Selecting Competent Staff and Contractors.

There are now a lot of very competent people who have training and experience but who have trouble obtaining work, this is because there are also employers who are not competent enough to know and understand they need to employ competent people and they don't really know, care or understand who is actually competent and how to select and employ them! Employers also need training in selecting the right staff. 

There are also those who know they should employ competent persons but don’t as they wrongly consider it’s cheaper to employ those who are far less competent.

Within the live music and events industry, this process is often ignored in favor of the cheapest price, this creates a "race to the bottom" with a lowering of standards and quality, and this is probably one of the greatest factors currently affecting Health and Safety Management standards and their lowering in our industry. Don't be one of those who is helping to lower standards please, especially if it's just so you can profit more with disregard to people's rights to safety.  

Quite simply, health and safety law requires you to ensure your staff have had or are having the required training to be competent, competence is a mixture of training, qualification, experience, and other qualities all in the right proportions! Employers must employ competent persons or provide the required training to staff to enable them to be competent, this training for employees must be free of charge and during normal working hours. 

Competence can be described as the combination of qualifications, training, skills, experience, and knowledge that a person has and their ability to apply them to perform a task safely. Other factors, such as attitude and physical ability, can also affect someone's competence. Competence must be proven, it is not something you simply decide upon without adequate evidence. 

When employing contractors you should:

  • Select a suitable subcontractor – ensure they have sufficient skills and knowledge to do the job safely and without risks to health and safety
  • Assess the risks of the work – the level of risk will depend on the nature of the job. Whatever the risk, you will need to consider the health and safety implications. 
  • Do a risk assessment – you and the contractor should be aware of its findings. You should already have a risk assessment for the work activities of your own business. The contractor must assess the risks for the contracted work and then both of you must get together to consider any risks from each other’s work that could affect the health and safety of the workforce or anyone else who may be affected
  • Provide information, instruction, and training to your employees. You should also provide any information to contractors on the risks from your activities and the controls you have in place. You must consider, with the contractor, what instruction and training contractors will need.
  • Set up liaison arrangements for co-operation and co-ordination with all those responsible to ensure the health and safety of everyone in the workplace
  • Decide what you need to do to manage and supervise the work of contractors and agree on the nature of the controls before work starts

I should at this point mention the difference between training and qualifications, there are many types of training including courses and "on the job" training, a certificate is often provided for courses but this is not a qualification, there is a lot of training courses for the event production industry but not so many qualifications. Qualifications sit on the National Qualifications Framework (RFQ) and are often available at different levels, from trainee to Ph.D.  


An employer or an event organiser has a legal duty to select competent staff and contractors. Perhaps the best way of selecting contractors is to prepare a specification of your requirements and submit it to two or three contractors to quote against. This is fair and reasonable but that is simply not all that is required, you should also ask for a detailed Pre Qualification Questionaire (PPQ). A PPQ can be several pages long and should be completed and returned with the quote, it is quite simple and suppliers must be made aware that if no PPQ is returned the quote will be rejected. It is not a matter of selection by price only and thus helping establish a race to the bottom. A meeting with your potential supplier also helps as do recommendations, observations, and obtaining references that should always be followed up.

Your PPQ should be a form that contains the following questions and requests for information: 

  • The names and contact details for your supplier.
  • Information about the company (Limited, Sole Trader, VAT Number, etc)., number of employees, how long have they been trading.. 
  • Copies of insurance certificates.
  • Membership of Trade Associations
  • Health and Safety Policy
  • Risk Assessments
  • Method Statements
  • Records of accidents and prosecutions for safety breaches
  • Details of equipment test and inspection (such as LOLER, electrical inspection, PAT, etc)
  • Work at Height
  • Rigging Operations
  • Security, Stewarding and CT
  • Crowd Management
  • Electricity
  • Gas Safety
  • Special Effects
  • Fire Safety
  • First Aid Facilities
  • Records of training and qualifications  (Most important)  
  • Does the contractor have a procedure for ongoing hazard identification, risk assessment, and determination of necessary controls?
  • Do they demonstrate that the contractor has adequately assessed the risks?
  • Do they come to similar conclusions as to your own risk assessments?
  • Do they cover all relevant known risks associated with the work?  
  • Do they demonstrate that the contractor has competence in health and safety?
  • Do they identify any areas of high risk?
  • Do they really relate to your work areas or are they likely to be generic at this stage of the process?
  • Are they appropriate to adequately cover the risks in your work environment to enable you to evaluate the bid?
  • At the early stages of the tender process where multiple bids are being considered, generic documentation may be more appropriate than towards the end and nearing a final decision where more contract-specific documents may be required.

