Contractor safety checklist: 4 questions to ask before you hire

Gerard Higgins |   August 24, 2021 at 7:00 AM

Contractor safety checklist: 4 questions to ask before you hire

No matter how experienced you are as a Commercial Property Facilities Manager, nor how small or straightforward the job that you’re outsourcing, there is still always a risk involved with bringing contractors on-site. Technical and trades workers make up 15% of worker fatalities and 18% of serious workplace health and safety (WHS) claims in Australia each year. And the most serious claims result from easily avoidable incidents, such as stress to the body, falls, slips and trips, and being hit by moving objects.

As the person responsible for ensuring the safety of everyone in your commercial building, it’s important that you only work with contractors who approach work health and safety (WHS) with the utmost professionalism. That’s where a contractor safety checklist comes in handy, allowing you to quickly but thoroughly determine which contractors are the right ones to work with. Below, we outline the four most important safety checks that potential contractors should tick before you engage them for a job.

1. Licencing - Are they qualified and licensed to do the work? 

Confirming a company or contractor is qualified for the job can be more complex than it sounds. For example, a commercial painter may need more than a commercial painting licence to work in some commercial facilities. Depending on the job, you will also have to check other qualifications, such as:

  • Are they certified to work at heights?
  • Have they completed nationally recognised rope access training?
  • Do they have a high-risk work licence for operating on a scaffold?
  • Are they trained to work with hazardous substances or in confined spaces?

Your contractor safety checklist helps you confirm each contractor currently has all of the relevant qualifications and licences required for the job.

2. Insurance - Are they protecting themselves, the public and you?

All contractors must have public liability insurance at the right level for their business and yours to cover property damage or injury to a third party.

To protect their workers and meet WHS requirements, contractors must also have comprehensive workers compensation insurance, as well as professional indemnity insurance to protect you against claims of negligence or another breach of duty as a result of the contractor failing to properly perform their work. 

You may also wish to conduct police checks, and check tools of trade or other forms of insurance depending on your operating environment. Make sure to add a comprehensive list to your contractor safety checklist and match the requirements to the job.

3. WHS Management System - Do they have one and is it effective?

Commercial contractors are required under law to have a WHS management system in place. A strong system contains policies, procedures and plans for managing health and safety, and is aligned with Australian standards.

As a facilities manager, a contractor’s WHS system should demonstrate the following:

  • WHS is embedded in the contractor’s operations
  • They measure their performance
  • They use feedback to fuel continuous improvement of their practices
  • Their WHS system ensures their staff are properly trained and certified to work safely
  • They have emergency plans in place

Any contractors you consider engaging must also include risks related to COVID-19 in their WHS risk assessments, and have COVID-safe policies and practices in place, such as staff check-in and hygiene procedures.

At Higgins, our integrated management system has received internationally recognised tri-certification accreditation for quality, environment, and safety. Our policies and procedures for maintaining this standard are also freely available on our website for potential customers to review.

4. Get the evidence - What’s their safety track record?

Nothing beats walking the talk. All the insurance, licences and systems in the world are nothing if a contractor doesn’t have a track record that backs up what’s on paper. What evidence can you find that they’ve been able to safely and effectively do the job?

Client references, testimonials and case studies are a good place to start, and it’s a positive sign when a potential contractor is willing to hand over names and phone numbers of clients. Refusing to supply references is a red flag that shouldn’t be ignored.

With your contractor safety checklist in hand, you can be confident in your ability to choose safe contractors to work at your commercial building, ensuring the wellbeing of your tenants and their customers, as well as continued compliance with work health and safety standards.

To learn more about the best practices that Commercial Property Facilities Managers should follow, download our WHS Guidelines for Engaging Painting & Maintenance Contractors ebook.

Get your WHS guide and checklist

Higgins Coatings is Australia's premier commercial painting contractor with over 70 years of experience in providing cost-effective painting and tailored maintenance solutions to a broad range of industries including hospitals, aged care, schools, and strata. If you need quality painting services delivered on time and within budget, contact us today for a consultation.