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A handbook produced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) outlines the responsibilities of both the contractor and the client in situations in which work is carried out by contractors rather then employees. It does not apply to circumstances in which the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations apply or to work done by agency workers.
The leaflet begins from the premise that 'all parties must co-operate to ensure that health and safety is properly managed'.
Under health and safety law, both the contractor and the client have responsibilities. The client must identify all aspects of the job that they want the contractor to do and then carry out a risk assessment. They must satisfy themselves that the contractor they have chosen is competent to carry out the job without unacceptable health and safety risks and must explain their procedures and systems to the contractor sufficiently well for them to understand them and act in accordance with them.
The risk assessment should be carried out with the contractor, who will normally be responsible in the same way as the client for any sub-contractors, who should also be part of any relevant risk assessment.
Clients, contractors and sub-contractors must keep their employees properly briefed on any matters that may affect their health and safety.
The guide is another illustration of the Government's intention to improve compliance with health and safety regulations. What is most problematic here is the need for the client to assess the competence of the contractor, which is a potential source of problems for many firms. We can advise you on any legal issues arising out of health and safety matters.
Recent case law has made firms responsible for a number of actions taken by subcontractors, especially where they are under the direct control of the ultimate employer. Just because a person is employed directly by another business they will not necessarily be their responsibility alone.
In April 2008, the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 came into effect, which has profound implications for businesses. The Ministry of Justice has issued a comprehensive guide.
As of November 2014, nine prosecutions had been commenced under the Act - all against smaller companies - and successful prosecutions obtained in all cases so far decided. Fines of up to £500,000 have also been imposed.