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4. Contract management

The principal is responsible for appointing a principal contractor and authorising the principal contractor to manage or control the construction workplace.

Where the principal has some management control over the construction workplace, such as where construction works occur on an occupied site, the principal has a legal obligation to monitor and supervise the activities of, and interactions between the principal contractor's and the principal's workers (such as staff and sub-contractors) and the public, with regard to health and safety, irrespective of whether the contract is major or minor.

In order to perform this function, the principal must appoint a contract superintendent and may for large or complex contracts also engage an occupational health and safety (OHS) specialist consultant. On occupied sites, the principal should also involve it's own OHS management representative and OHS staff representatives.

The superintendent's representative, and all consultants and Infrastructure Planning and Delivery (IPD) branch project personnel who may visit the construction work place from time to time must have:

  • access to the contract documents and specifications
  • a good understanding of the health and safety requirements set out in the contract documents
  • access to other documents referred to in the contract, e.g. health and safety coordination plan, safe work method statements and the OHS records of the contractor
  • adequate contract supervision training and appropriate health and safety knowledge and skills relevant to the contract. The minimum acceptable OHS training will be construction induction training enabling registration to perform construction work, (includes the foundations for safety red card), plus completion of the contractor's OHS site induction.

It is desirable for the superintendent to have higher OHS qualifications, such as a Certificate 3 in OHS, or access to a specialist OHS consultant if required. The monitoring of contract OHS section which follows, should be manageable by a superintendent with the minimum OHS qualifications for most contracts.

Monitoring of contract OHS

The superintendent is responsible for monitoring the contractor's compliance with the contract, including the OHS aspects of the contract. The superintendent does not have authority to assume management control of the construction workplace. The emphasis of monitoring by the superintendent should be to ensure that the contractor has systems in place to manage and control safety in the construction workplace in accordance with the contract. Aspects of this control include the following:

  • Site signage.
  • The health and safety coordination plan, monitored, maintained and kept up to date by the contractor, including systems for the identification and management of non-conformance, risks or incidents and training regarding site safety rules.
  • Site Induction for site personnel including sub-contractors, the superintendent and other consultants, delivery personnel, the principal or principal's representatives and other site visitors. If the superintendent is not requested by the contractor to undergo induction, the superintendent should immediately issue an OHS non-conformance notice to the contractor. Any site visitor who is not registered (or taken to be registered) to perform construction work under OHS regulation 6.2 must be escorted at all times while on the site.
  • Safe work method statements for all high risk construction activities.

Note: The main records which evidence this control may include, site induction and training registers, site safety inspection (or walk) observations and resulting controls, and minutes of safety meetings (or tool box meetings). Some other records are also listed below.

A higher level of monitoring may be required in special circumstances such as works undertaken in occupied facilities and particularly in facilities with special requirements, e.g. custodial or secure facilities.

Monitoring may also need to be targeted to specific key elements of a contract, for example:

  • Contract start-up: ensuring that suitable systems and procedures are in place and the workplace is appropriately established.
  • High-risk or complex activities: monitoring conformance with safe work method statements and procedures and other risk control measures.
  • High level of interaction with other parties: review of co-ordination and notification systems operating at the workplace.
  • Introduction of new plant, equipment or systems of work: may require special monitoring of control procedures.

Monitoring of contractor activities includes

Regular review by the superintendent or superintendent's representative of contractor health and safety documentation. This may involve review of:

  • induction records
  • plant and equipment maintenance/inspection records
  • health and safety inspection reports
  • risk assessment documents
  • employee training / competency records
  • safety meeting minutes.

Regular review by the superintendent or superintendent's representative of contractor health and safety performance. This shall include review of:

  • accident / incident reports
  • third party reports or complaints
  • review of monthly OHS performance reports.

Ensuring that corrective action is taken where non conformance is identified by the superintendent or superintendent's representative:

  • issuing of non-conformance report
  • reviewing and confirming that corrective action is implemented
  • issuing formal notice (i.e. site instruction) when action is not taken within a reasonable timeframe.

The superintendent or superintendent's representative incorporating health and safety issues as part of regular contract review meetings. This should include:

  • health and safety as a comprehensive agenda item
  • safety inspections undertaken after / before site meetings
  • health and safety issues considered as a high priority in relation to overall contract performance.

Incorporating reports on contractor health and safety performance as a standard agenda item for project control group (PCG) meetings. Refer to Contractor OHS Performance Report.

Site meetings

Regular site meetings are an important means for the superintendent to monitor the OHS performance of the contractor. Health and safety should be a comprehensive agenda item for each meeting.

