Turning Your Headache Into Your Competitive Advantage

 Bruce McFadzean   2020-10-07  Comments Client, Contractors, General
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Health and Safety - many a contractor’s nightmare. Having many years’ experience in the Construction industry as a contractor, I recall being awarded an exciting 3-year contract in the telecoms industry. The excitement turned to confusion when my client demanded a “SHE” file before I kick-off. This was my first introduction to construction Health and Safety. I had no idea what a SHE file was, in spite of having a postgraduate degree in engineering – it was in no curriculum back then. And while ignorantia Juris non-excusat (ignorance of the law excuses not), it was simply an aspect of business that had not crossed my desk before. Legal appointments, toolbox talks, risk assessments, fall protection plans, MSDS - the list goes on - what does it all mean? Where do I start?

 

What became clear even back then, was that Health and Safety were set to be a permanent and non-negotiable prerequisite to running a business. So, getting to grips with construction SHE files (contractor’s jargon for that 250+ page Portfolio of Evidence demonstrating compliance with Safety Health and Environment laws) became a key factor in securing corporate tenders, as well as in keeping the workforce safer and avoiding fines along with possible jail terms.

 

While many contractors and clients still fly “under the radar”, this is set to change. Department of Employment and Labour Chief Director of Statutory and Services, Advocate Fikiswa Mncanca said the number of actual workplace inspections conducted in the 2018/2019 fiscal year was 218 919 (Issued by Makhosonke Buthelezi Acting Departmental Spokesperson). Mncanca went on to say that the department would be focussing on “problematic sector(s) such as …. Domestic, Construction”.

 

The qualifying criteria for both public and private sector tenders are now almost guaranteed to include, at a minimum, Site Health, and Safety compliance. The CIDB (Construction Industry Development Board), which is a Schedule 3A public entity that regulates inter alia government tenders, recently commissioned a report into Construction Health and Safety in South Africa. Private enterprises issue Health and Safety specifications, in terms of Construction Regulations, which disqualify potential bidders who can not demonstrate OHS Act compliance.

 

Those readers who have some knowledge of Construction Regulations may have spotted one of the tenderer’s procedural flaws in the opening paragraph – that is, the client demanding a SHE file after the tender has been adjudicated. Construction Regulations 5(1)(b) reads [“A client must -] prepare a suitable, sufficiently documented and coherent site-specific health and safety specification for the intended construction work based on the baseline risk assessment contemplated in paragraph (a);” In my case, this did not happen. Contractors who are familiar with the law will be far better equipped to secure work legally and without incurring extra costs after the job has started. You are entitled to include reasonable costs for Health and Safety, as per Construction Regulations 5(1)(g) “ensure that potential principal contractors submitting tenders have made adequate provision for the cost of health and safety measures”. This is your opportunity to detail those costs – once the contract is awarded, you cannot go back and ask for more money. Remember; “Knowledge is Power” - Sir Francis Bacon

 

In the light of the above, it is clear that SMEs who wish to get ahead of the pack will need to embrace Health and Safety, rather sooner than later. This can be a daunting and frustrating proposition, especially for production-oriented business owners who are traditionally practical people, more comfortable around a TLB than a law book.
SHe files (PTY) Ltd can assist contractors with compiling compliant HS files, as well as assisting clients with contractor and file management.
Website: www.shefiles.co.za

Email address: admin@shefiles.co.za

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