Trust your contractors but verify

Shadow picture of contractors

A key question for anyone employing service providers and by extension their contractors, sub-sub-sub-contractors etc, is are they “competent” persons? If not, the ramifications ……. could be severe, with loss of life, criminal negligence and financial hardship, adverse media attention and social stigma.

Recommendations: Trust but verify!

So how do you minimise risk and maximise compliance? Here are a few simple steps to maximise competence and by extension, compliance.

1. Request copies of licences

Where licensing does exist, request copies of licences for all staff and contractors who carry out work on your premises. This should include any and all sub-sub-sub-contractors employed by your lead contractor as ultimately, you are responsible. Also, do not simply accept a list of names and numbers, request a picture or a photocopy especially if the details are on the back, e.g. plumbers licences in Australia.

2. Request CV’s from competent persons/practitioners

For industries which rely on “competent” persons/practitioners or where no formal licences exist, consider asking your competent persons to submit a CV, demonstrating their competence. The NSW Govt publication “Selecting a competent fire safety practitioner” provides some good ideas, e.g. the CV should include any relevant qualifications, relevant formal training, relevant professional recognition and relevant experience in the last five years, to ensure they are keeping themselves up to date.

3. Request proof of competency for equipment used

If the work requires the use of equipment; forklifts, test equipment, breathing equipment, etc, request proof of competency they have been trained in the correct use of that equipment. If it’s not too onerous, some of our clients even require their contractors to refresh their training every 5 years.

4. Request proof of specialised training

For specialised industries and high-risk work, also request proof of training/qualifications for things like working at heights, working in enclosed spaces etc.

5. Request copies of test results

If the maintenance/compliance work includes pass/fail tests, request that test results are attached to the compliance certificate, even for something as simple as Test& Tag (PAT) and RCD checks. For example, if someone is electrocuted, the best way to demonstrate WHS compliance is by producing the test results to show that the equipment had been tested and passed, was tested by a competent person and was being maintained in accordance with the standards.

6. Do not accept invoices in lieu of compliance certificates

We’ve seen some contractors simply present an invoice as proof that the work was carried out. As a minimum, your contractors should state the work they have carried out and the standard to which they have maintained the equipment. In this day and age, setting up a word or powerpoint template isn’t difficult.


Under WHS legislation, you are responsible for your staff, your visitors, your contractors, including sub-sub-sub-contractors so you have to ensure compliance work is carried out by a licensed or “competent” person. This responsibility cannot be passed on to your contractor and if anything happens to anyone on your property, your organisation will be investigated by the relevant authorities.

We hope these recommendations will help you craft a process to ensure you are using licensed or competent contractors and that your maintenance and WHS is compliant.

Nigel Dalton-Brown, GAICD, AMIIA, MBA

Managing Director, Chair, Speaker, Lecturer, Author

Nigel is the Founder of Strytex and has been presenting and writing on Goverence, Obligational Awarenss, Risk Management and Compliance administration (GORC) since 2010.

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