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How to ensure that your external contractors are ISO 45001 compliant

It is widely known that ISO 45001:2018 is the standard that provides guidance and methodologies to ensure companies can maintain occupational health and safety in the workplace. It is not uncommon even for companies with an excellent OH&S (occupational health and safety) system to pay less attention to delivering the same level of information, training, and care to contractors and external providers than they do to their own employees. Given that contractors may be on-site less frequently than employees, and consequently, that time must be a factor, then it is hardly surprising that this may be the case. It is also wrong. Health and safety are equally important to both employees and contractors, and considerations around the organization’s OH&S system must be to protect the welfare of employees and contractors alike. So, given the difficulties we may face regarding contractors, is there any advice we can use to ensure our contractors and external providers are equally as protected as our employees?

Protecting the service provider

In the previous article: How to demonstrate leadership according to ISO/DIS 45001, we looked at how the standard leaves us in no doubt regarding top management’s responsibility for ensuring that resources are in place within the OH&S system to make sure the objectives are met. Clause, which is part of operational control, specifically mentions control in terms of contractors to the workplace. Consequently, top management must delegate responsibilities to ensure the objectives are also met. In the article: How to meet participation and consultation requirements in ISO 45001, we also examined how the input, feedback, and consultation with contractors and external providers are just as important and valuable when identifying risk as the same information from current employees. If you combine that with the information in How to comply with ISO 45001 communication requirements, then you can develop a full picture of how the consultation, participation, and communication processes all merge together to develop a cycle within the OH&S system where all stakeholders are consulted, information collated and actioned, and everyone protected. Obviously, your organization needs to keep tabs on whether contractors are following OH&S rules onsite, such as protective clothing and headwear rules, but what other special actions can you take to ensure your OH&S protects everyone?

  • Ensure that your contractors are added to your training matrix. Controlling what training has been given to your contractors and external providers can be difficult enough to control without keeping an accurate record. Ensure whoever has the responsibility for the upkeep of the training record has accurate information available to allow assessment of contractors’ training status.
  • Involve contractors in monthly forums and meetings. This seems obvious, but you must ensure the proper consultation takes place to allow contractors to provide feedback on whether they think their level of knowledge is adequate.
  • Develop a special “induction package” for all contractors. Obviously, this will be lighter than your normal staff induction, but requiring all contractors to undertake this (and be recorded on the training matrix) will ensure a basic level of health and safety training is delivered that is equivalent to that received by full-time employees.
  • Develop a “contractors’ OH&S questionnaire.” This is a method of soliciting formal feedback from your contractors, so that any perceived training or knowledge gaps will be identified, which will give the organization the immediate chance to close the skills or knowledge gap.
  • Develop a contractors’ email list and consider an OH&S digest email. This will ensure that the communication channel remains open whether a contractor is on or off-site, and will allow all contractors to have the same level of information as all on-site employees. For vital documentation such as your OH&S Policy, why not use an electronic document signature facility to ensure that proof of receipt is received, both from contractors and other stakeholders?

So, is there anything else we need to consider?

External contractors, how can they help?

As indicated above, it is vital that your contractors are involved in participation and consultation, communicated to and solicited for feedback. Encourage your contractors to be active in the establishment and maintenance of your OH&S standards, and make them play a part in the system’s continual improvement. Involve contractors in the review of their personal training records to ensure they are accurate, up to date, and relevant. Include these review results in your monthly forums or meetings, and drive continual improvement via the information you receive. Treat your contractors’ health and safety the same as that of your employees, and value their opinions and feedback similarly – the benefit will be seen by everyone.

To learn more about contractors’ and other requirements of ISO 45001, download this free  Clause-by-clause explanation of ISO 45001:2018 .

Advisera John Nolan
John Nolan
John Nolan is a Fellow of the Institute of Leaders and Managers in the United Kingdom, and Prince 2 accredited with a background in Engineering and Electronics and Data Storage and Transfer. Having studied and qualified as both a Mechanical and Electronic Engineer, he has spent the last 15 years designing and delivering Quality Systems and projects across many sectors in the UK, including both national and local government.