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Construction pre-qualification assessment standard designed to cut build costs

The launch of the first phase of a new common pre-qualification assessment standard (CAS) could reduce inefficiencies in the construction sector by up to a £1bn a year. 

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The new system also promises to provide greater assurance to clients and main contractors that assessments meet their risk management requirements.

Created by industry representatives brought together by Build UK and the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA), the long-awaited CAS has been developed to allow for greater consistency and efficiency in how companies become pre-qualified for work at the first stage of the construction process.

According to Build UK and CECA, the existing pre-qualification system is complex and repetitive and presents a major barrier to improved productivity. The multitude of schemes in operation sees around 180,000 specialist contractors producing over two million pieces of paper every year for 5,000 contractors.  

The first phase roll-out includes the publication of the CAS used to pre-qualify companies. The standard contains a raft of agreed pre-qualification questions that cover ten key areas, including safety and health, environmental, quality and financial, and also site-based assessment standards.

The announcement also names the first recognised assessment bodies to certify companies against the CAS: CHAS, Constructionline and Achilles.

Overseen by an interim cross industry body consisting of experts from organisations across the construction sector, including public and private sector clients, contractors and trade associations, the idea is that once the CAS is fully up and running, companies will not have to be certified by more than one recognised assessment body.

A data sharing arrangement is currently being developed which will allow contractors to obtain pre-qualification information from any one of the recognised assessment bodies.   

Paul Reeve, director of corporate social responsibility at electrotechnical and engineering services body ECA, and deputy chair of the steering group that drew up the CAS, said that the new system, which standardises supplier pre-qualification questions, is designed to eliminate the wasted time and cost of having to answer multiple pre-qualification questionnaires.

Currently, pre-qualification is dominated by health and safety-related questions, and many buyers and suppliers engage with commercial assessment schemes which operate under the umbrella of safety schemes in procurement (SSIP). The health and safety questions in the new CAS closely align with the questions already asked by SSIP assessment schemes, which should also help to reduce the costs incurred by suppliers and buyers.

Jo Fautley, deputy chief executive of Build UK, said: “The construction industry is making great strides towards collaborative working and this new pre-qualification system has been developed by industry, for industry, based on standards that clients, contractors and the supply chain have all agreed on.”

Marie-Claude Hemming, director of external affairs at CECA, said: “CECA has long advocated an industry standard approach to pre-qualification and the new system which builds on PAS 91 will simplify the process and reduce duplication and cost.”

Ann Bentley, chair of the Construction Leadership Council’s business model workstream, added: “It is a real and practical way of reducing bureaucracy and improving quality in the procurement process. Companies will be able to demonstrate that they meet an agreed industry standard and clients and contractors will be able to rely on the certification.”

 

Nic Warburton is acting editor, IOSH Magazine

 Nick Warburton is acting editor of IOSH Magazine. He is a former editor of SHP and has also worked on Local Authority Waste and Recycling and Environmental Health Practitioner

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