Construction – a Risky Business

We welcome this post from guest author Daniel Ball, director at Manchester-based eProcurement specialist, Wax Digital.

Relatively speaking, building sites are dangerous places to work. Figures from the Health & Safety Executive show that during 2014/15, 35 workers were fatally injured in the construction sector. And, there were an additional 65,000 self-reported workplace injuries caused by incidents such as falls from height, being struck by an object, slips, trips, lifting or handling.

Although these statistics are down on last year (seven less deaths), the number of fatalities in this sector is clearly still 35 too many. It has been claimed that the recovery in the housing markets has led to a rush to build homes which perhaps has resulted in some clear lapses of safety. This attempt to beat the UK’s housing crisis, coupled with the ongoing chronic skills shortages in the UK, has meant that many construction companies have sourced and used contractors who employ or sub-contract less skilled staff, some of whom might be itinerant overseas labour workers who may struggle with the language, potentially impacting their ability to understand instructions and health & safety rules. And when you’re already working in a potentially hazardous environment these added pressures can just add more complexity to the situation.

Site managers are clearly under a lot of pressure to create a safe environment for their workforce, and it’s where procurement can play a vital role by helping to tighten the organisation’s supplier risk management processes.

When taking on new suppliers or contractors to work onsite, it’s critical that they are fit to work from the outset. eSourcing platforms are scarce in the construction sector yet have the potential to help it apply more rigorous health and safety checks to the supply chain before inviting a new contractor to work on to the site.

As part of the supplier on-boarding process, a contractor’s health and safety credentials can be vetted and they can be asked to upload crucial documents such as Occupational Health and Safety certificates and Public Liability insurances. Vetting and pre-qualifying new contractors’ health and safety documentation as part of this process can be standardised and enables construction firms to apply a pre-qualifying questionnaire. The questions can be configured according to the organisation’s specific requirements and include questions on insurances, certifications and safety.

The process gives consistency across all locations and ensures the same standards are in place for all contractors. This process of checking that all essential documents have been entered can also be automated so that key stakeholders don’t have to review and approve that the contractor has the necessary documents and processes in place before starting work.

With over 4,000 suppliers and contractors, and the health and safety of its workforce of paramount importance, Barratt Developments is one company in the sector that has adopted eSourcing in a bid to tighten supplier risk management efficiencies.

Any suppliers or contractors who wish to work with Barratt are required to submit their Occupational Health and Safety certificates and Public Liability insurance details as part of the onboarding process. eSourcing automates this process and will only allow Barratt to trade with those contractors who have the correct documents in place. It also flags any certifications that are due to expire directly with the supplier or contractor enabling them to renew their documentation and continue trading.

Although eSourcing is not widely used in the construction sector, Barratts believes that with over 4,000 suppliers and contractors, eSourcing can help significantly enhance supplier risk management processes ensuring only those suppliers that meet the set levels of assessment criteria will be allowed to work with the organisation.

The lack of available labour in the construction sector won’t be changing any time soon, and so we can expect procurement’s role in ensuring workforce health and safety to grow as more companies look to tighten up supplier risk practices. This can help ensure that all suppliers have with the necessary certifications and insurances in place before their staff even set foot on the building site.

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