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[ Focus: Pre-qualification ] Helping members to reduce the cost of safety pre-qualification

Our knowledge of SSIP’s cross-recognition arrangements allows us to help registered ECA members to rationalise their pre-qualification costs. ECA members who want to know more about SSIP cross recognition arrangements are invited to email paul.reeve@eca. Please state clearly if you have a specific question, and please include which pre- qualification schemes you are currently involved with, and other relevant information that will help us to provide you with the best available response and information.

a ‘publicly available specification’ could provide a widely supported document in less than two years. Working through SEC group, the ECA was heavily involved in the development of PAS 91. PAS 91 has the support of The Cabinet Office and the HSE,

among many other key stakeholders. It provides a set of PQQs based on ‘core criteria’, covering ‘areas of capability’ that are regarded as essential for construction pre-qualification. These are: n General and financial information; n Business and professional standing; and n Health and safety capability (using PQQs based on the CDM ACoP).

PAS 91 also covers further, commonly applied PQQs. These are: n Equal opportunities; n Environmental management; and n Quality management.

Significantly, PAS 91 recognises UKAS accredited third party certification to OHSAS 18001 as ‘meeting or exceeding’ the safety core criteria – a potential boost for those who have put in the considerable effort needed to obtain OHSAS 18001. Similar recognition is also extended to ISO 9001 (quality) and ISO 14001 (environment). As with SSIP, the challenge is to ensure that the document

is used by clients and major contractors. If, as planned, public and private sector clients take up PAS 91, it will help to remove much of the bureaucracy faced by contractors. According to Bill Wright, managing director of W Wright

Electrical, and chairman of the ECA’s commercial and contracts committee: ‘What matters is that clients and major contractors adopt, or even when they need more information, build upon PAS 91. This will reduce excessive paperwork and place the focus where it should be – on assessing contractors’ practical capabilities.’ Rudi Klein and SEC group have provided unyielding

support both for PAS 91 and SSIP, while the Civil Engineering Contractors Association observed: ‘It is vital that clients across the industry act now to ensure their PQQs comply with PAS 91.’


For the latest on Safety Schemes in Procurement, go to:

‘PAS 91: Construction procurement – Prequalification questionnaires’ document. PAS 91 is available to download free at: business-sectors/construction/ specification

PAS refers to ‘Publicly Available Specification’ from BSI. It is often the forerunner of a Standard.

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM 2007) ACoP includes ‘core criteria’ for assessing contractors’ health and safety capability in Appendix 4. The ACoP is freely available from: construction/cdm/acop.htm

‘SSIP’ Annex in PAS 91 PAS 91 links directly to SSIP in Annex F, and it is mainly aimed at clients. The Annex says: ‘Buyers may choose to prequalify suppliers who have been successfully assessed by members of the Safety Schemes in Procurement Forum (SSIP) against the (health and safety) core questions. To ensure general health and safety capability, and to help reduce cost and bureaucracy... buyers may choose to accept an “SSIP-assessed” supplier, without requiring separate responses from the supplier to the general health and safety questions in PAS 91, and to refer to the acceptability of “SSIP assessment” as part of their PQQ process.’ The SSIP Annex adds that: ‘The HSE actively supports

SSIP, noting that suitable assessment of a supplier by an SSIP assessor meets the buyer’s general requirement to exercise “reasonable judgment” based on the evidence provided.’ Engaging with the construction supply chain and external

stakeholders on pre-qualification is a big challenge, and we are not complacent. PAS 91 is a good step-off point for a major assault on wasteful pre-qualification activity, but it is only a start. That said, it is a key part of the general drive to minimise ‘bureaucratic burdens’ faced by all SMEs. While we cannot exert control over our supply chain

and its stakeholders, we can show leadership. If further unwelcome pre-qualification schemes enter our industry, we will meet them head on, and we will continue working with SEC group and others to curb the excessive cost of pre-qualification.

‘Our survey said...’

Although ECA had previously asked members about their PQQ problems, SEC group provided a more recent snapshot in 2009 when it issued the results of its survey on the costs of PQQs to specialist contractors.

Responses from ECA members to this survey showed: n The average number of schemes per ECA member company was 2.6 – rising from one for the smallest contractors to six for those with a turnover between £5 and £20m. Some big companies reported they were working to ‘10 or more’ schemes.

n The total average cost was £7,500, ranging from £2,400 for the smallest contractors to more than £40,000 for larger ECA members. The average cost of being in PQQ schemes was £2,000 and this figure rose with company size from a low of £600 to more than £7,000. These figures confirmed that most of the cost of PQQs to contractors is management time, rather than assessment scheme fees.

n The average number of ‘staff-days’ required to engage with PQQs was 15, rising with company size up to an average of 45 staff-days.

n The SEC group survey was not restricted to health and safety PQQs, but responses from ECA members confirmed that these questions were the main issue.


ECA Today Winter 2010


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