18 Fairway Drive, Clear Island Waters QLD 4226
Mailing address: Q Super Centre Post Shop
P.O. Box 5800
Tel: 07 5575 1966
Mobile: 0499 074 910


Managing the health and safety impacts of contractors in your workplace can be a difficult area. They may be performing work in your workplace that you do not fully understand, and you may not be aware of the hazards their activities could create.   Similarly, contractors could be performing work in a work environment unfamiliar to them and may not appreciate the potential hazards created by the interaction of their work with yours.
There are also legal duties for workplaces that engage contractors, to take steps to manage identify and manage hazards created by these interactions.

What is the duty?
The Queensland Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 states that persons in control of a business or undertaking (“PCBU”) must:
“identify reasonably foreseeable hazards that could give rise to risks to health”
Once the hazards are identified, the PCBU then must:
“Eliminate risks to health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable; and if it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate risks to health and safety, then minimise those risks so far as is reasonably practicable.”

What kind of risks can contractors create?

They can perform work that might injure your workers. Examples include:

Failure to properly isolate or lock out equipment being worked on
Emissions and fumes from chemical use (eg. paints or solvents applied in small office areas)
Poor housekeeping leading to spills or trip hazards
Movement of mobile plant (eg. forklifts and cars)
Use of plant and equipment (eg. welding flashes)
Burns from contact with hot equipment (eg. pipework)
Induct contractors into your workplace. If they are to work unsupervised and regularly attend your site, you might consider putting them through a similar level of induction as other employees who work in that area (particularly for high-risk areas where plant and equipment is operating).

Your workers (or items at your workplace) could cause injury to them.

How can you manage the risks?

In general terms, you are only responsible for aspects of contractor safety that you have control over. You are also entitled to rely on the skills and expertise of a contractor representing themselves as competent and qualified in their field, when you do not retain that skill or expertise within your own business.

Some examples of ways you can manage contractor safety include:

Restrict use of company equipment to contractors that have been trained in its use. If you allow a contractor to use your equipment, and they injure themselves in the process, you may be liable unless you have taken reasonable steps to assess their competency to use that equipment.

Ask for copies of their trade licenses or other qualifications relevant to the work being undertaken. This is an example of doing something that is “reasonable” to ensure the contractor is competent. A contractor MUST hold a High Risk Work license if they are performing any of the following activities:

– Forklift operations
– Crane operations
– Scaffolding
– Dogging and rigging
– Elevating work platform >11m boom length (eg. Cherry Picker)
– Reach stackers
– Boilers
– Turbines
– Reciprocating steam engines

Licenses are also legally required for other types of work, including:

– Asbestos work
– Electrical work
– Transport driver’s licenses
– Local government permits (eg. disposal of regulated waste).

Further information about these activities is contained in the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011, Part 4.5 and Schedule 3), and Electrical Safety Act.

Ask for a Safe Work Method Statement for any work that is a “high risk construction” work. This is legally required for any work that:

– involves a risk of a person falling more than 2m
– is carried out on a telecommunication tower
– involves demolition of an element of a structure that is load-bearing or otherwise related to the physical integrity of the structure
– involves, or is likely to involve, the disturbance of asbestos
– involves structural alterations or repairs that require temporary support to prevent collapse
– is carried out in or near a confined space
– is carried out in or near: a shaft or trench with an excavated depth greater than 1.5m or a tunnel, or involves the use of explosives
– is carried out on or near pressurised gas distribution mains or piping
– is carried out on or near chemical, fuel or refrigerant lines
– is carried out on or near energised electrical installations or services
– is carried out in an area that may have a contaminated or flammable atmosphere
– involves tilt-up or precast concrete
– is carried out on, in or adjacent to a road, railway, shipping lane or other traffic corridor that is in use by traffic other than pedestrians
– is carried out in an area at a workplace in which there is any movement of powered mobile plant
– is carried out in an area in which there are artificial extremes of temperature
– is carried out in or near water or other liquid that involves a risk of drowning;
– involves diving work

Most work conducted by tradespersons will fall into this category.

Implement a Permit to Work System. This should entail a risk assessment being conducted before the contractor begins work, and some form of monitoring and supervision of the contractor’s activities by a representative of your company.

Where you are aware that a contractor is breaching health and safety laws in the performance of their work, you should ask the contractor to stop working and discuss alternative, compliant work methods before they proceed.

Ask for copies of their insurances (eg. WorkCover, Public Liability). In the event something does go wrong, this will allow your workplace to claim against the contractor’s insurances to rectify damage.

Establish a Preferred Suppliers Register. This will assist your organisation with the administration of obtaining the documentation listed above, as you will usually only need to undertake this task annually, or whenever your contractor’s insurances expire. Many accounts systems are capable of linking this information to a contractor’s payment records, and restricting payment of contractors whose insurance details have expired, until the current information is received.

The links below open documents that you can use as templates to customize for your workplace:

Contractor Induction
Permit to Work
Managing Contractors
Contractor Insurance Assessment