Construction in Drive to Cut £1bn Cost of Safety Accreditation ‘Blue Tape’

Construction in Drive to Cut £1bn Cost of Safety Accreditation ‘Blue Tape’

  • Date: Tuesday 19th March 2019
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A delayed plan to create a "Common Assessment Standard” that would eliminate the need for SME suppliers in construction to go through multiple health and safety accreditations is to be soft-launched at the beginning of April. 

The Common Assessment Standard (CAS) will initially be adopted by three of the largest accreditation businesses – CHAS, ConstructionLine and Achilles – with the hope that other providers would then follow suit.

The CAS is being promoted by a group of construction and client bodies, led by trade associations BuildUK and the Civil Engineering Contractors’ Group, in the hope of reducing the “blue tape” burden on smaller firms that is also estimated to cost businesses £1bn a year.

But the assessment is likely to be more challenging on health and safety than those currently set by providers, and the price charged could be higher – although the scheme ultimately aims to cut the cost burden on SMEs of multiple accreditations.

The CAS contain 248 questions, covering organisations’ health and safety, financial health, environmental performance and corporate and social responsibility.

This compares to 190 questions in the government’s own standardised question set for pre-qualifying contractors and suppliers, Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 91.

Of the 248 CAS questions, 45 are said to be “challenging” for smaller businesses, such as questions on past enforcement action or whether they have a drugs and alcohol policy.

Companies would undergo assessment once a year, and add fresh information throughout the year, according to a document on the BuildUK website.

The accreditation bodies would also need to pass an assessment on their ability to audit to the CAS, which would have desktop and premises-based assessment variants.

The scheme’s original promoters have now set up an arm’s length Interim Cross Industry Body to manage the CAS and the data collected under it, with members drawn from major Tier 1 contractors and clients including Mace, Skanska, Balfour Beatty, Bouygues and LandSec.

The body will also be responsible for reviewing and updating the CAS in line with changes to legislation and industry standards.

Its deputy chairman Paul Reeve, director of business and communications at the Electrical Contractors’ Association, said that the CAS aimed to “provide a common standard, not to drive best practice”, and that it would be relevant beyond construction, in areas such as facilities management and local government.  

On the impact of CAS on the business-to-business “blue tape” burden, he said: “I don’t think things will get worse, and I think there’s a real prospect of things getting better. It could lead to a remarkable change for the supply chain.”  

The CAS has the potential to re-shape the pre-qualification provider network. At the moment, 27 different schemes assessing health and safety performance records are part of Safety Schemes in Procurement (SSIP), the industry’s previous attempt to refine safety accreditations.

After clients and main contractors began to mandate different schemes, SSIP was set up a decade ago to ensure that construction clients would view each member scheme as equivalent to another.

However, many organisations at the top of supply chains still promote their preferred schemes even if suppliers already hold another SSIP accreditation, while the 27 schemes also have different emphases.

The CAS scheme was confirmed last October, after the project had been revived following a hiatus.

Describing the soft launch, Reeve said: “The standard will be available to the marketplace, and CHAS, ConstructionLine and Achilles will be starting to deliver assessments to it. There is no mandate to use it – we want people to take it up because it’s better. But the hope is there will be one scheme in the end.”

Reeve said that the HSE, which has publicly committed itself to reducing the blue tape burden on businesses, had not been involved in shaping the project. 


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