You may be contracting in someone to perform a specialist task in your workplace — but that doesn’t mean you can contract out your safety obligations.

The safety of the contractors who you employ (and their workers) must be managed the same way you would manage the safety of your own workers.

To what extent depends on the size and complexity of your project, but it will include:

  • providing them with a safe working environment
  • giving them an induction before they start working for you, so they’re aware of your safety expectations and standards
  • consulting and communicating with them on safety issues, hazards and risks
  • supervising them appropriately
  • covering them in your safety policies.

Where it starts

When you plan your project, scope out the contractor’s work tasks, any WHS issues associated with these tasks, and the level of supervision required.

Consult with the subcontractor at this stage for the most effective planning.

You must identify the WHS hazards that need to be managed. When using a subcontractor, additional points to consider are:

  • will the subcontractor’s tools, materials and equipment they bring onsite create hazards?
  • what activities are needed to get the work done? Do these involve high risk work or hazardous materials?
  • where can things go wrong? For example, where might shortcuts be taken?

Get proof

You should develop and document clear criteria for contract selection. Ask the company tendering for your contract for evidence or details of:

  • their approach to WHS, especially in the planning stages
  • a third-party certified WHS management system
  • safety records, safety incidents; and any WorkSafe actions including notices, enforceable undertakings or prosecutions
  • safety qualifications, licences, certificates held by their workers
  • equipment maintenance records
  • selection processes for plant and substances
  • processes for worker inductions, training, consultation and communication
  • processes for communicating with you, the employer contracting the work.

What goes in the contract?

The contract between you and the subcontractor should include:

  • WHS requirements: policies, safe work procedures, maintenance requirements, bringing tools and substances onsite
  • WHS roles and responsibilities of you and the contractor
  • procedures for not complying with WHS requirements. You may want to include a provision to terminate the contract for breaches, and removing them from your worksite
  • processes for hazard/risk management
  • reporting requirements: incidents/near misses, site inductions and training, consultation arrangements
  • processes for work inspections, maintenance
  • processes for communicating with one another
  • the requirement for contractors to inform you when they are on site.

You should also keep records of these.


The level of supervision you provide a contractor and their workers depends on a number of factors. For example, you may need to give high levels of supervision at least for:

  • the start of the contracted works
  • new contractors to your worksite
  • the introduction of new equipment, substances of systems of work
  • high risk work
  • complex work

What does it all mean?

In a nutshell, you have to ensure the safety of your subcontractors. You should have a documented process in place to assess their safety documentation prior to engaging them (or have them work under your documentation).

This process can be part of your WHS Management System, and would include obtaining copies of your subcontractor’s licences, training, insurances, SWMS, Policies and Procedures and any other relevant documents to the job (e.g. certification of plant etc.).

If you have any questions about your obligations relating to subcontractor management, feel free to get in touch.

Our Comprehensive WHS Manual includes Subcontractor Management Procedures and assessment forms.

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