Most businesses, especially those in high-risk industries, assume they need to check contractors licensing, but do they have the knowledge to know what licensing is required and what they are collecting? The collection and storage of contractor licenses is one of the most wasteful activities undertaken in the name of contractor safety management.
LinkSafe Legal expert, Sue Bottrell, weighs in on whether there is an obligation to collect and whether it is even something that contributes to improved safety.
Yet again I have two clients who were advised, one by a State safety regulator and another by the Federal Safety Commission, that they needed to collect licenses and confirm the technical qualifications of highly skilled independent contractors. In the first instance the contractor was undertaking heavy vehicle dangerous goods delivery and the second was providing crane operations.
Ok, so from a legal perspective there is this thing in WHS called reasonable practicability and it has various elements that confirm whether a risk control measure (in this instance checking licenses) is reasonably practicable. One of the most critical elements of impacting on reasonable practicability is knowledge.
The other important element is suitability – is it suitable for me an unqualified user of expert services to be checking licenses. NO!
Finally the cost – millions of dollars are wasted across industry copying and supplying licenses that are stored and never looked at again.
Given I do not have management or control of the transport of the dangerous good or the crane, and do not, and are not required to, know anything about the risks arising from the contractors work or how to manage those risks it is not reasonably practicable to require those who hire specialist contractors to check licenses.
As confirmed by the Western Australian Supreme Court and High Court (Kirwin v Pilbara Infrastructure Pty Ltd WASC 2012 and Baiada v The Queen HCA 2012) a reasonably practicable method by which I can meet my obligations to ensure risks are eliminated or controlled so far as is reasonably practicable is to use expert contractors. It is a total nonsense to require Principal Contractors to run around and ask contractors to provide license and then verify if they are the right ones. In addition, given that I know nothing about LPG or cranes and their licensing requirements a contractor could show me anything and I do not have the knowledge or competence to confirm if the license is the right one.
Yes, ask the contracting company to provide assurance that their workers are competent and licensed to do their work and then let them get on with it, or if you must and are competent to do so ask them to show you while they are working.