Leaving nothing to chance

School teacher

All schools and colleges regularly need contractors. What you don’t need are incidents involving your contractors that leave you behind schedule, with budget blowouts, fines, or worse, with sick or injured people.

To help prevent these things from happening, this RiskED article offers advice on developing a formal contractor management process. Plus, two specialists reflect on their experiences in this troublesome area.

If you think you can leave safety in the hands of contractors working at your school or college, think again. 

Under state and territory Workplace Health & Safety (WHS) legislation, those who manage or control a workplace are required to provide for the health, safety and welfare of contractors, sub-contractors, staff, volunteers, and visitors, while works are being conducted on their grounds. If you don’t comply with WHS laws you face fines, reputational damage, even legal proceedings. 

The takeaway message is clear – safety at your school is always your responsibility. Because of that, you need to develop and implement a formal process for managing contractors. Be sure it takes into account your state or territory WHS legislation and any relevant regulations, standards, or codes of practice. And be sure it’s properly resourced. If it’s not, its effectiveness could be compromised leaving your school, and all those who use it, vulnerable.

Tips for developing an effective contractor management process

We’ve broken down the process of managing contractors into six key areas. Under each, we’ve suggested just a few of many actions you can take to start developing your own contractor management process. Remember, the more robust your management process, the better protected your school will be.

School management practices

  • Appoint a staff member to oversee all areas of contractor management, including safety, security and due diligence.
  • Appoint a staff member to identify risks associated with all works to be undertaken by contractors. That way you’ll have someone alerting you to potential risks before they become incidents.
  • Communicate all contractor policies and procedures to stakeholders and update them whenever changes are made.
  • Regularly test your processes and procedures and report the results to management.

Risk management 

  • Ensure risks are analysed, ranked, and prioritised in order of risk level. This will help determine the likelihood of them occurring, and their consequences. From there you can decide what course of action to take.
  • Establish a contractor risk register to summarise identified risks.
  • Check that contractors have issued risk assessments prior to the commencement of work, and that their risk controls are supported by relevant WHS policies and procedures.
  • Look out for common risks associated with contractor management. They include: 
    • Failure to monitor contractor performance
    • Budget blow-outs
    • Inadequate insurance cover
    • Neglecting to communicate and inform contractors of their WHS responsibilities 
    • Failure to provide a safe work environment

Contractor assessment & verification 

It’s important you verify that what your contractors tell you is correct. To do that you should always: 

  • Validate your contractors’ references 
  • Sight and retain copies of licences, registrations and qualifications 
  • Obtain copies of insurance certificates of currency for: 
    • Public liability 
    • Workers’ compensation 
    • Professional indemnity 
  • Validate risk assessments, including safe work method statements and operating procedures
  • Validate work permits 
  • Review WHS management systems 

Induction & training 

  • Ensure your staff member responsible for overseeing contractor management inducts and trains contractors in all relevant school policies and procedures, including WHS, child protection, and emergency management procedures.
  • Ensure contractors give site-specific and general accredited safety induction training to their employees, sub-contractors and labour-hire workers. 
  • Retain a copy of your contractors’ induction register for verification.
  • See that the induction register includes details of each contractor's WHS training competency.


  • Ensure all areas are free from hazards by conducting regular and random inspections and supervision of work areas. 
  • Establish an incident notification procedure.
  • Meet regularly with your contractors, project managers and sub-contractors during works. 
  • Record and report progress, performance results, and safety compliance matters to them.
  • If a contractor does not comply with legislative requirements, regulatory guidelines, or codes of practice, stop work and seek advice from your WHS authority.

Completion of works 

  • Check that buildings and surrounding grounds are left in a safe condition. 
  • Obtain copies of warranties as well as safety and compliance certificates.
  • Obtain copies of safe work and operating procedures for newly installed equipment.
  • Ensure your contractors have kept project records and reports in accordance with WHS requirements.
  • Establish and communicate any new rules, policy or procedures required for new buildings or equipment.

Words from the wise

Throughout our RiskEd series, we’re calling on various specialists to share their knowledge on particular areas of risk management. 

For this article CCI Risk Consultant, Chris Hall, shares a cautionary tale, and Tony Robinson, from SafeWork NSW, flags a few problem areas.

Chris Hall

“We recently worked with a Catholic school that found itself in a serious situation following an asbestos-related incident.

“Despite being warned about the presence of asbestos in a classroom, a contractor drilled through the potentially deadly material spreading its dust throughout the space.

“While the school took appropriate measures to clean the site, more could have been done to prevent the incident happening in the first place. Especially given CCI cannot provide compensation to the school, or the Catholic Education Office, because its insurance policies have standard asbestos exclusions. This means the school will need to pursue the contractor for costs incurred in the clean up.

“It’s a reminder of how easily things can go wrong. And it emphasizes the need for all schools and colleges to develop and implement an effective contractor management process.”

Tony Robinson

“Contractors need to be monitored on site and verification of any work carried out is critical. Engagement needs careful consideration too. How a contractor is engaged will determine who is responsible for what in terms of WHS. In some cases a contractor may be engaged as a worker and must be inducted and exited from the organisation appropriately.

“Inspections, testing and monitoring are perennial problems. To ensure worker safety and the safety of the public, equipment such as boilers, lifts and heavy machinery must be regularly tested, inspected and monitored to ensure they are not a health and safety risk. Unfortunately, we find many organisations are just not aware of their obligations.”

Good to go

Now you know why a contractor management process is so important. And you know how to start developing one. So gather your team and get going. By leaving nothing to chance you’ll help keep everyone at your school safer.

Want to know more?

You can visit our Risksupport website for more information on managing contractors. We recommend:

Contractor Management Fact Sheet

Contractor Management Checklist

Managing Risks in Catholic Organisations Guide

Making Your Workplace a Safe Place Guide

You’ll also find free information on a range of other topics. With everything from the latest news and alerts to fact sheets and templates, it’s your go-to site for anything risk-related.

And for those who’d rather speak to someone, there’s our friendly Risksupport Helpdesk. Just call (or email)
1300 660 827

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Posted: 11 November 2016

Topic: Contractor Management

 Related items



Contractor Management Fact Sheethttp://risksupport.org.au/contractor-management-fact-sheetContractor Management Fact Sheet
Contractor Management Checklisthttp://risksupport.org.au/contractor-management-checklistContractor Management Checklist

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