Today, businesses in almost every industry sector and every country – or regional jurisdiction – are regulated by standards and guidelines. Some are mandatory, with penalties for non-compliance. Others are optional and allow complying businesses to demonstrate impeccable credentials.
Either way, standards are crucial. By adhering to the relevant standards, businesses develop safe, efficient and responsible operating practices. Over time, best practice becomes second nature. This in turn provides the assurances procurement people need before they entrust major projects to contractors.
What standards should you look for in a contractor?
Some standards are industry specific. Examples include those that relate to minimum levels of technical expertise or control of hazardous substances. Others are universal and govern how businesses use people’s data, protect the environment and oversee quality assurance. Look for evidence of high standards across your prospective contractor’s entire business, not just one specific area.
Here are five key standards that, in our experience, are indispensable to our relationships with clients:
A universal certification, the ISO 9001 Quality Management Systems standard is your assurance of a professional and well-disciplined management structure. An indicator of efficiency and excellent customer service, this will help you build trust in your prospective contractor or supplier. To achieve ISO 9001, a business has to undergo a multi stage process. This begins with a pre-audit assessment to establish what action is required to conform to the standard. When the business has put the necessary practices and systems in place, it’s ready for the audit assessment. Once all the requirements of the standard are met, the business receives its ISO 9001 certificate of conformity. From then on, businesses are audited annually to ensure they continue to conform.
Also universal, the ISO 14001 Environmental Management System gives a business a framework in which to assess, monitor and minimise its impact on the environment. It doesn’t prescribe specific requirements. Instead, applying organisations work with an ISO approved auditor to set environmental goals and create the means to achieve them. Built into this framework are systems to measure progress against the goals and improve environmental practices where possible. When you choose an ISO 14001 accredited business partner, you benefit from reduced waste management costs, reduced energy consumption and an improved image among regulators, the wider business community and the general public. The process for achieving and maintaining ISO 14001 accreditation is similar to that for ISO 9001.
BS OHSAS 18001
OHAS 18001 Occupational Health and Safety Management covers the welfare of people at work. To achieve OHSAS 18001 accreditation, a business must develop systems to reduce the risk of accidents and comply with health and safety legislation. This in turn minimises downtime and increases efficiency. Currently, a new ISO standard, ISO 45001 is being developed, which likely to replace BS OHSAS 18001 in 2016. You’ll find more about the changeover here.
The Contractors Health and Safety Assessment Scheme
Known as CHAS, this is a health and safety pre-qualification scheme for contractors and consultants in a wide range of industries. Once approved, a CHAS supplier has demonstrated that it meets the health and safety needs of buyers signed up to the scheme. This saves time for both parties, enabling them to concentrate on the core elements of the contract. To become CHAS approved, a contractor’s health and safety policy, statement, organisation and any measures specific to the nature of its business or industry sector are closely examined.
Similar to CHAS, Safe Contractor provides a review of a contractor’s health and safety documentation. It takes industry sector and the nature of the business’s work into account to provide an assurance of health and safety compliance. The Safe Contractor logo is your assurance of a contractor’s competence and awareness in this field and saves duplication of documentation – and therefore time.
Ideally, your contractor will have achieved accreditation with these crucial standards and meet their requirements. Even better, it’ll be able to prove that it constantly exceeds them.