• Ian Chatwin
    My first Rant!
    Contractor pre-qualification systems - this is a huge bug bear within the civil / construction / engineering industry.
    It appears that there are many affiliations all chomping to get a bite of the proverbial H&S cherry and earning a fortune from it at a huge cost to SME's
    As an SME we have to comply with whichever Client's pre-qualification system they have signed up to whether it be SHE, ISNetworld or some other system, these costs range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars.
    We have come across some systems whereby it is more expensive to be pre-qualified than it is for the amount of work we invoice for a particular Client.
    My question is why do we not have one system for pre-qualification that all Clients can ask their contractors to sign up to - quite frankly it is getting ridiculous!
  • Cat
    We have this same issue. We are engaged as a main contractor and complete any risk appropriate prequalification checks in house with subcontractors, yet have spent 1000’s prequalifying ourselves to various systems. I don’t think one system of prequalification is the answer, more that clients should do their own due diligence. I’d sooner go and show a client what they are getting from us than sit at my desk gathering paperwork for a high score.
  • Ian Chatwin
    Cat - I agree in part - but all Clients are doing is handing their own due diligence out to a third party, so if you worked for multiple Clients like we do (over 50 Clients - local authorities and independent) then you would still have to go to those Clients.
    Surely if you are ISO accredited for 9001 for QMS, 14001 for Environment and 45001 for OH&S then these should be more than enough to satisfy Clients - these are international standards - these are also quite costly but if all Clients accepted this accreditation then this would solve the problem??
  • Julie Forde
    I totally agree and recently brought this up with a Worksafe official. I think a focus on how this fits with legislation is also a key. Prequalification is not identifying how a contractor will manage the specific risks on site and is merely understanding what systems they have in place. Does the prequalification really show how risks are being managed or merely ask an organisations to provide documention on their system to manage risk which in my experience only provides evidence of generic documentation.

    I agree prequalification is becoming fraught with the smell of revenue gatherig add add ons,
  • Dianne Campton
    It would be helpful if clients would recognise all pre-qualification systems. We are in the same boat and are now declining some pre-qualification systems as they are not as robust as others and we have limited funds available.
    The advantage is the third party reviews the documentation thus alleviating our staff from spending time doing that. Instead, our staff can focus on the project risks and auditing to ensure contractors and clients meet their obligations under the terms of the contract and legislation.
  • Jan Hall
    Yes indeed. I am constantly being asked by my smaller clients to assist them with some pre-qualification or another. Some are helpful, some not so much: just time consuming and often inappropriate for the size and activities.

    In fairness, the good ones I assist with DO ask for evidence of site-specific records like TAs and Toolbox Talks which ARE evidence of 'theory in use'. However surely pre-qualification of ANY of the systems would suffice for a main contractor? Demanding a certain provider pre-qualification is not reasonable.
  • DEBBIE robertson
    I have to agree with above my clients are getting asked to comply with a building prequal when they are agricultural clients and the level of compliance gets better with their forms really annoys my clients applying for the prequal. Also they hold another and it seems pointless to gain each variety and even individuals are now setting up prequals for some companies this is madness
  • Mike Saunders

    I fully endorse all of the above, I to have raised this with WorkSafe at the meeting they held to look at the 10 strategy recently, (which appeared to be the same as the last one I attended before the new legislation) they were not at all interested. We hold AS/NZS 4801, I think to myself, surely this is a good enough prequal for safety, but alas it appears not.
    My other moan is the prequal of people hiding under the guise of SiteSafe and Constructsafe, we opted for construct safe after being informed that SiteSafe was dying and all the big construction companies had endorsed Constructsafe, and as NZTA told us we must have it.
    This was OK for a while, and we entered building sites to complete our work, but recently we have been informed by two safety advisors from two of the big companies, that this is not so, even though other advisors have not had an issue with ConstructSafe when I raised this with them the answer was "well if you book them on a course we will accept this so you can come on site" one even suggested "we could then cancel the booking and get a voucher to use next time "
    Where does this leave safety sitting in the eyes of workers, if people employed to ensure we are all safe at work take this attitude?
  • Steffan
    I agree with all of the above, I spend many hours completing documents to prove our attention to H&S, our focus on Safety and all the respective outcomes that are detailed, personally I would prefer to be out with our teams encouraging safe practices and behaviors, assisting Project Managers and building a Safe Culture...it appears to me that we now focus on the quality of documentation rather that what is actually happening on the coalface, I too attended the Worksafe meeting at was rather disappointed at the gap in what some in the room thought was happening and what was actually happening on the coal face
  • Brian Parker
    I don't think anyone could disagree with all the above comments. I particularly want to expand on Michael's comments about ConstructSafe and SiteSafe. ConstructSafe is a very good independent measure of the applicant's actual knowledge, while SiteSafe simply requires attendance at the training session. Unfortunately ConstructSafe is based on an English system and uses international symbols that are not used in NZ (maybe they should be! - that is a different conversation) and in my experience, many of our staff struggle with them. Also the photos are difficult to interpret without a magnifier.
    To me the biggest indicator of the state of our H&S culture is the shear hypocrisy of the concept that without a SiteSafe card you are not safe enough to be let onto site, but if you pay for a course that you haven't yet done, you are now deemed to be safe enough, so come on in!
    The reality is that neither qualification actually does anything to improve safety in the workplace.
  • Bill Nelson
    Well said Ian. Lots of businesses can spend the money and get the paperwork done but still not be up to the task safely in the field. Going and showing the client what they will get will give them way more assurance than any bit of paper can.
  • Simon Lawrence
    Speaking as someone who supplies external advice, assessments of compliance and audits to employers, I am convinced that the pre-qualification "industry" is as shallow as an oil slick. It would not even exist if not for desperate and misguided employers who go along with it in the hope that it gets the OHS monkey off their backs. It doesn't.

