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November 5, 2009

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Construction bureaucracy-busting scheme shows good progress

The Government has praised a construction-industry scheme to reduce form-filling and bureaucracy, saying it will help drive up standards, particularly among SMEs.

Safety minister Lord McKenzie was addressing a special gathering of delegates from the industry in London yesterday (4 November) to mark the first six months in operation of the Safety Schemes in Procurement (SSIP) initiative, which was launched online in May (click here for our original report). The scheme acts as an umbrella organisation for providers of Stage 1 pre-qualification assessments, with the aim of facilitating mutual recognition among them and thus reducing paperwork and cost burdens on businesses, particularly SMEs.

Since May, the SSIP Forum membership has grown — there are now 50,000 suppliers registered — and mutual recognition agreements have been signed by further providers, including Eurosafe UK and Safety Management Advisory Services.

Said Lord McKenzie: “Cooperation is encouraged where it can minimise waste. SSIP demonstrates very well how diverse businesses in construction can work together and with government to address a long-running challenge. The problem can’t be solved overnight but the SSIP has made a strong and sustainable start.”

The Forum is supported by the HSE, whose chief inspector of construction, Philip White, told delegates the regulator realised it needs to be more proactive with the industry on procurement following the greater demands placed on all stakeholders by CDM 2007.

He explained: “The core criteria in Appendix 4 of the Approved Code of Practice to the CDM Regulations 2007 are a reasonable basis on which to make judgements, and compliance with them will push up standards. They are rooted in requirements that have been around since the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974, so there is nothing new in the way of duties, and no added bureaucracy.”

White went on to say that the Government is currently reviewing the CDM Regulations, with bureaucracy and pre-qualification questionnaires being among the areas the Working Group will look at — particularly in light of Rita Donaghy’s recommendation in her report on the construction industry earlier this year that “groups considering common core competencies for pre-qualification should try to coordinate their efforts and reach agreement on acceptable transferability in key areas”.

Giving delegates a client’s perspective of mutual recognition, Steve Acaster, chair of the Home Buliders’ Federation Health and Safety Forum, said working alongside SSIP is “vital”. He continued: “The benefits to clients are: confidence in the assessment process, less work for us, and additional support services for CDM duty-holders. The main issue for us is awareness levels of CDM duties; small projects can be driven by contractors or designers who don’t understand them but still advise the client.”

Steve concluded: “Going forward, it is vital that larger clients support SSIP to raise awareness levels throughout the procurement chain.”

Speaking on behalf of the contractors’ side, Gerry Mulholland, HS&E leader at Laing O’Rourke Technologies, agreed, saying: “Everybody is doing the same thing differently, which causes problems. And the further down the supply chain you get, the more hoops there are to go through. SSIP is great, but we need to work harder to make sure clients accept it.”

Gerry also threw down the gauntlet to his fellow health and safety practitioners, suggesting they could be more proactive than some, in his experience, have been so far. The challenge was taken up by John Lacey, chair of the IOSH Construction Group, who said: “I want to see our profession on board because we can sell this. When an organisation is part of the SSIP, practitioners know they can accept it. I fully believe in this initiative and it is going to move us forward.”

To find out more about the SSIP Forum, visit

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