Contractors - are they worth the risk? – Harm-Less New Zealand

Contractors - are they worth the risk?

Hard Hats hanging from wall

It can be hard to imagine much work getting done without the assistance of contractors. They often perform specialist skills, fulfill short-term needs, and are frequently available at short notice. Their ability to be flexible means they are often considered more efficient than long term employees. As a result, when they are used well, they can reduce costs for businesses. But using contractors isn't always sun and roses.

Data provided to us from WorkSafe NZ shows engaging contractors can be a very risky strategy. Since April 2016, 63% of the 314 prosecutions to date included multiple PCBUs. The good news is that in the 12 months ending 30 June 2019, that figure had dropped substantially to 48% of the 82 prosecutions.

What are the figures telling us?

The first story we see, at least from a health and safety perspective, is that working with multiple PCBUs is risky business. Everyone involved in delivering your product or service needs to identify, manage and control the hazards and risks that are present. There is also an obligation for all parties to cooperate, coordinate, and communicate with one another. If you don't have systems in place to manage this process, you're leaving your business is very exposed.

The second story we see from the data is that this risk is manageable. Prosecutions take place where a criminal offence has taken place (and there is reasonable evidence to support this) and the details of the offence are of public interest (for more information refer to WorkSafe's Prosecution Policy)

We suspect there are two main reasons why the figures are dropping so substantially:

  1. PCBUs are aware more now than ever before that they have responsibilities to keep their workers safe. Anecdotally, we've noticed more and more organisations investing in health and safety systems. More importantly, they are investing in the necessary steps to ensure they are effective too.
  2. As part of system improvement, PCBUs are improving the way they manage their contractors too. As consultants we're finding vetting is becoming increasingly popular and for good reason too.

Vetting and managing your contractors

It is important to both vet and manage your contractors and not just from a safety perspective either. Vetting and managing your contractors helps to ensure you engage with professional organisations who will help you to deliver a quality service and protect your brand's reputation. Makes good business sense doesn't it.

Where to go for guidance

WorkSafe have produced a guide for managing your contractors. If you are engaging contractors, it is important you follow this guidance as closely as possible otherwise, if one of your contractors fails in their Health and Safety responsibilities, you may find you could be prosecuted too.

If you are seeking further guidance about managing your contractors, or even if one of your providers qualifies as a contractor, give us a call.