    When a contractor turns up at a work site and gets injured, all the paper in the world will be thrown out the window if the people with duties to that person haven't exercised them.Those duties, (and the only ones that stop blood being spilled), include agreed safe work plans, regular monitoring, supervision, spot checks, collaboration and application of rules. People talking to people. Getting off arses. So what's the value of pre-qualification to any party when push comes to shove? I'm willing to listen, but the only tangible benefit I can see for all this bureaucracy is in the pockets of the agencies that provide the so-called "service".
  • Michael Wilson
    The part that is most frustrating is when people ask for documentation that they will never read or that they do not understand. A companies health & safety policy is going to have very little impact what will happen when they appear on site.

    Asking a small or even medium sized business for injury records will not provide any statistically significant data.
  • Jon Harper-Slade
    Hi All,
    I have read this thread with great interest. It is clear that the current situation around pre-qualification is unacceptable and not necessary helping anybody. Construction Health and Safety New Zealand (CHASNZ) have discussed this issue at a recent board meeting. The board have asked me to start a process that will establish an Industry Task Group to understand and resolve the issues surrounding pre-qualification. This will be a collaborative approach, where the viewpoints across industry will be listened to and considered.
    Is anyone out there familiar with the UK Safety Systems in Procurement approach (SSIP)?
    I would be interested in what people's views are on a potentially similar cross recognition scheme in New Zealand.
  • Glenn Taylor
    Jon, the UK system was primarily and originally a central government scheme around procurement (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/public-sector-procurement-policy) that has now become the standard for safety assessment schemes in much the same way CSCS has with people and now boasts something like 57,000 suppliers nationally. Suppliers gain "certification" which is more than a simple pre-approval as it stems from a much larger picture that began as legislative changes around procurement. Unlike NZ the UK has considerable more resources available to bring about such a monumental change. Here in NZ I often review documents via a scheme here utilised by my current employers which belongs to one supplier but I have to take an open view that if a supplier has achieved a prequal from AN Other Ltd and is of equal standing and emboldens the same basic required information I will accept that. The industry will drive this into fruition one day but as earlier posts indicate here SME's are much more the norm. But until then a number of different suppliers will champion their systems all of which lay claim to taking the strain out of the bureaucracy of reviewing bidders, design work stages and offering the end client and with varying charges involved. We once called this competitive outsourcing in the UK during the 80's. The UK SSIP scheme is also heavily supported by the HSE which gives it considerable recognition. Until the time it morphs into ONE organisation I will review each submission from a prequalification organisation on a case by case basis and that means reading the content. My two penneth..Its good that you mention this from an overseas perspective as there is much we can glean from overseas as like minded professionals and most of us already share knowledge and experiences to avoid the bad bits, and make it our own model. I'd like one government backed or endorsed scheme with fair and transparent costs that we can all utilise, but this will dent some private organisations revenue streams...
  • Rob McAulay
    An interesting discussion and I offer the following thoughts.
    The prequel systems I have had exposure to appear over complicated and don't answer the real question, which is, does the contractor have a handle on the risks associated with the task to be performed and how are they going to manage those risks. Obviously the larger the project the larger the detail to be provided. I am not particularly interested in what your policy says, I want to know what you are doing to prevent harm to those working with you and do you understand and manage the risks associated with the task. I would prefer to see a good task safety analysis and risk assessment for the job rather than your safety manual.
    My other opinion is that the Prequal process, whilst based on a laudable idea, seems to be seen as a short cut for some PCBU's to avoid fulfilling their duties in regard to using contractors in their workplaces.
    As I said above these are my personal views.
  • Steve H
    A radical thought, just say no, I've been hit with the demand that I register with ISNetwork to do work for one client who has made the decision to outsource contractor management to them, another has just sent me a letter telling me they are going with Damstra because:

    To improve contractor safety, ******** have engaged Damstra as a tool to assist us to manage our contractor compliance. Damstra have extensive experience in radically transforming site visitor processes to easily manage, track and protect site visitors. We know that contractors are three times more likely than our own people to be injured on our sites, so this is an important step in our ongoing safety journey.

