The 4 Essential Elements for Ensuring Contractor and Workplace Safety

By Scott Cuthbert
Last updated: January 7, 2024
Key Takeaways

Safety is the responsibility of all parties involved in a job, not just the contractor.

Many are surprised to learn that contracting out work does not necessarily relieve an owner of legal liability or responsibility for worker safety. Those of us who are not lawyers tend to think of a contract as having full legal effect. Yet, under occupational health and safety laws in many North American jurisdictions, nothing could be further from the truth.


When creating a contractor management program, keep the following in mind.

Ignorance of the Law Is NEVER a Defense

Your contractor safety program and practices must reflect a knowledge of the applicable legal requirements. It must also take into account the best practices that have become entrenched across industries.


Regulatory agencies and the courts will expect a company that hires contractors to do their due diligence first. They show no leniency to employers for not understanding the rules they were supposed to follow.

It is also your responsibility to know the distinction between situations where a hands-on due diligence strategy is required when working with contractors, and where a hands-off strategy that involves delegating to a prime contractor is permissible.

You Must Have Knowledge the Worksite and Its Hazards

In addition to knowing the law, both the employer and the contracted party must take reasonable steps to assess all potential workplace hazards. This is crucial in order to ensure that the contractors will be informed of all the hazards involved.

In cases where the working environment changes, such as in construction projects, the hazard assessment will need to be active and ongoing. Ongoing assessments are also recommended on worksites where multiple contractors are present and intermingling or where the work environment is unfamiliar.

(Learn about The 4 Stages of Contractor Management)


You Must Meaningfully Assess the Contractor’s Health and Safety Program

Every contractor should have a detailed a functioning safety system. One element of your due diligence is to verify that this is the case.

Do not simply take their word for it. Instead, review their safety program thoroughly to ensure that it is adequate.

Contractors Must Be Monitored to Ensure Compliance

Monitor contractor compliance will be needed as well.

Monitoring should increase depending on the nature of the risk and any indication of compliance problems. Any non-compliance with the worksite owner’s policies or the contractor’s own policies must result in warnings and, if necessary, removal of the contractor from the site.

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Written by Scott Cuthbert | CEO & Co-Founder

Scott Cuthbert

Prevention is the best medicine! No job is 100% safe, but there is much that employers, employees and safety professionals can do to minimize and reduce the risks. This applies to our Environment, our Health and our Safety.

Also check out our LinkedIn group, Construction Health & Safety:

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