On the road again

As of 1 May 2009, all highways contracts will only be awarded to companies with National Highway Sector Scheme 18 accreditation

NHSS18 is the new bespoke management system for landscaping and the environment (including ecology) contractors. The scheme will be mandatory for all contractors working for the Highways Agency, whether or not they are an existing supplier, however, current contracts will not require accreditation under the scheme. Local authorities that opt into the scheme will also require all contractors to be NHSS18 certified.
NHSS18 reflects the requirements embodied in the EN ISO 9001:2008 quality management system, but additionally this scheme has specific relevance to the landscape construction and maintenance, arboriculture, environmental management and pesticide application.

Health and safety
The scheme aims to ensure companies working on motorways and other roads have a trained and competent workforce, with an emphasis on health and safety. Sector schemes are designed to provide an industry benchmark, ensuring all processes are planned, and demonstrate continually improving standards, promoting confidence in quality management systems by a provision of a robust, transparent system.
The British Association of Landscape Industries (BALI) will act as administrator for the NHSS18 scheme, and have been given the task of ensuring all employees of accredited companies have an appropriately detailed NHSS skills card. This skills card provides evidence that the person working on the highways has all the required skills and training that they require when undertaking contract work on the highways. Additionally they identify the varied skill levels for different workers (e.g. site manager, operative etc). A process is currently in development to allow the recognition of in house training. This will allow companies to use their own in house training as part of the training qualifications for workers, providing they demonstrate that this meets the requirements of the National Occupational Standards (NOS’s).
The skills cards will hold details of the workers’ qualifications; through a coded system this can be identified as specific qualifications or competence. This will be available via the Sector Scheme Administrators on the BALI website, for employers, clients, potential clients and contract managers to be able to see. Although individuals personal details will not be on the website, a list of qualifications and coding will be available for referencing and checking purposes.
All accredited contractors will be included on the schedule suppliers list, this list is available on the Lantra Awards schedule of suppliers website. www.scheduleofsuppliers.com. This website is the national database of approved contractors for the Highways Agency.
Lance Williams, contracts and specification expert at the Highways Agency, has previously said about the scheme: “The aim of the National Highways Sector Scheme is essentially to ensure the works to which each scheme relates is carried out to the highest standards of professionalism, using properly trained staff and with the emphasis on health and safety. We want to ensure that as many organisations as possible achieve certification, from larger contractors to individual skilled tradesmen gaining certification as sub-contractors. Our goal is to have Sector Scheme 18 adopted by local authorities and utilities companies as the minimum standard required of their contractors.”

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