Even before the events of 2020, the role of contractors in the UK economy was a source of debate and commentary. Are businesses becoming increasingly dependent on contractors and, if so, how is compliance with health and safety policies and procedures being delivered?
Interestingly, one of the most challenging industry sectors from a lack of skills standpoint is utilities. Even before the government’s recent target setting on electric vehicles and wind farms, the UK utilities sector was forecast to have 221,000 vacancies by 2027 with half of those arising due to the retirement of skilled workers. Compounding this is the fact that the sector is one of the hardest to hire for (2015 Employer Skills Survey).
Ever increasing supply chain complexity is expected far beyond the utilities sector. The ONS put the number of self-employed workers at more than 1 in 7 of the UK workforce in Q1 of 2020, compared with less than 1 in 8 twenty years ago. Collaborative procurement practices are already being adopted, for example in construction, to ensure that specialist contractors are involved early in the design/procurement process with obvious benefits to the project itself but also, indirectly, to the safety of workers.
ISO 45001 took an important step towards the safety of all workers by mandating that an organisation’s OH&S Management system be extended beyond control of employees only to the complete supply chain including contractors and their workers.
As well as the challenges around ensuring compliance with health and safety policies, a business also has the challenge of managing and sourcing contractors and suppliers, made particularly difficult when going through any reactivation protocols following enforced suspension of activities. Are supply chain businesses still trading? Are they still viable businesses? Do they fit with potentially revised CSR goals? Are they accredited?
Our last post showed how SafeContractor and e-permits can deliver on both parts of this challenge with SafeContractor delivering on the management and sourcing of contractors and suppliers and e-permits delivering contractor compliance with existing safety policies and procedures.
But, what of the elephant in the room? How will the already increasing supply chain complexity be affected by Covid-19 lockdowns?
Alcumus, in conjunction with Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) carried out a survey to benchmark contractor management and assess changing perspectives pre- and post-lockdown (#1).
Some of the interesting findings were that businesses expect to use more contractors over the next two years which is in line with the broad perspective offered above. The post-lockdown view is slightly less bullish brought on by falling numbers of projects, although the consensus is still for increased usage of contractors.
Slightly worrying was the response to the question, “How important is it to assess your contractors and suppliers for health and safety compliance?”. The answers show a softening in commitment post-lockdown although, to be fair, the sample size is not huge and the difference is unlikely to be statistically significant (we’re all experts now aren’t we?).
The report is well worth reading and is much broader than the two highlights made here. You can access a copy via this link.
It’s hard to envisage anything other than a continuation in the rise of supply chain complexity. As health and safety practitioners our goal is to ensure that that’s not accompanied by an acceptance of safety standards slipping. After all, it may be that we finally broke through the statistical plateau that is the UK worker fatality rates.If You Like This Post, Please Share It!