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Government backs move to standardise safety PQQs

Contractors are being urged to get involved in an industry-led scheme to standardise safety pre-qualification questionnaires, with smaller firms in particular being told the initiative could open the door for them to tender for a much wider range of work.

Speaking at an event in London to celebrate the six-month anniversary of Safety Schemes in Procurement, an umbrella organisation set up to facilitate mutual recognition between health and safety PQQs, Health and Safety Executive chief construction inspector Philip White said the initiative was “an opportunity we must not lose”.

He said SSIP had benefits not only for SMEs – many of which struggle with the amount of paperwork required to tender for new work – but the industry as a whole.

The scheme was launched online in May and is an agreement between assessment schemes, trade federations representing both clients and suppliers, and the HSE, to simplify the prequalification stage of procurement, reduce duplication and improve standards of health and safety in the industry.

By using an SSIP-approved accreditation scheme, contractors only have to complete the stage one assessment form once and can focus instead on the project specific requirements of stage two, chairman of the SSIP Forum John Murphy said.

Mr White said: “We think there are real benefits here for the industry as a whole. An SSIP assessment will ensure compliance for stage one pre-qualification.

“It offers a real opportunity to raise standards and I think it should allow SMEs wider access to a range of jobs, and clients access to a wider range of SMEs.”

The forum was founded by CHAS, Constructionline, EXOR, National House Building Council, the Construction Clients Group, the Specialist Engineering Contractors Group, the United Kingdom Contractors Group, the National Specialist Contractors Council, and the Construction Industry Council.

There are currently nine accreditation schemes registered with SSIP, including Exor, Facilities Services Group and NHBC, and a further four have applied to sign up.

Government health and safety minister Lord McKenzie said: “Obviously this problem can’t be solved overnight, but I am very encouraged by the work of the SSIP… which is starting to realise some of the Government’s aspirations in this field.

“The SSIP demonstrates very well how partnerships can be fostered. It has not only been backed by Department for Work and Pensions and the HSE but other Government departments, such as Business, Innovation and Skills, have also supported it.”

The progress on SSIP follows a recommendation in Rita Donaghy’s inquiry report into construction deaths over the summer that PQQs should be standardised.