Using contractors and subcontractors

Health and safety requirements when using contractors and subcontractors


In any relationship between a business - known as the client - and a contractor, both parties will have duties under health and safety law. Similarly, if the contractor uses subcontractors to carry out some or all of the work, all parties will have some health and safety responsibilities.

To ensure contractors' or subcontractors' health and safety you must:

  • identify the requirements of the job and assess the risks involved - see health and safety risk assessment
  • decide what information and training is required
  • as the client, select an appropriate contractor and ascertain their health and safety policies and procedures
  • as the contractor, find out about subcontractors' competence
  • review the way work is carried out and the risk assessment

Health & Safety Executive guidance on working with contractors.

Ensure that there is co-operation and co-ordination at all times between you/your staff and the contractors/subcontractors. In particular, you should:

  • provide all parties with information, instruction and training on anything that may affect health and safety
  • make the contractors/subcontractors aware of your health and safety procedures and policies
  • provide management and supervision to ensure the safety of contractors/subcontractors

Penalties for health and safety failures

There are actual cases where clients, contractors and subcontractors have all been fined for failing in their health and safety duties, eg failure to:

  • ensure a contractor's/subcontractor's competence
  • supervise a contractor/subcontractor
  • take steps to prevent contact with live equipment
  • provide information about the existence of asbestos
  • ensure safe operation of vehicles
  • ensure safe loading to or unloading from delivery vehicles
  • assess risks to health from regular exposure to high vibration levels
  • exercise a duty of care towards a contractor/subcontractor
  • provide a formal site induction, risk assessment or method statement

Download Health & Safety Executive (HSE) advice on contractors' health and safety (PDF, 282K).

Also see what you need to do about health and safety and how to provide health and safety training.