Construction Accreditations – Are they important and what do they mean? | C-Link

Construction Accreditations – Are they important and what do they mean?

by Matthew Griffiths

Choosing which business to appoint and what specialist or lead consultant you want to engage with can be tricky.

There’ll be a price point you want to hit. You’ll probably want to see similar works to the same complexity or cost of your project to prove, if appointed, that they are equipped for the job at hand.

A well-written scope of works, a detailed tendering process, tender interviews, and a site visit to ongoing or completed projects are going to get you a long way to choosing the best company or person for the job.

You may think it is prudent to take references but let’s face facts, the company or individual you are considering appointing are the ones who are providing the referees. It’s likely they already know the outcome of the reference request as they are hardly going to shoot themselves in the foot and pass on the details of a client where a job went wrong or ended up in arbitration.

Is there another way? A way to get independent verification of how a firm performs, how it conducts itself, what it stands for? Where someone else has already done the hard work for you. Business accreditations.

What are Business Accreditations?

Business accreditation is an award granted by a governing or assessing body having been satisfied that a minimum level of standards and performance has been demonstrated and achieved.

The assessing body will review and assess the business along with its policies and practices. This can range from the treatment of staff, environmental policies, quality assurance to reviewing health and safety records, to name a few.

Why are Business Accreditations important?

They provide a level playing field to assess one firm against another, giving assurance of standards.

Industry accreditations are highly sought after by companies. They are badges of honour worn proudly on metaphoric shirt sleeves. The likes of Investors in People or Top Employers Institute give you an overview of a company’s ethos and people practices. Then there are trade-specific accreditations to be earned.

Which matter to the Construction Industry and what do they mean?

It can feel like a bit of a minefield, a barrage of abbreviations, acronyms and logos stating that you are in the hands of a trustworthy company or individual.

Let’s look at some of the best known and what they can tell you about a firm.

Key Construction Accreditations:

I. CITB / CSCS

By its very nature, construction can be a dangerous place to work, from working at height, dealing with chemicals, and navigating safely around a construction site between dumpers and diggers.

Efforts to reduce the rate of accidents throughout the industry have been centred around training and designing out risk at early stages.

CITB is sponsored by the Department for Education and provides the appropriate training and qualification.

Training and exams on Health, Safety & Environment Tests by CITB alongside the CSCS card system allows easier identification of those visiting or working on construction sites and whether they are qualified to be there.

II. Constructionline

They provide buyers (clients) faster and more efficient access to a high-quality pool of validated suppliers.

Constructionline focuses on Compliance, ensuring that suppliers are up to speed and in line with new standards and ever-changing regulations.

Validation comes in the form of PAS 91 criteria and a ‘deemed to satisfy’ requirement for Safety Schemes in Procurement (SSIP).

  • PAS 91 – this is a standardised prequalification process, informing providing assurances to buyers that suppliers have already been through the process, negating the need for further or repeated prequalification questionnaires.

An updated PAS 91 was issued in 2013 following consultation with the National Federation of Builders (NFB), Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA), Specialist Engineering Contractors’ Group (SEC) and SSIP.

  • SSIP – is not an assessment scheme, rather a membership or umbrella body for companies that have demonstrated competency in health and safety management.

If a supplier is certified under one of the SSIP membership schemes, they also gain SSIP accreditation. Constructionline brings together numerous membership schemes under one hat.

  • Common Assessment Standard – A standardised prequalification set of questions created from PAS 91 along with input from clients, suppliers, and trade organisations, is aimed at saving money and time at the prequalification stage.

Constructionline offers four levels of membership; Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum.

Bronze – ideal for smaller contractors and consultants who do not need to comply with full PAS 91 standards.

Silver – for businesses of all sizes to meet the PAS 91 standard and includes SSIP accreditation.

Gold – Enhanced prequalification beyond PAS 91. Assesses a company’s environmental management, quality management, equal opportunities, modern slavery, anti-bribery and corruption policies. Gold membership also includes SSIP and Common Assessment Standard.

Platinum – Inclusive of Silver and Gold benefits plus comprehensive checks from an enhanced prequalification questionnaire whilst working towards health and safety excellence, including a site audit and full report.

