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Managing contractors in residential lettings: Work on site and high risk workOnce you have sourced your contractors and agreed with them how they will undertake their work safely, it is time to think about how you are going to manage the work once it is underway.

If there is a property manager on site, contractors should be expected to sign in and undergo an induction process with them: being reminded of any site rules, general conduct, known site hazards and emergency arrangements.

Contractors should also be issued with a contractor pass as part of this process. It is also wise - particularly on large sites - that contractors are discouraged from starting work without letting the onsite manager know.

In most cases, due to scale, there will not be someone on site to sign in contractors but practical controls can still be instigated.

The letting agent should always know when contractors will be working. In most cases, residents or tenants may have to be warned that work will be undertaken. All contractors should carry photo ID and confirmation that they are a contractor engaged by the letting agent or landlord.

Contractors should similarly be inducted, but this may be as part of a regular meeting or routine contact. An arrangement can be made with larger contractors to provide the induction information to them and request that they manage this process, providing information on who has been inducted and when. New contractors should be inducted on their first day and then every 6-12 months depending on the nature of their work and risk.

Agents should be prepared to spot check contractors on an occasional basis. This does not have to be complicated or onerous. For example, if contractors have said that certain personal protective (PPE) will be used, a spot check can confirm that this is indeed the case. The spot check can also be made to verify that work standards and quality are as expected.

Good communication is critical and regular contact with contractors which includes discussions on safety standards and how work will be undertaken and planned will continue to achieve high standards.

Contractors should also be encouraged to report back on any hazards which they identify on site and if they have an accident whilst working.

When it comes to high risk work for contractors, falls from height remain the most common cause of fatal injuries in the UK, accounting for nearly a third of all fatal injuries to workers. Work involving gas appliances and hot work should also be considered high risk.

For these types of work, the letting agent should ensure they understand exactly how the work will be carried out, and the precautions that will be taken. RAM's must be site specific, especially where difficult access arrangements are required.

Look to create a permit to work system; this is a management system that describes how the work will be undertaken safely. It is a good communication tool between agent and contractor and will be useful for future projects.

A permit to work will contain the following key criteria:

Identification of the person or persons authorized to undertake the work

Identification of the person or persons responsible for specifying necessary precautions

The duration of the work

Identification of the key hazards and precise nature of how these will be controlled

Tasks to be undertaken against which risk assessments should have been created

Clear information regarding the training and instructions then supervision of the work to ensure it is undertaken in line with an agreed site specific risk assessment

Details of any other work being undertaken at the time and control measures identified as a result of this

How the work will be checked or audited during the work

How the work will be checked, to confirm a safe condition, after it has been completed and the permit signed off.

All that said, permits can be over-used and it is important to avoid this.

In general, permits are best suited to maintenance, repair, dismantling modification, and cleaning work that is: non routine, requires two or more individuals, or indeed, high risk work.

*Louise Hosking MCIEH CMIOSH RMaPS AIEMA SIIRSM is a Chartered Safety & Health Practitioner and Director at Hosking Associates Ltd.

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