    The new Damstra solution will streamline contractor management by lifting considerable administrative burden at sites and giving us greater confidence that every contractor who enters our sites is compliant and safe, thereby eliminating the existing time-consuming, repetitive and often complex paper based processes we use today. We also see benefits for contractor principals with visibility around the licences and qualifications of their employees.

    It all sounds so great, but as I only do work for one of their sites, and that's worth about $100 per year more than it was going to cost to pay the annual fees for Damstra, it was easy to say no thanks.

  • Trinity Milham
    Great points here. Somewhat releaved and frustrated at the same time that we all feel the same way. Bring it back to basics... ‘show me your managing your risk everyday’
  • Rene
    Great comments all. We faced the same issues at Qantas. Had independent solutions for prequalification, induction and the rest of the process was paper-based. We recently introduced an end-to-end technology solution addressing all the issues we have been grappling with under one consolidated approach. Prequalification is just the first part of the puzzle, more importantly is how we control who comes on site and how work is authorised and controlled, as a few already mentioned. The new technology allows us to do this with real time tracking incorporating geo-fencing and push notifications. We quite excited about the technology solution...happy to share learnings and our process if anyone is interested.
  • G Gillard
    I am yet to come across an organisation that has the foresight to use any type of equivalency in accepting a pre-qualification assessment for contract work if it has not been done through their chosen prequal program. The cost that this is placing on small-med contractors is massive and is avoidable in most cases. Just as frustrating are the companies who want to complete a contractor pre-qual but do not accept an assessment that has been completed by a third-party pre-qual outfit. Come on all the H and S professionals start to give some leadership in this area and apply some level of equivalency to save a whole lot of time and resource.
  • Tony Walton
    Cat - after all, the client only needs to know 3 things to show due diligence in selection. The rest is sorted on the job on the day.
    Rob - perfectly articulated, a lesson those with health & safety jobs should try harder to understand.
    Ian - of course ISO 45001 should satisfy any PCBU or court that the company had an independently audited management system much more robust than WSMP provided.
    Steve- your trade industry or organisation should have sorted this out by now. Safety in numbers. It's a rort.
    G Gillard - agree entirely, a client had me for 8 hours a week sorting out hundreds of pre-qual enquiries for corporate health & safety paper pushers quoting bogus legal requirements and contracted pre-qual operations with pages of forensic like detail which the contractor had to pay for and repeat every 2 years. Someone needs to sort this out and the obvious champions to do this are risk adverse to give advice or rock the boat of the vested interests, - so lets see what case law can come up with.
  • Brian Parker
    Like Steve above, we have learned to say NO as our ASNZS-4801 certification should be sufficient - surprisingly we have not lost a single job because of it. The clients have all come back to us and offered us an 'exemption' from their requirements!
  • Jono Johnson
    What did the Worksafe person say, Julie?
  • Mike Massaar
    How many lives has contract prequal saved I wonder? The three C process under the HSW legislation is a far superior method to reduce risk in my opinion.
  • Jono Johnson
    Nice one Simon. Bang on mate.
  • Peter Bateman
    Mike, you have just posed the one essential question about pre-qualification.
  • Tania Curtin

    I believe there is a small amount of case law. I can't find it now [of course!] but I remember reading a story about a subcontractor involved in a trench collapse on site, which Worksafe prosecuted the subcontractor and main contractor for. Although the judge agreed with Worksafe on most of the reasonably practicable actions they said the main contractor could have taken, he disagreed that pre-qualification of the subcontractor was one of them; the judge indicated that monitoring on site would have been a more reasonable and practical step.

    I rant about this topic FREQUENTLY. It's excruciating, especially for SMEs. The worst part is that it actually doesn't qualify anything except production of paperwork! Way to reinforce the notion that H&S is a bureaucratic farce! I know for a fact that there are companies with good pre-qualification accreditation, who simply create the paperwork for the assessment and in reality they do a poor job of managing H&S. Worse yet, the main contractor now has a false sense of security that this contractor is doing a good job!

