be adequately controlled. They should, therefore, be examined with care. 
    • Is there evidence that the contractor has taken into account the relevant available HSE or industry guidance in determining methods of safe working?
    • Do the controls follow the accepted hierarchy, ie elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls, and use of personal protective equipment?
  • As a client are you able to confidently determine from the safe working method that the contractor will have systems to control these risks?
  • Are the systems clearly presented to those who will have to use them?
  • Are they clearly written, using appropriate language and terminology?
  • Do they adequately describe the precautions, actions and behaviours necessary for safe working?
  • Do they describe the consequences of failing to adhere to them?
  • How will the statements of safe working practice be reviewed subject to specific information relating to the service in question?

Qualifications, training and competence

  • Is the contractor able to demonstrate that they have effective procedures and processes in place to ensure that its employees are competent by providing appropriate training and experience?
  • How do they identify training needs?
  • Do they keep records?
  • Check the health and safety qualifications and training of managers and supervisors within the organisation, particularly those relevant to your contract.
  • Check the certification of plant operators, first aiders, riggers, drivers, work at height operatives and other specialist operatives.
  • Check what basic and mandatory training is given to employees on key safety issues such as first aid, fire, other emergencies, work at hight, manual handling, vehicles, plant, lifting (rigging) operations, electricity, noise at work etc. 
  • Are Safety Passports in use by the contractor? 
  • Check to find out if sub-contractors are used, their training, qualifications and how their health and safety competence is assessed. 
  • Check on the delivery and format of the training and training aids given to take into account workforce diversity (eg ability, language skills, literacy).
  • An organisations commitment to training can be demonstrated by externally verified training, such as that covered by the NVQ standards. 
  • Bidders should be able to impress you with evidence showing that their staff are competent to address the risks presented by the contract, and where appropriate that they would be able to develop the culture and competence of staff who would transfer over to their control if they won the contract.

Communication, participation and consultation

  • Can the contractor demonstrate that it has procedures and processes in place to ensure effective communication internally and externally?
  • Can the contractor show that it has established, implemented and maintained procedures for effective consultation with (and participation of) workers?

Resource

  • Is the contractor adequately resourced? This includes a wide range of hardware and organisational matters.
    • Hardware would include layout and resources provided at the base location and provisions for PPE.
    • Organisational matters would include workforce profile (crew headcount, reliance on agency operatives, absence cover), levels of supervision – particular the ability to provide frequent face-to-face supervision in the field of operations, and contingency arrangements to cover unplanned situations such as sickness and emergencies.

The use of pre-qualification questionnaires are very useful in contractor assessment and procurement, the safety competency assessment of contractors and collection of all health and safety information for the Event Safety File is a task Stagesafe carries out for our clients when we are looking after the safety management of their events. 

Competency must be properly assessed, competency is not simply an opinion. The competence required can vary depending on the work or workplace involved.

Information on standards for different industries can also be found on the National Occupational Standards (NOS) website.

Pre-Qualification Questionnaires and Contractor Management

One of the services Stagesafe provide for clients of either festival, concerts, events or tours is that of helping you select contractors by the use of pre-qualification questionnaires we send to prospective clients at the tendering stage to enable them to be assessed in terms of health and safety compliance, once confirmed we then request any further H&S and Insurance details from them including all certificates of test, inspection and examination of relevant equipment etc. for the event or tour H&S file that we establish for you. 

During the event or tour, we are there to monitor contractor safety and will report back any failings for you and your team to rectify. We are not the safety police, we will politely point out to contractors any failings we note. hopefully, that will be sufficient but we cannot take any further action unless immediately life-threatening in which case we will do everything possible to stop the operation until such time as everything has been made safe.   

Always someone who will do it cheaper