We use contractors, so we are not responsible?
There is a common misconception that using extenal contractors to undertake work on behalf of the school or college transfers all the legal liability for health and safety to the contractor.This is not actually the case. Although, the contractor will have duties under health and safety legislation, the prime duty will still lie with the client who appointed them. It is vital therefore that schools and colleges make suitable and sufficient checks on the competency of contractors before engaging them to undertake work on their behalf.
Case Law Example - Alpha Schools
In June 2015 Alpha Schools Ltd. was fined £35,000 and had costs of £25,000 awarded against them following a succesful prosecution by the HSE. It also made an ex gratia payment of £50,000 to the injured party. Alpha Schools had engaged P&X Complete Cleaning Services to clear a site at the Crown House Preparatory School in preparation for building works. Part of the work involved removing mature trees from the site. A person engaged by P&X trading was using a chainsaw to cut down a sycamore tree. Whilst he was up a ladder a partially cut branch swung down and hit the ladder. He was thrown from the ladder and suffered permanent spinal injuries. During the investigation it was ascertained that P&X Complete Cleaning Services had not undertaken a risk assessment of the work. The owner of P&X Complete Cleaning Services was given an 18 month suspended prison sentence and had costs of £2,000 awarded against him. Alpha Schools were found not to have engaged a competent contractor. Both defendants in this case had pleaded guilty, which would have reduced the level of fine they received.