III. Contractors Health & Safety Assessment Scheme – CHAS

CHAS reassures clients that a contractor has been assessed and awarded compliance across risk management, health & safety and mitigating supply chain risks. This is achieved mainly through CHAS’ Common Assessment Standard.

The Common Assessment Standard is an all-in-one audit, carried out every 12 months, that delves into 12 areas of risk management.

These include:

  1. Health & Safety: Ensures risk assessments, method statements and written health and safety policies are in place to dramatically reduce the risk of injury or illness on a construction site.
  2. Identity: Looks at a business’ credibility by evaluating whether it is qualified, experienced, reliable and trustworthy.
  3. Financial: Financial risk management, demonstrating the understanding of factors that may affect a business operating normally, like seasonal cash flow, late payments, increased material costs.
  4. Corporate and Professional Standing: Ensuring that the company is professionally run, has integrity, complies with codes of conduct and has the appropriate accreditations and qualifications, including those key players such as Executive Officers and Directors.
  5. Anti-Bribery & Corruption: The company needs to show it understands the risk of corruption and how to mitigate against it.
  6. Modern Slavery: Identifying the risks associated with human trafficking or child labour, withholding pay, paying unfair wages or working in unsafe conditions.
  7. Environmental: To mitigate against the risk and impact of construction works on the environment and to take responsibility. Dealing with waste, arisings, surplus material, demolition to noise and vibration, landscape, archaeology and people and local communities in an environmentally conscious manner.
  8. Quality Management: It is vital to get risk management right. Ensuring that work is carried out to a high standard by creating quality policies and management plans through policing and processes. It is essential to use the right materials and to meet high standards of construction.
  9. Equality: ensuring that companies comply with the legal requirement to promote equality and diversity, regardless of the sector.
  10. Corporate Social Responsibility: This allows a company to identify any environmental and social impact it may cause. To then take action to reduce and minimise any risk or negative impact.
  11. Information Security and Data Protection: Compliance with GDPR. How a company deals with sensitive contact details and information and how it mitigates against the risk of that data being accessed unlawfully.
  12. Building Information Modelling: BIM is 3D modelling, generally at the initial design stages of a building project and allows risks to be identified early and mitigated against before they occur.

IV. ISO 9001 – Quality Management

ISO, or International Organisation for Standardisation, is a global federation consisting of 110 national standard bodies that regulate quality. It aims to encourage growth within manufacturing, trade and communication businesses.

ISO 9001 is the benchmark for managing quality. Therefore, a business must demonstrate its ability to monitor processes, how it implements and controls quality and what measures it takes to aid continuous improvement.

A company’s quality management system will be audited onsite and, if deemed to meet the required standards, will then be awarded certification.

V. ISO 14001 – Environmental Management System

A standard to aid the reduction or help eliminate the environmental impact an organisation might make. This standard is not specific to any particular industry or sector and is applied throughout.

An environmental policy will assist the management of risk, planning in the event of an emergency, setting targets for reducing emissions and pollution, complying with legislation, and monitoring and recording.

To achieve this award, an organisation must demonstrate its commitment to

  • Reducing harmful effects on the environment
  • Providing evidence of continual improvement of Environmental Management
  • Meeting environmental legal requirements

VI. Partner Considerate Constructors Scheme

Established to help improve the image of the construction industry, simultaneously raising standards from within. The Considerate Construction Scheme is a voluntary practice that a contractor can register and sign up for.

The code of practice, consisting of five parts, has been implemented to encourage best practice. It includes; Care about Appearance, Respect for Community, Protect the Environment, Care about Safety and Value Their Workforce.

Construction Accreditations Summary

Overall, these schemes should give a buyer the comfort that they will receive a standard of services that is of sufficient quality for an accrediting body to put its stamp of approval against. Thus, placing a company on par or elevating it above its competition. Whether a client prefers procurement, quality, health & safety or a combination of these, then there is an appropriate accreditation or membership scheme to choose from.

Photo by Pop & Zebra on Unsplash

About Matthew Griffiths

Matthew takes great pleasure in combining his two professions. One has seen him give two decades of service to the construction industry, from roles as an Estimator through to sitting on Boards. The second is his passion for the written word. He now has the best of both worlds, building homes and constructing written content.

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