In these uncertain times we all need a bit of comfort and familiarity, so I’m back listening to the Archers. I’m a bit behind so I’ve only just got to the Grey Gables fire and the investigation into how it started.

If you’re not an Archers fan, this is the story.  Grey Gables is a hotel owned by Oliver Sterling. He employed a local firm to carry out some repairs in the kitchen. Their workman was negligent (he was using petrol instead of solvent and then had the bright idea of lighting the gas ring to make some toast….) and there was an explosion, which severely injured hotel employee, Lynda Snell.

Lynda Snell’s husband, Robert (are you keeping up at the back?) blames Oliver for his wife’s injuries. Is he right? Who is responsible for health and safety when a contractor comes onto your site?

Well, the answer to that question is both of you. The site owner must select a suitable contractor, making sure they have sufficient skills, knowledge and equipment to do the job safely and without risk. Don’t assume someone is competent, check it yourself. Look at their health and safety policies and procedures, make sure they have done this sort of job before, check if they are a member of a trade/professional body and ask about their staff training.

Both parties should then do a risk assessment and get together to consider any risks from each other’s work that could affect the health and safety of others.  Provide information to your employees and advise contractors about any risks from your activities. Co-operation and co-ordination are key to ensuring all risks associated with the job are covered. Make sure everyone understands the part they need to play in ensuring health and safety.

Consider what arrangements you will have for managing and supervising the work. Agree these responsibilities in advance.   How will the work be done and what precautions will be taken?  What equipment should or should not be worked on/used?  What personal protective equipment is to be used and who will provide it?

Contractors are responsible for supervising their own work and for ensuring that they work safely. However, site owners can’t just leave them to get on with the job. While you do not need to watch the contractors all the time, you do need to put measures in place which are consistent with the level of risk, so the amount of contact with the contractor must be related to the hazards and risks associated with the job.

Perhaps if these steps had been followed at Grey Gables, Lynda wouldn’t be lying in a hospital bed now......