We estimate there are somewhere in the region of 5,000 scaffolding contractors currently trading in the UK. That’s a lot of contractors and a lot of competition, with multiple businesses going up against each other to win work on a local, regional, national and sector level.
From a main contractor’s point of view, an element of scaffolding subcontractor competition is healthy – helping to drive working standards upwards while at the same time keeping costs in check – but it does throw up one significant dilemma; how to select the best contractor for their needs.
Given that on-site safety is of paramount importance – in terms of both protecting scaffolding operatives, other trades working on site and the general public from injury as well as the main contractor from risk of prosecution under Working at Height Regulations 2005 should any scaffolding failings occur – procuring based on lowest cost alone is perhaps not the best course of action.
Selecting a subcontractor that holds accreditations from a recognised H&S scheme, such as Safety Schemes In Procurement (SSIP), is one way of gaining a level of reassurance. However, many specialist contractors are registered with these schemes as they are not industry specific and so while it might help slightly in sieving subcontractors, the pool of potential service providers operating at this level may remain extensive.
The next step up in terms of differentiation is trade body membership, at which independent audits are introduced. The NASC is the trade body for scaffolding and access in the UK and has been setting the standard for scaffolding since 1945.
It’s for this reason that a great deal of main contractors of all sizes and sectors, from Isle of Wight Council to global construction giant Multiplex, specify NASC-only for their scaffolding needs and a lot more specify ‘NASC or equivalent’.
We would argue that there is no equivalent to NASC membership. That’s because the minimum requirements we have put in place for scaffolding contractors to attain NASC membership are unparalleled in the scaffolding industry.
Similarly, the NASC annual audit process is unsurpassed. Our audit process is the most in-depth and comprehensive available. The NASC audits its members on a yearly basis and carry out site audits on a biennial basis, which includes a review of the company’s premises and yard, and at least two live sites to review scaffolders are working safely.
It’s for these reasons that the confederation believes main contractors should adopt an NASC-only procurement policy for their scaffolding requirements. No other criteria provides such assurances in terms of a contractor’s demonstrable commitment to safety, expertise and compliance.
Attaining and retaining NASC membership is not easy. That’s the whole point. For scaffolding solutions of the highest quality it has to be NASC. There is no equivalent.
NASC members account for the vast majority of the UK’s scaffolding spend – with a total annual turnover in excess of £2 billion.
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