Do I need to supervise contractors on my site?

You’re planning to appoint a contractor to complete some refurbishment work on your premises. Do you need to make arrangements for this to be closely supervised or can you simply allow them to get on with the job?


You’re employing contractors for a refurbishment job. You considered doing it in-house but it quickly became apparent that you had neither the resources nor the knowledge to do it anywhere near as effectively as a contractor could. They have the equipment, trained and competent staff, etc.

However, now you’re hearing that you must directly supervise the work because if anything were to go wrong the HSE will come knocking on your door.

What’s the legal position?

Unfortunately, this is one instance where the law doesn’t spell out your duties. HSE guidance on the subject of managing contractors is equally vague. Rather than there being explicit instructions, the guidance points you towards the risk assessment process and “deciding on what is appropriate” .

Tip. As there is little in the way of mandatory or absolute duties when it comes to identifying what level of supervision is appropriate, you will have to make a judgement call on this.

Why you should do this

If there’s a serious accident, the HSE is likely to question your supervision and general contractor management arrangements.

Tip. To back up your decision, you will need a robust paper trail in place. This should detail what you have agreed with the contractor. Minutes of any meetings, tender documentation and e-mails that relate to the project should be kept handy.

Plan it out

Obviously, you want to avoid appointing a member of staff to supervise the contractor’s every move - especially if they’re completing tasks that may be unfamiliar to your staff. So how can you avoid this?

Tip 1. Obtain the services of the best contractor you can find. If they don’t leave anything to chance, then you won’t have to worry about checking them as often and perhaps intervening. We appreciate that this won’t always be easy, but it’s certainly worth the effort.

Tip 2. Carry out a full assessment of their abilities to complete the job. Start with a paperwork check, then look at previous projects, references, etc. 

Tip 3. To enable the contractor to plan the job properly, give them as much information about your site as possible, including your operations and any site-specific risks. Also provide them with a contact who can provide additional information when it’s required.

If things aren’t going to plan

Tip 1. If you’re concerned about the way the contractor is working, make this clear to their management rather than the site staff. Demand that they address any issues.

Tip 2. Be clear that if they don’t up their game you will remove them from site and not consider them for future projects.

You can avoid having to directly supervise the job if you have a competent contractor in place and provide them with detailed information about your site and any associated risks they may encounter. Step in if you have concerns and address issues with the contractor’s management rather than site staff.

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