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Prime Contractor

  • 29 January 2018
  • Author: Safety Ahead
  • Number of views: 6278
Prime Contractor

It’s not uncommon for a worksite to have more than one employer present on a worksite in Alberta. So with so much activity and so many people present on one site, there needs to be one single party that oversees and coordinates the worksite. This is where the Prime Contractor comes in.


Who is a Prime Contractor?

Alberta legislation requires that every worksite, where more than one employer is present, must have a prime contractor identified. If there is no prime contractor identified, the land owner is the prime contractor by default, however the land owner will usually transfer prime contractor duties to the builder. It is important to remember that when the responsibility of prime contractor transfers from one party to another, it is a good practice to have this agreement in writing to avoid confusion.

The Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Act, Section 3(1-2) states that:

  1. Every work site must have a prime contractor if there are 2 or more employers involved in work at a work site.
  2. The prime contractor for a work site is:
  1. The contractor, employer or other person who enters into an agreement with the owner of the work site to be the prime contractor, or
  2. If no agreement has been made or if no agreement is in force, the owner of a work site.


What does a Prime Contractor do?

To put it simply, a Prime Contractor ensures that all employers/contractors/subcontractors on a worksite are in compliance with applicable OHS legislation and that all the trades on site interact in a safe manner. Some responsibilities of the Prime Contractor include:

  • Ensuring the worksite has the required number of first aiders and first aid supplies/kits.
  • Ensuring that the different employers on site communicate health and safety issues in an effective manner.
  • Managing which controlled products are approved and brought to site.
  • Investigating any serious incidents that occur on site
  • Co-ordinates health and safety efforts of all employers on site
  • Ensuring that any equipment erected or installed  complies with OHS Code


When is a Prime Contractor Required?

Alberta legislation requires a prime contractor whenever there are two or more employers engaged in work at a work site. The employers do not have to be working at the same time at the site but if their health and safety activities may impact each other, a prime contractor is required.


A Worksite within a Worksite

In some instances, it may be beneficial to divide the main worksite up into smaller worksites that are within the boundaries of the main worksite. The best way to describe this situation is a worksite within a worksite. This allows the worksite owner or prime contractor to transfer prime contractor responsibilities to the employer of one of the smaller sites while still remaining responsible for the remainder of the site. With one or more employers working on the same site, there needs to be a clear division of the worksite to show which employer is working in what area. If a work site is divided in this manner, there are certain requirements that must be met. Firstly, the hazards of one work site must not impose or create a danger to workers of the other sites. This is why the work sites must be clearly divided and may include the use of barricades or fencing. Secondly, there should be no work-related interaction between the workers of the partitioned work sites. When the sites are divided in this manner, each prime contractor has the responsibility to coordinate health and safety activities and issues within their own separate sites.


Changes to the Prime Contractor responsibility under Bill 30

With the implementation of Bill 30, Prime Contractors will be required in construction, oil and gas worksites or any other projects that are designated by the OHS Director if there are 2 or more employers or self-employed persons involved in the work at a work site. They will also have added responsibilities to ensure worker health and safety such as establishing a system or process that will ensure compliance with OHS code on the worksite and to organize, coordinate and oversee the performance of all the work on the worksite, as far as it is reasonably practicable to do so, to ensure that no person is exposed to the hazards at the work site.


If you would like more information on the duties of the Prime Contractor, or you would like assistance in developing a company specific Health and Safety Management System, please give us a call at Safety Ahead (780-473-4772) and we would be more than happy to help you out! 


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