At first site meeting, as a minimum, confirm that the contractor is maintaining management and control of OHS and has:

  • A health and safety coordination plan for the site - you should be shown this as part of your site-specific safety induction.
  • Site signage showing the name and contact details of the contractor and those people responsible for health and safety, and other safety related information.
  • OHS manual, including OHS policy signed by contractor's senior management representative.
  • Sufficient meal and shelter facilities, toilets, washing facilities and drinking water and other amenities for use by the contractor, construction workers and the superintendent and other consultants.

At subsequent site meetings, as a minimum, confirm the contractor is maintaining its OHS management and control plan. Request details of current works being undertaken, upcoming works and how the contractor will ensure health and safety.

Inspect records of recent safety inspections (or site safety walks):

  • Safety inspections must be conducted by the contractor's senior management representative and at least one employee representative at regular intervals, at least fortnightly but more frequently if appropriate for the level of activity on site.
  • Site safety walks observe whether works are being undertaken safely, using correct procedures, equipment and tools.
  • Confirm that observations have been recorded - usually on a standard checklist from the contractor's OHS manual.
  • Confirm that issues have been addressed.
  • Confirm that site amenities are being maintained in hygienic condition.

Workplace inspections

The principal demonstrates their fulfilment of obligations in relation to contractor health and safety by monitoring the standard of workplace safety and compliance with the contract and the contractor's OHS systems. Inspection programs undertaken by contractors are a key element in monitoring the health and safety standards of the contractor's operations and play a significant role in identifying health and safety issues before they result in injury or damage at the workplace. The superintendent or specialist OHS consultant may wish to accompany the contractor on workplace inspections from time to time.

Contract inspection checklists

Use by the superintendent of the contract inspection checklists allows the systematic review of health and safety issues relevant to the contract activities.

Sample contract inspection checklists are provided as part of this guideline for use if the superintendent of specialist OHS consultant undertakes health and safety inspections of contractor operations from time to time. The checklists are designed to consider a broad range of general health and safety issues in the workplace and should be modified as required to include specific safety aspects associated with the contract.

Responsibility for carrying out inspections

The contractor has a duty of care as an employer to provide and maintain a safe workplace and consequently has an important responsibility to conduct workplace inspections on a regular basis. A team comprising management and employee representatives should generally undertake the inspections. The contractor should make available copies of health and safety inspection reports for review when requested.

Although not required to be expert in all matters the superintendent or other consultants appointed to represent the principal shall check that the contractor has adequately fulfilled their health and safety obligations, as far as they can reasonably establish. The superintendent shall raise with the contractor any health and safety issues that come to their attention through their inspection and monitoring of contractor operations.

Where the superintendent or OHS consultant participates in inspections these should be conducted in conjunction with a representative of the contractor to enable discussion and resolution of issues as they are identified. The superintendent or consultants may seek input from specialist health and safety staff to be available during and after the inspection to give advice on health and safety issues.

Frequency of inspections

The principal contractor shall establish an inspection schedule prior to the commencement of the contract.

For large complex projects it may be appropriate for the contractor to undertake daily health and safety inspections. Weekly or fortnightly health and safety inspections are likely to be more practicable for smaller simpler contracts with lower associated risk. It is good practice for the contractor to inspect the safety practices of new sub-contractors to the construction workplace on a daily basis for the first few days. Daily pre-start safety inspections may be required for particular high-risk plant, equipment and processes.

Contract records

Effective contract management requires a systematic approach to record keeping. Relevant health and safety records retained by consultants provide documentary evidence of the principal's due diligence in relation to the health and safety of contractors. These records are particularly important in situations where the contractor is in breach of health and safety requirements or a significant incident or accident occurs as a result of activities performed by the contractor.

The superintendent and other consultants on behalf of the principal are to notify the contractor promptly of any breach of health and safety they identify. Breaches should be notified using a non-conformance report. Refer to Non Conformance Report Form. The contractor must take immediate action to rectify the breach and must document the remedial actions taken. The superintendent on behalf of the principal should retain a copy of the report and documented remedial action undertaken by the contractor.

Other relevant health and safety records that should be retained by the superintendent or OHS consultant on behalf of the principal include:

  • contract documents
  • health and safety coordination plan
  • safe work method statements for high risk construction work
  • minutes of site meetings where health and safety should be a comprehensive agenda item
  • health and safety inspection reports
  • minutes of safety meetings
  • incident investigation reports
  • monthly OHS performance reports
  • non-conformance reports and corrective actions
  • photographs and test results
  • site instructions and diary notes.

Relevant health and safety documents should be consolidated and retained in the contract file. These are important documents that may be required even some time after the contract has been completed.

Contractor performance reporting

On a monthly basis, and at the completion of the contract, the superintendent is to complete and retain on file a contractor OHS performance report. Monthly reports should be submitted to PCG meetings. Refer to Contractor OHfS Performance Report