    I do some work for a construction company that engages contractors. We set our expectations in an agreement with contractors, but in a non-prescriptive manner - essentially we state the specifics of how we manage H&S on our sites, what we will do/provide for them, explain the specific parts of the law we will look for evidence of compliance with on site, and explain how we will monitor and give them feedback. Most of our 'qualifying' is done by way of site inspections, and more importantly, conversations on site.

    Pre-qualification should be asking contractors what their H&S risks are and how they manage them, NOT dictating to them how to run their business, as if a one-size-fits-all approach is appropriate!
  • Tony Walton
    Great post Tania - this is the sort of authentic thinking and honest analysis that's lacking in the health & safety community. Canterbury PCBU's are lucky to have you available to provide smart health & safety leadership and support.
  • Rob McAulay
    Good Morning,
    Can anyone point me in the right direction concerning the Case law Tania is referring to.
    Thanks in Advance
  • Peter Bateman
    Rob, I think this is the case you're thinking of. Here is our story from the Sept/Oct 2015 edition of Safeguard.

    A civil contracting company has successfully defended a charge arising from a trench collapse after the court rejected the regulator’s arguments that its contractor pre-qualification process, and its JSA and other documentation, were inadequate.

    Dempsey Wood Civil Ltd, the main contractor at a site being developed by Auckland International Airport Ltd, had been charged under s18(a) of the HSE Act after an employee of one of its subcontractors was injured in a trench collapse. The charge was dismissed (Papakura DC, 22 May 2015).

    The July 2013 incident involved two employees of subcontractor company Draeinail Construction Ltd (which pleaded guilty to a separate charge). One of them was in the bottom of a trench ensuring a stormwater pipe was correctly aligned. The other operated an excavator positioned close to the edge of the trench, with its arm extended over the other man. Clay came loose from the front face of the trench, striking the man at the bottom and causing crush injuries to his pelvis.

    The front face of the trench was benched with two steps cut to a vertical face of 1.8m each, and a 1.2m wide slot had been cut into the top edge to give the excavator driver better visibility. However the front face had not been battered to a safe slope.

    In court, WorkSafe argued there were five practicable steps Dempsey’s could have taken to prevent the incident. They can be grouped into three alleged failings, the first of which was failure to effectively pre-qualify Draeinail to ensure it had a recorded OHS policy and a safe system of work, including method statements and hazard register/controls and a documented system for reviewing these. Assumptions based on previous experience with Draeinail would be insufficient, it was argued.

    The Court rejected this argument, noting that Dempsey’s had worked with Draeinail since 2008, viewed the people involved as high quality, and had received positive feedback about the subcontractor from 20 project managers.

    An expert witness for the defence said that documented systems could be helpful, but for a small “hands-on” contractor it is usually more valuable to know of their track record from direct experience than to rely purely on system documents.

    The court found it was reasonable for Dempsey’s to rely on its prior knowledge of Draeinail’s health and safety practices.

    The second group of alleged failings related to documentation: that Dempsey’s could have ensured a documented safe work method system for the trenching work was developed and communicated to contractors; and that an adequate JSA relating to the specific work had been developed and discussed daily with all workers.

    While both parties agreed Dempsey’s project management plan was acceptable, WorkSafe noted that only one JSA had been completed, in April, three months after work had begun and three months before the incident; and that it had been prepared as a response to an incident in February when a Draeinail employee had been observed working outside the trench shield. WorkSafe said this should have alerted Dempsey’s to the need to monitor Draeinail more closely; nor was Draeinail required to attend daily pre-start meetings.

    WorkSafe argued a JSA should be reviewed daily before work starts. The expert witness took the view that the prepared JSA was a comprehensive and generic document for all excavations deeper than 1.5m, and that it was unnecessary for each excavation to have its own JSA. He said documented systems of work are important at project level and provide a standard against which to audit, but the work on the ground was carried out by experienced people who communicated verbally.

    The court also noted that the excavator driver had started on site only two days earlier and had not yet taken part in the weekly site induction for new workers.

    The third step allegedly not taken was to monitor Draenail’s performance against Dempsey’s overall project management plan, especially after the February incident. Evidence was given that Dempsey’s conducted monthly audits and daily site inspections, and had visited the site twice already on the day in question. The court accepted this monitoring as adequate.

    The Court accepted the JSA could have been more specific and the tailgate meetings better documented, but noted there was an agreed approach regarding dealing safely with the front face of a trench, and that Draeinail were the drainlaying experts.

    The Court found the cause of the accident was due to decisions made by various Draeinail staff over a brief period of time, and that the decision by an experienced excavator driver to proceed very close to the face and then scoop out part of it, while a man was directly below, was difficult to comprehend and an “elementary error of judgement” which could not have been anticipated by Dempsey’s.
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