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Who is responsible for the Health & Safety of contractors?

Who is responsible for contractors FAQ

A contractor provides contracted services to a client for a certain period of time. They can be classed as an employee/worker or as a self-employed individual. They might work for a client through an umbrella company or agency, in which case, the contractor’s employer is the umbrella company or agency, rather than the client directly. 

A contractor might be used for:

  • building or construction work
  • cleaning
  • recruitment
  • catering
  • gardening
  • marketing
  • IT support & maintenance
  • security services

What is a subcontractor?

A subcontractor will carry out duties on behalf of a contractor - who is responsible for their health, safety, and actions - and might be an individual or an organisation.

However, the employees of a contractor are not considered subcontractors, they must be separate altogether.


A building contractor might employ a plumber or an electrician as a subcontractor to fill out the work on a building site. 

So who is responsible for the health & safety of contractors?

Both the contractor and their employees are responsible under health and safety law. When you employ contractors you should: 

  • ensure that contractors have the right skills and training so they are not posing a risk to their (or anyone in the workplace’s) health and safety
  • assess the risk of the work and the health and safety implications
  • carry out a risk assessment. As an employer of a contractor, you should carry out a risk assessment and then the contractor must carry out their own risk assessment for the work they will be doing. You must then both come together to consider risks from each other’s work that may impact health and safety of one another
  • contractors must be made aware of the risks from your activities and the controls you have in place. You may want to consider with the contractors what instruction and training the contractor’s employees may need. This is because employers have a responsibility to provide information, instruction and training to their employees.
  • set up regular reviews with all those responsible to secure the health and safety of people in the workplace
  • decide what must be done to supervise the work of contractors BEFORE work starts.

What about CDM and the health & safety of contractors?

The CDM Regulations place duties on anyone contracting construction work. 

In the planning or design phase of a construction project, the designer, or principal designer, is responsible for identifying and eliminating (as far as is reasonably practicable) all foreseeable risks and passing on information of remaining risks to the contractor, or principal contractor, in the construction phase of the project.  

A principal contractor is assigned to control the construction phase (if there is more than one contractor). In this phase of a project, the principal contractor has an important role in managing the risks of health and safety. The HSE state that the principal contractor must:

take account of the health and safety risks to everyone affected by the work (including members of the public), in planning and managing the measures needed to control them


The HSE state that they must also:

  • manage risks by liaising with the principal designer and client
  • have ongoing arrangements to manage health & safety throughout construction
  • speak to employees about their health, safety, and welfare 
  • provide suitable welfare facilities (toilets, hot & cold water for washing, changing facilities, somewhere to eat, & drinking water) and make sure they are maintained throughout
  • ensure that anyone that they employ has the right knowledge, skills, and experience to carry out their work without risking health or safety
  • ensure workers have the site-specific induction and further information or training that they need
  • take steps to prevent unauthorised access to the site

There is a false belief that contractors are responsible for their own health and safety and should anything happen to them regarding their health and safety, it is their own fault. However, according to the ‘Using Contractors: A Brief Guide' it is the responsibility of both the employer/client and the contractor to ensure that they take precautions to reduce the risk of danger to the public and employees.

Both you [employer] and the contractor you use have responsibilities under health and safety law. Everyone needs to take the right precautions to reduce the risks of workplace dangers to employees and the public. Make sure everyone understands the part they need to play in ensuring health and safety.

Using contractors: A brief guide - HSE

Health and Safety Training

In some areas, training is mandatory for workplaces, this includes Fire Awareness (Legally required for all staff) and Manual Handling (Legally required for those who regularly carry out manual handling).

At iHASCO, we offer a wide range of Health and Safety Courses for a large range of sectors. Our simple but effective LMS allows you to provide training for all workers (including contractors) to make sure that everyone in your workplace has all the necessary skills and knowledge to keep everyone safe. Browse our full range of eLearning courses today. 

Get in touch to get started with your free no obligation trial today!  

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