Managing Supply Chain Risk with Electrical Licence to Practice

14 September 2018

Supply chain risk management in the UK construction industry is usually focussed on corporate credentials. Financials, accreditations, experience, equipment, quality assurance, and management resources feature in most prequalification documents. However, the occupational identity and qualifications of those who carry out the work are often not fully considered or just overlooked.

In commercial and industrial projects, electrical installation work is carried out by sub-contractors who fulfil the contract with directly employed labour or by supplementing their directly employed workforce with other external supply chain workers.

Failure to assess and verify the electrical qualifications of individual workers produces a potentially serious blind spot and generates an adverse supply chain risk condition. Most UK clients have been conditioned to rely on the appointed Main Contractor to resource and supply the electrical labour requirements of the project. Only a minority of Main Contractors are equipped to assess and authenticate the relevancy of electrical worker qualifications.

Competitive tendering conditions usually oblige Main Contractors to appoint an electrical sub-contractor on the basis of lowest price. Industry reliance on high proportions of unskilled or semiskilled electrical workers and sub-letting work packages to other supply chain providers, often feature as a means of achieving a low bid price.

·         How do Clients know that qualified workers are installing critical life and property systems?

·         How do Clients know that the broader electrical requirements of the project are being resourced and met with a competent and accredited workforce?

Ignorance is not bliss!

Clients deserve to be protected from poor quality work, and latent defects. In electrical services, disruptions, and delays often accrue and then flow from the industry’s increasing reliance on supply chain workers who are not qualified, trained or up to date with current practice.

Extended sub-letting of electrical installation work by a primary electrical contractor to other supply chain providers often veils the occupational identity of the workforce.  As a consequence, too many projects are resourced with a disproportionate ratio of low or semiskilled electrical workers.

Transparency and visibility of the parts, i.e., the worker’s, will ensure that the whole, i.e., the workforce is matched to the needs of the project. Knowing who is on the project and how well they are qualified to perform the work is essential in foreseeing and overcoming gaps in the management of the supply chain risk factors.

Following on from commercial negotiations or tendering rounds many Clients enter into a “trust without verifying” relationship with an electrical contractor regarding their direct and sub-contracted workforce.  The transient nature of the construction industry often means that trusted go-to people come and go.

Due to the unique risk factors in electrical services, it is essential to ascertain and monitor the workforce composition of the appointed electrical contractor/s by electrical license type.

Why Licence to Practice?

Checking how well electrical workers are qualified to perform work is the right thing to do. All too often, retrospective investigations reveal neglect or an early oversight and breakdown in the process of determining the occupational identity of individuals to perform skilled electrical work.

The task of doing so presents many challenges. Obtaining, validating and interpreting the appropriateness of the various awarding body vocational qualifications can be administratively problematic and has clear cost implications.

Plastic identity trade cards are low tech and unreliable. They can be easily lost, forgotten, transferred or forged. In any case, project gatekeepers are usually focussed on the Health and Safety aspect of the plastic card system. As a result, the relevance of occupational credentials becomes overlooked which often facilitates a decline in the number of qualified electrical workers on the project.

The great divide!

Approximately twenty five percent of the UK’s electrical installation workforce is registered with the established, membership only trade and industry associations.   The majority of manual electrical workers (circa 200k+) currently operate outside of any common regulated system which presents significant supply-chain risk management problems for Clients.  How do Clients know if an appropriate number of qualified electricians are working on their project?  One or two go-to people and twenty underqualified, unqualified or self-designated electrical workers isn’t going to serve the interest of the Client very well.   As a responsible charity and UK industry stakeholder, we have developed an innovative online system that is open and accessible to all electrical workers regardless of past or present trade association affiliation.

The system provides a convenient single page online desktop report showing all the electrical workers by license type per project, which overcomes the traditional Client burden of tedious one at time discovery checks.

Measure it, manage it.

The SparkSafe system makes the arduous process of checking the identity and qualifications of each electrical worker simple for the Client. SparkSafe clients are provided with an impartial, end to end online visibility into the occupational identity and qualifications of each electrical worker from project commencement through to completion and final handover.

We provide an independent occupational identity and qualification checking service.  This means that the client is not burdened with a distracting and costly administration task. We then add value by uniquely connecting independently assessed Licensed Electrical Workers online via the Main Contractor and the appointed Electrical Sub-Contractor to each specific project. By doing so, a 24/7 online workforce composition report is made available, which helps facilitate the value for money, quality improvement, electrical safety and social procurement objectives of the Client.