No audit – no point!

16 March 2021

The following quote speaks to the UK construction industry.

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” [Peter Drucker]

SparkSafe has used the idea behind this quote in developing the first government-approved electrical Licence to Practise system.   A fundamental part of our approach to improving quality and raising standards in the industry, is to include a unique “measuring to improve” auditing process.

Audit to protect

Quality assurance, Health & Safety, annual accounts, and inspection and testing are all subject to periodic auditing. The purpose of such audits is to provide customers, shareholders, and stakeholders with verification of performance against an agreed set of quality and performance standards.  An effective audit process compels individuals and organisations to address areas of non-compliance and work towards continuous improvement. The absence of an audit process leads to a lack of transparency, inadequate control measures, and unreliable outcomes.  The UK electrical contracting industry obliges its Clients to rely on a system that fails to establish workforce competency ratios and provide effective workforce composition compliance auditing. This means that projects are often loaded with underqualified and semi-skilled electrical workers.

SparkSafe’s compliance auditing service is designed to drive improvement on behalf of industry Clients by placing an obligation on main contractors to ensure that only licenced electrical workers are employed on their projects.

The purpose of the SparkSafe audit is threefold.

  1. To improve quality and raise standards, ensuring only independently assessed and licenced electrical workers are employed on the Clients project.
  2. To protect responsible main contractors and their Clients from the harmful effects of extended sub-contract tiering.
  3. To incentivise Level 3 apprentice recruitment and adult worker upskilling in the UK industry.

Audit to know

Audit processes are applied to measure and protect vital assets and investments. Failure to audit can lead to the development, concealment, or avoidance of unreliable financial, performance, and quality outcomes. In the case of the unregulated UK electrical contracting industry, the absence of independent, client-focused compliance auditing has given rise to a disproportionate increase in the employment of underqualified and semi-skilled workers.

Failure to audit the occupational identity and competency of labour, has produced legacy conditions that displace competent workers and negatively impact apprenticeship recruitment. We know that the quality of labour is directly linked to the outcomes of a project. So why not audit it?

Audit to gain

At present, most UK main contractors cannot readily account to Clients for the accredited competency and occupational identity of an electrical contractor’s workforce. Almost all main contractors are required to work on a trust basis or with a weak supply-chain controlled self-declaration system concerning workforce composition.  On the other hand, independent compliance auditing produces win-win outcomes for the Client, main contractor, electrical sub-contractor, workers, and broader society. Few will disagree that labour quality is one of the most important contributing factors to the project’s success.

What we audit?

SparkSafe compliance audits are structured around a series of questions based on obligations contained in the Licence to Practise contract conditions. We report directly to the Client on the extent to which the main contractor has used the system to ensure that unqualified, underqualified, and self-designated electrical workers are not employed on the project. The audit examines both the directly employed and subcontract workers.  We audit the main contractor to ascertain if they have taken sufficient steps on behalf of the Client to ensure that electrical workers are licenced and connected to the project before commencing work on site and throughout the contract period.  A pass/fail audit report with recommendations and/or commendations is forwarded to the main contractor and the Client following the audit.

Why we audit?

The audit process is carried out to provide Clients with an important due diligence report that underpins their quality, safety, and value for money objectives. We conduct audits to instil confidence and assist Clients in building and maintaining their reputation as responsible buyers of electrical contracting services. Auditing compliance, against specific contract conditions, such as electrical Licence to Practise, also addresses a blind spot, that Clients have historically been obliged to tolerate.

If it is important, it should be audited. If it is audited, it can be measured and improved.