A simpler route to PQ

CHAS, prequalification, Build UK, PQ, Common Assessment Stanard, PAS 91, Ian McKinnon
Ian McKinnon

The next phase of a new pre-qualification (PQ) system designed to reduce inefficiencies in the construction industry will be implemented shortly. CHAS, which certifies companies against the new standard, explains what this means for the construction sector.

In April 2019, Build UK and the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) launched the first phase of a new system designed to simplify the construction pre-qualification (PQ) process by replacing a multitude of schemes with a single-industry agreed questionnaire and assessment standards: the Common Assessment Standard.

The initial phase involved the publication of the Common Assessment Standard along with recognition of the first assessment bodies chosen to certify companies against the standard, one of which was the Contractors’ Health and Safety Assessment Scheme (CHAS).

The second phase will see the launch of a data sharing solution which will give contractors and clients access to PQ data via a single assessment body. Once a contractor has been assessed to the new standard by their chosen assessment body, such as CHAS, their assessment can be accessed by anyone specifying the Common Assessment Standard without that contractor needing to be assessed by multiple assessment bodies, saving time and money.

For clients, the data sharing arrangement means they can access a wider range of contractors though a single assessment body as well as being confident that those contractors comply with a consistent, comprehensive industry-agreed standard. While the questions in the Common Assessment Standard are based on existing questionnaires, including PAS 91, the remit is broader - covering issues such as Finances, Corporate Social Responsibility, Quality and the Environment. This reflects an overall drive towards more stringent supply chain standards.

Most of the questions in the Common Assessment Standard are compulsory, but there are exemptions. For example, those with a valid SSIP Certificate don’t need to answer all of the health & safety questions and those with third-party audited certifications, such as ISO standards, are exempt from corresponding questions. The Common Assessment Standard has also been designed to be achievable for SMEs and micro-businesses. The assessment standards for certain questions have been revised for use with companies that employ fewer than five people and have a turnover less than £500,000. Companies can also choose either a desktop or site-based level of certification based on what is most appropriate for their business, which depends on a range of factors including trade, size and the requirements of the main contractors/clients that they work for.

In line with the system’s phased introduction, companies (both contractors and supply chain) are being encouraged to move to the new system at a time that suits them, such as when one of their existing certifications is up. The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) has confirmed that contractors appointed to its new seven-year bidding framework will be expected to assess their supply chains using the Common Assessment Standard and HS2 has confirmed that its four joint ventures will all accept the Common Assessment Standard.

CHAS MD, Ian McKinnon, comments: “As the first assessment body to deliver the Common Assessment Standard and the established market leader, we are delighted that the new assessment scheme is on track. For over two decades now CHAS have strived for a reduction in duplication and the introduction of the Common Assessment Standard is translating that aspiration into a reality.

“We look forward to seeing how this more collaborative approach to prequalification boosts productivity of the sector as a whole. We will strive to play our part by endeavouring to continue to provide the most cost-effective solution combined with the highest level of customer service.”

Jo Fautley, deputy chief executive of Build UK, adds: “The new PQ system has been developed by industry, for industry, based on standards that clients, contractors, and the supply chain have all agreed on. Change takes time and there will be a transition period but we look forward to rolling the new system out over the coming months and realising the efficiency gains for everyone’s benefit and boosting overall productivity.”

To find out more about the Common Assessment Scheme, see the link below.

Main picture credit: iStock shironosov

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