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As building boom reaches pre-2008 highs, ECIC warns Electrical Contractors of 'Perfect Storm'

Embedding a culture of health and safety is vital


Following news that the construction sector has recovered to pre 2008 levels in some regions of the UK​[1], ECIC, the specialist insurer for contracting sector is urging electrical contractors to be aware of their responsibilities to bona fide and labour only sub-contractors as the need for skills is leading to increasing demand for these resources. 

Richard Forrest Smith, CEO of ECIC said: “Embedding a culture of health and safety in the electrical contracting sector is vital but a number of factors are currently at play which make this particularly challenging.  The UK construction sector has an ageing workforce​[2]​, demand for skills and diversification of skills has led to an increasing reliance on subcontractors, both labour only contractors and bona fide sub-contractors; and now we are seeing strengthening demand for skills. It could be the start of a perfect storm.  It’s imperative that electrical contractors fully understand their responsibilities and liabilities in respect of the sub-contractors they employ on site.”

Labour only sub-contractors work under the direction of the contractor who will typically provide tools and materials.  In the eyes of the law this is often regarded as a master and servant relationship and the contractor’s duty of care towards labour only sub-contractors is therefore the same as to their own staff.  As such, their health and safety responsibilities reflect this.  They may also need to implement additional health and safety procedures when considering the specific skill and experience of a labour only sub-contractor.

In contrast, bona-fide sub-contractors are generally deemed to be specialist contractors who set their own systems of work using their own tools and materials. A bona fide subcontractor is responsible for managing its own health and safety risks for their own element of the contract.

However, as the main contractor is, in most cases, contractually liable to the CDM co-ordinator / site owner for works undertaken by the sub-contractors they employ, they still retain responsibility for overall health and safety on a contract.  They must therefore satisfy themselves of the adequacy of the sub-contractors’ health and safety documentation and ensure that they adopt an embedded approach to health and safety reflecting their own culture. 

Richard Forrest Smith concludes “Contract sites are complex places to work where risks and hazards can change daily.   There is often a wide number of contractors with differing relationships and dependence on other trades to complete designated tasks so that they can undertake their work, plus there will be a range of skills and experience active at any one time.  All contractors have a responsibility for health and safety and are required to work together to maintain and ensure a safe environment. Electrical contractors needing support and advice in risk management should speak to their insurance broker.  As a member of the ECA they will also have access to valuable resources to help them understand and fulfil their responsibilities to sub-contractors.”





ECIC media contacts

For further information please contact the ECIC Press Office at HSL:  Alison Reeson/Clare Watson.  0208 977 9132.  ECIC@harrisonsadler.com


ECIC is a trading name of Markel International Insurance Company Limited, whose ultimate holding company is Markel Corporation.


Markel International Insurance Company Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority (Financial Services Register No.: 202570). 

Registered Office: 20 Fenchurch Street, London EC3M 3AZ. Company Number: 00966670. 


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