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Red tape for industry

As the country gets back on its feet from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the provision of the safest possible working environment for hire and construction operations is crucial for sectors that play such a vital role in the wider UK economy. However, it comes at a cost – both financial and time – which is why cross-recognition between member safety schemes is much more productive.

There are a number of organisations that address safety assessments, from trade associations to certification companies offering health and safety audits, but a supplier may only find out which standards are relevant when approaching the procurement department of a potential customer.

Take the Hire Association Europe’s (HAE) SafeHire Certification Scheme. It is in demand from the industry as it allows customers to approach tool and equipment, plant hire and event hire companies with confidence, as it proves a firm’s competence in upholding high standards in health, safety, environment and quality of equipment as well as a well-trained workforce.

Since its introduction, SafeHire has been a key feature of HAE’s support for its members through thick and thin for over 10 years, especially through the turbulent transition of trading with the European Union after Brexit and then the significant disruption to business caused by the pandemic. Now HAE has included alignment of the scheme with an umbrella organisation that helps to reduce health and safety assessment costs and removes red tape in the supply chain.

HAE’s membership with SSIP (Safety Schemes in Procurement) includes alignment SafeHire with with relevant modules of the government backed construction pre-qualification document PAS 91. This provides an improved benefit for those members who can not only demonstrate SafeHire compliance but also satisfy SSIP’s core criteria.

SSIP reduces duplication and demands on suppliers who have multiple certifications to different schemes, saving them time and money and allowing more focus on day-to-day operations. As the construction industry is more regulated than ever, HAE says having SafeHire certification and SSIP approval is a simple way to prove hire businesses take health and safety assessment seriously.

Since its inception SSIP mutual recognition has facilitated savings to suppliers in excess of £280million in addition to the time savings by all parties involved (source: SSIP is voluntary for HAE members but it recommends they get on board to make life easier for winning work from procurement departments. For example, many in the construction industry and government services stipulate SSIP approval as a requirement before handing out contracts.

With the boost in membership due to an increase in independent hire companies starting up, there has been a surge of bookings for audits since restrictions have been removed. HAE’s Director of Certification Services, Carl Bartlett, believes this will coincide with an increased take up of SSIP, saying: “SafeHire and SSIP are not just for large organisations, but also for SMEs. Although the SafeHire Private Standard is a robust industry-specific standard written by BSi, it was developed by the industry and for the industry, and achieving both SafeHire certification and SSIP approval will help hire businesses secure more opportunities.   

“As all SSIP members agree to mutually recognise each other’s schemes, so procurement departments should as well. The whole purpose is to remove bureaucracy and reduce costs associated with the different schemes.”

Lockdowns created significant disruption to the SafeHire scheme because companies were reluctant to allow auditors on site, so HAE Hire Certification Services temporarily reverted to remote audits. Though not ideal for checking equipment and premises for compliance against regulatory requirements, it was a necessity to keep the programme going, says Carl.

He adds: “Some members were reluctant to have a remote audit as they saw the value in the onsite programme so they asked if they could wait until they could do face-to-face audits again, which we restarted when restrictions were relaxed shortly after teaming up with SSIP. Demand is greater this year, and to address members’ concerns a ‘Point of Work Risk Assessment’ is conducted to ensure that there is an agreed and safe method of performing the audit process.” Certification it is not a goal for the faint-hearted as standards are challenging, but once attained the benefits of the scheme are plentiful. 

In order for hire firms to achieve certification, participation in the SafeHire scheme requires that businesses are inspected annually and everything from paperwork, day-to-day operations, staff training and environment is checked for continued compliance with the scheme’s rigorous standards.

Achieving SSIP’s core criteria also demonstrates a supplier’s professional reputation for health and safety management systems.

Recognition by two of the UK’s most credible and rigorous safety schemes undoubtedly brings an unrivalled combination to hire and construction companies throughout the country.

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