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Reining in the cowboys

The concrete industry has had its share of 'cowboy' contractors. NCE reports on a new quality scheme that should send them running for cover.

Media attention on rogue traders has always focused on domestic house building. However, the commercial sector also has its share of poor quality work carried out by disreputable subcontractors.

In a move to tackle the problem head on, the concrete structures group Construct is introducing SpeCC, a government-backed registration scheme for specialist concrete contractors.

Part funded by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, SpeCC is also backed by the BRE plus quality assurance bodies UK CARES and the Quality Scheme for Ready Mixed Concrete.

It is hoped that its introduction will do much to rid the industry of rogue contractors, as responsible clients would expect their sub-contractors to be assessed, approved and registered under the scheme.

The appointment of an experienced manager is to be announced shortly and the scheme is expected to go live in the spring. It will create a register of contractors which can demonstrate their capability to operate construction processes and provide a management structure that suits the client's requirements.

The scheme will enable clients and main contractors to be confident in their choice of subcontractor and will ensure that the concrete frame is built in accordance with the agreed design, by technically competent personnel using materials and products fit for the purpose.

'The registration scheme will provide assurance for clients and main contractors of the levels of competence of their concrete sub-contractors, ' says Construct secretary Colin Cleverly. 'SpeCC will fill the void that hasallowed disreputable subcontractors to operate.'

Although specific to the concrete construction sector, the scheme is intended to complement the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS).

'There is no reason why there should not be some sort of future link with CSCS, thereby meeting client demands for a more pan-industry skills register, while still serving the specific characteristics of our own sector, ' says Cleverly.

To obtain a certificate, subcontractors will have to undergo a rigorous assessment of office and on-site practices. Performance levels will be set for training and quality, health, safety and environmental issues, deliverables and technical capabilities, financial stability and insurance. Once registration is achieved, there will be regular checks by independent assessors.

'To ensure the register of contractors is meaningful, there will be an assessment of office practices and an examination of site practices once a year or once per contract, whichever is the greater up to a maximum of two assessments a year, ' says Cleverly.

'SpeCC will provide the reputable concrete contractor with proof of his competence and professionalism and give clients a first-class opportunity to safeguard their investment.'

Specialist contractors Construct is an industry which is based on specialist concrete contractors, supported by market leaders and companies associated with the supply chain, especially those in the ready-mixed concrete, formwork and reinforcement industries.

The core business of these specialist contractors is the construction of concrete frames, which in the UK is worth £500M per annum. It is estimated that the Construct contractor members are responsible for 75% of this market.

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