Contractor Management: Who’s responsible for what?

It takes a team to build a house. Health and safety takes teamwork too. Here’s a how-to-guide on shared responsibilities.

A Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) is essentially any business doing work of any sort. PCBU’s are required to ensure the health and safety of workers, other contractors, or visitors who might be affected by work operations.

If you are the main contractor engaging contractors, then ‘workers’ will include not just your direct employees but all engaged workers including other PCBU’s employees.

When it comes to overlapping duties, businesses need to consult, coordinate and cooperate so they can all meet their shared responsibilities. 

Some examples of duties you are likely to share include;

  • Primary duty of PCBUs
    Ensure that the health and safety of workers and other people are not put at risk by your work.
  • Managing risk
    Eliminate risks that arise from your work. If the risk cannot be eliminated, minimise it
  • Worker engagement, participation and representation
    Ensure that workers can raise concerns and express their views on work health and safety matters and that those views are taken into account.
  • Notification
    If a notifiable event occurs, you must notify WorkSafe as soon as you become aware of the event.
  • First aid
    Ensure that your workers have access to first aid equipment and trained first aiders. If you share a workplace with other PCBUs, you can coordinate sharing first-aid resources with them.
  • Emergency plans
    You have a duty to prepare, maintain and implement an emergency plan at your work. Consult, cooperate and coordinate with other PCBUs that you share overlapping duties with to coordinate emergency procedures.

*These listed duties are not in their entirety and have been simplified for readability. This is not a full list of duties, it is important to make yourself familiar with health and safety duties. WorkSafe has useful information at, or talk to our Advisory team if you have any questions.

When might duties overlap?
Duties can overlap in a shared workplace where more than one business and its workers influence the work on-site. Another example of overlapping duties might be in a contracting chain, where contractors and subcontractors provide services to a head contractor (or client) and don’t necessarily share the same workplace.

For example, a builder calls a supplier for some material to be dropped off at site, they coordinate that a HIAB is the best way to deliver the goods. The builder will communicate via a Toolbox Meeting to the team that the materials will be delivered, to create a clear stable area for drop off, and to keep clear of the HIAB while offloading. 

Understanding the extent of your duty
When there are overlapping duties on-site, how do you determine the extent of your duty? 

You will need to consider the extent to which you can influence or control the risk in question. 

This can be determined by considering the following: 

  • Control over the work activity – if you are the business managing or running the work being undertaken
  • Control over the site – if you are the main contractor or subcontractor
  • Control over your team – a business will have more control over its own team or contractors than others on-site 

Ultimately, the more influence and control you have over the site or workers, the more control you have over the risk – the more responsibility you have. 

Health and safety doesn’t just start at the building site, it will span throughout the entire build cycle. It can start as far back as the concept and design, choice of materials, pricing, and scoping of the works. 

Keeping people safe should always be the top priority on any construction site. And what’s more? Health and safety laws actually require this to be the case. Aligning yourself with other parties, and knowing what safety systems are in place is vital and could save lives. 

What does this mean and how can you ensure that people are not harmed, and you are complying with your legal obligations? Here are some expectations:

  1. Work with designers to reduce risks 
  2. Set clear health and safety expectations and incorporate these into your agreements with contractors
  3. Ensure contractors have appropriate health and safety procedures in place
  4. Prepare a Site Safety Plan for the job and share it with all workers and contractors
  5. Establish health and safety reporting requirements with your contractors. A great tool for this is to use the HazardCo App to complete Task Analysis, Risk Assessments, Incident Reports, and more.
  6. Ensure site inductions take place. Communicate site rules and procedures to everyone who accesses the worksite, this can be done via the HazardCo App by scanning the QR code located on your Hazard Board.
  7. Set up clear requirements for information sharing for the duration of the project
  8. Ensure that there is effective communication between all parties (e.g. Toolbox Meetings through the HazardCo App)
  9. Monitor your workers and/or contractors you hire

WorkSafe also expects businesses to use sound contractor management processes. The following key steps should be followed by the Main Contractor:


  • Consider health and safety risks prior to selecting contractors
  • Discuss the project with potential contractors to make sure they are capable
  • Document the process and store it in the HazardCo Hub


  • Ensure prospective contractors have effective health and safety procedures in place
  • Keep records of contractors’ prequalification


  • Select the contractors based on prequalification outcome and any other factors including availability, skills, etc


  • Create a Project in the HazardCo Hub, which creates a Site Specific Safety Plan, Site Pack, QR code, and Hazard Board. Share the information with contractors.
  • Ensure induction expectations are understood by all workers, contractors, and visitors.
  • Ensure all contractors have reviewed and agreement is reached and documented.


  • Regular communication regarding health and safety performance (e.g. Toolbox Meetings, Site Reviews, Site Inductions, etc.)
  • Investigate any incidents and follow up on any outstanding issues.
  • Regular review during the assignment (e.g. Site Reviews)


  • Post contract review – It’s good practice to review the performance of your contractors at the end of the project. Look at areas of monitoring during the project completed, communication, incidents, improvement, etc

Stay on top of these checks with an automated system.

Get peace of mind your contractors are good to go, with an automated system to pre-qualify your contractors, check insurance, trade qualifications and more. As it’s automated, you won’t have to chase contractors for outstanding documents, and you’ll even get a notification if someone scans-in who hasn’t been approved.

Find out more about HazardCo’s Pre-Qualification Tools here, or get in touch with the team by giving us a call on 0800 555 339 or email

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