This is not an exhaustive list. STAGESAFE uses several different PQQs depending on the services being quoted by potential suppliers to our clients. We help ensure you have competent contractors when we are appointed to look after safety for your businesses or event.  

When you have all the required information it can be studied and then a proper evaluation can be made. 

It is a similar process for staff, request written applications, ask them to provide their CV, obtain and take up references. Check training and qualifications. Interview them about their experience. Make a selection and inform everyone, including those who were not successful, explaining why.

Make certain you understand what the various qualifications mean, for instance, there are several health and safety qualifications, they range from introductory, through intermediate to a professional standard. Many who offer the services of health and safety advisors only have intermediate-level qualifications! This is nothing more than deception in many cases and should not happen where lives may be at risk. Check all qualification levels. Are they appropriate for the job? 

The awarding of contracts is not only on grounds of price and technical ability but also on past safety and environmental records and present ability to carry out the work without risks.

  • As the client, you need to be certain that any contractor has the organisational structures in place and arrangements to make sure what it says it will do in fact gets done, ie an organisational structure and management system for occupational health and safety.
  • Does the contractor have a policy, authorised by the most senior executive, outlining clearly the organisation’s commitment to and intentions for managing occupational health and safety?
  • Look at the overall policy and confirm that there is a named senior officer (director) with responsibility for implementing the safety management system.
  • Is the policy appropriate to the nature and scale of the organisation’s occupational health and safety risks?
  • Are roles, responsibilities, accountabilities, and authorities documented and communicated?
  • Has it been reviewed/updated to ensure that it remains relevant and appropriate to the organisation?
  • Check the contractor’s monitoring and review procedures to make sure safe systems of work are operated in practice and are effective.
  • Check the contractor’s procedure for selecting, monitoring, and maintaining hardware.
  • Check the contractor’s procedures to monitor and measure occupational health and safety performance on a regular basis.
  • Such measures should include both proactive (eg training, planned preventative maintenance) and reactive (eg ill health, incidents including accidents, near misses) measures.
  • Look at the contractor’s ability to record, investigate and learn from incidents (its investigation procedure).
  • Does the contractor undertake regular management review and audits of the occupational health and safety management system to ensure its continuing suitability, adequacy, and effectiveness?
  • Check the contractor will provide all certificates of completion, test, installation, erection, inspection, maintenance, and examination of all relevant plant and equipment including vehicles, plant, electrical equipment, lifting, fire safety, rigging, and PPE.  
  • Check the contractor has adequate, current, and valid insurance including Employers and Public Liability Insurance. Will it be valid for the duration of the contract? Who are the insurers? What are the sums insured? Can they provide you with a copy of the insurance certificate? 
  • Can the contractor demonstrate that it has procedures and processes in place to ensure effective communication internally and externally?
  • Can the contractor show that it has established, implemented, and maintained procedures for effective consultation with (and participation of) workers
  • Is the contractor adequately resourced? This includes a wide range of hardware and organisational matters. Hardware would include layout and resources provided at the base location and provisions for PPE. Organisational matters would include workforce profile (crew headcount, reliance on agency operatives, absence cover), levels of supervision – particularly the ability to provide frequent face-to-face supervision in the field of operations, and contingency arrangements to cover unplanned situations such as sickness and emergencies.

This all sounds like a lot of work but it only needs doing once, next time you will already have most of the information you need from a supplier for repeat or subsequent events, except for equipment test and inspection documents, etc. 

The use of pre-qualification questionnaires are very useful in contractor assessment and procurement, the safety competency assessment of contractors, and collection of all health and safety information for the Event Safety File is a task Stagesafe carries out for our clients when we are looking after the safety management of their events. 

Competency must be properly assessed, competency is not simply an opinion. The competence required can vary depending on the work or workplace involved.

Information on standards for different industries can also be found on the National Occupational Standards (NOS) website.

One of the services Stagesafe provide for clients of either festival, concerts, events or tours is that of helping you select and procure suitable contractors by the use of pre-qualification questionnaires we send to prospective contractors and vendors at the tendering stage to enable them to be assessed in terms of health and safety compliance, this process must be carried out before they are appointed. All too often we find clients who wish to appoint contractors before this assessment, we advise you not to do this as once appointed they will be reluctant to provide the required information

Always someone who will do it cheaper