HSE Guidelines on Safety Credentials

HSE Guidelines on Safety Credentials

Ensuring that contractors have a basic understanding of health and safety prior to starting work is common practice. Frequently, contractors are subjected to clients’ ‘pre-qualification’ or ‘Stage l’ assessments when tendering for work and in recent years the development of various assessment schemes to confirm contractors’ basic safety credentials have become common place.

A significant problem however, is that such wide-ranging schemes put extra cost into the supply chain since most of them look for different standards and few of them ‘dovetail’. The result is that contractors find themselves having to prove repeatedly that that they can handle basic health and safety, even before they are selected for work.

The Carpenter report, published by the HSE early in 2006 expressed the view that the current proliferation of re-qualification schemes:

  • Raises costs and complexity, in particular for smaller businesses
  • Leads to different standards
  • Works against the message that health and safety ‘adds value to business’ and reinforcing the negative stereotypes about the direct and indirect cost of safety.
  • Makes basic health and safety appear more impenetrable than it needs to be.

The view has been expressed that unnecessary bureaucracy associated with competency assessment obscures the real (health and safety) issues and diverts effort away from them. The current situation also adds to a common cynicism amongst smaller contractors that safety is an expensive drain on resources as opposed to a useful management tool.

The introduction of a new HSE initiative, actively supported by several key trade associations sets down guidelines on how to assess contractors’ basic health and safety credentials. It comprises 12 ‘core criteria’ for assessing what is often described as ‘Stage 1’ or ‘pre-qualification’ contractor competence.

This assessment can provide essential information regarding health and safety capabilities and the results determine whether a contractor can go onto a client’s list of potential contractors or tender for work.

The following is a summary of criteria:
Policy and Organisation
Management arrangements
Competent advice
Training and Information
Individuals’ qualifications and experience
Monitoring, audit and review
Workforce consultation
Accident reporting and investigation
Subcontracting consulting procedures
Risk assessment
Co-operation and co-ordinating work with other contractors
Welfare provision

It should be emphasised that the HSE is not proposing a new pre-qualification scheme or making these criteria mandatory. Clients can still opt for whatever standards they choose, but all concerned will have a clearer idea of what ‘good’ looks like.
Small contractors are likely to benefit significantly, although the new criteria may appear daunting. However for many, it will be the first time they will get a clear picture of what they should be doing.

Critically, the criteria will help clients to eliminate poor performers, not choose the best, as the criteria is based on legal compliance. While these requirements may be obvious to safety practitioners, they are not always obvious to the general business community, who now have something to refer to and which is supported by the HSE.

However, we should not assume that all smaller contractors are comfortable with the basic requirements of health and safety law. Another benefit of the core criteria is that they highlight where information and training efforts can be directed, to help contractors get to grips with applying basic health and safety disciplines on site.

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posted on July 14, 2010
in Specialist Trades
about author Britrisk Safety
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