With many companies having to restructure and react to a rapidly changing working environment, the use of short-term agency staff is seen as a fast and convenient way to ensure firms are able to fulfil business objectives without costly recruitment and retention overheads.
Agency staff are used by all industries but responsibilities for health and safety are sometimes unclear.
If you use agency drivers, you must ensure that a suitable and sufficient risk assessment identifies the particular requirements they may face.
Your assessment must take into account any special cases, such as people who may not speak English as a first language.
We are regularly asked for guidance on the provision of work equipment, particularly who has to provide and maintain personal protective equipment (PPE) if required for the job.
If a business provides its own employees with PPE then it must ensure that agency workers are provided with the same level of protection.
Legal responsibility for providing this free of charge lies with whoever is the worker’s employer – this might be the agency or the business and this needs to be clarified in the employment contract.
If it were not clarified, it would be likely that the employer would be deemed as the ‘person in control’ of an operation being carried out by the agency driver.
In this case it would be likely to be the business so it makes sense to ensure clarity.
Whoever is providing the equipment, they must ensure that the worker is not charged for it.
They will only be responsible for providing their own PPE in the few cases where they are genuinely self-employed.
Whatever is provided, it remains the business’s responsibility to monitor agency drivers to ensure that they are using/wearing the equipment safely and in accordance with any safe systems of work.
It is also the business’s responsibility to give appropriate instructions and readily understandable information (both to the workers and the agency) about:
* The risks agency workers may face when working in their business;
* Any special occupational skills or qualifications needed to do the work safely;
* Health surveillance requirements. Agencies have the same duties if the drivers are their employees.
Additionally, the business should tell the agency about any special features of the job that may affect agency workers’ health and safety.
The agency must pass this information on to the drivers and the business must ensure that workers have understood training once it has been given and are that drivers are continuing to follow procedures correctly.
When a business uses agency drivers, the business and the agency have a shared duty to protect their health and safety and they must communicate to ensure that responsibilities are clearly defined.
Even though employment status can be important – and the actual legal responsibility cannot be given to someone else – the most important thing is for both the business and the agency to clarify and agree at the start of a contract the practical arrangements for day-to-day supervision, direction and control of the work that agency drivers will be doing.
Although agency drivers can face particular problems due to lack of familiarity with processes, workplaces and equipment, the risks can be reduced through effective partnership and co-operation between the agency and the business.
* For more details, call 01622 618613 or email firstname.lastname@example.org