How important is prequalifying your contractors?

Tradesperson on roof with safety equipment
Just how important is prequalifying your contractors?

Prequalification is often used as a method to confirm the management of safety on the ground y contractors through the collection and assessment of documentation as evidence of operational safety management.

In this article
This practice is flawed
The critical elements of a good prequalification
Drafting prequalification questions
Putting together a prequalification questions

This practice is flawed

as it has been clearly demonstrated that the relationship between documented safety procedures and day to day safety management rarely match. Borys, D. (2009). Exploring risk-awareness as a cultural approach to safety: Exposing the gap between work as imagined and work as actually performed. Safety Science Monitor, 13(2), 1-11

Prequalification may also push a contractor to prepare documentation that reflects what they think is expected of them, vs what they actually use on a day-to-day basis to manage safety.

Prequalification generally rewards those who can prepare documents not necessarily those who manage safety well.

The critical elements of a good prequalification

n reality prequalification is a legal process, not a safety process and its purpose is to demonstrate due diligence when engaging contractors and to ensure that contractors and those who hire them have a clear understanding of the obligations owed by each of them to manage safety.

Therefore, the critical elements of a good prequalification include

  1. clear and unambiguous clauses allocating responsibility for safety management between you and your contractor
  2. a clear statement that the contractor is being hired because they are the expert, and you are relying on their expertise to manage safety in respect of their undertaking
  3. confirmation that you expect them to manage their own safety without your input, except to the extent that your undertaking impacts the contractor
  4. Confirm that they will consult with you about safety and where their undertaking impacts you and your worker’s safety.
  5. confirmation of the acceptance and understanding of their obligations

In addition, we need to obtain assurance from the contractor that they are achieving the level of safety performance we require. This doesn’t mean we go back to checking documentation but ask questions that confirm performance not process.

Drafting prequalification questions

So, when drafting prequalification questions as yourself “What is the outcome, I want the contractor to confirm?”.

An easy example is training. Usually, I see questions in prequalification’s like;

  • “Do you have a training register?”
  • “Do you refresh training annually”
  • “Do you use an RTO to deliver your training”

All these questions are confirmation of process, not confirmation of performance. The better question to ask is;

  • “Are your workers competent and or licensed as required to undertake their work?”

Putting together a prequalification questions

Putting together a prequalification may seem simple but it takes real skills to ensure that it does what you want it to (I have been drafting and tweaking the prequalification e use at LinkSafe Legal for the past 10 years!).

So, I encourage you to look at your prequalification if you have one and see if it relies too heavily on documentation as evidence of safety management, really sets up the relationship between your contractor and clearly allocates responsibilities, and finally obtain assurance of safety performance by your contractor.

However, if at the end of the day you need help or think “I just want to be sure my prequalification is right” contact us and we will set you up. That’s what we are here for.