Scaffolder body says clients should pay for new safety costs

Clients should pay for extra costs incurred by scaffolders incurred due to measures in the Building Safety Act, according to the head of a trade body.

On Saturday, (6 April), the Building Safety Regulator (BSR) took responsibility for signing-off all designs for high-risk residential buildings before construction can begin.

Any changes to those designs also need to be approved by the regulator before work can start.

In an interview with Construction News, Clive Dickin, chief executive of the National Access and Scaffolding Confederation (NASC), said that the act itself has minimal direct impact on scaffolders because it applies to the fabric of buildings.

“It’s great that we’re seeing this massive improvement in professionalism from the construction sector but actually the reality is a lot of these requirements have already been absolutely prerequisites under the rules followed by the scaffolding and access sector, including under legislation including the Working at Height Regulations,” he said.

However, he added that the more stringent requirements of the act could require clients or main contractors to update their designs more often in order to win approval – a process that would have an impact on subcontractors.

“If you consider that scaffolding is typically the first on site and the last one off, we’re most susceptible to changes in the specification. So if the client is saying one thing and actually through iterative processes of the Building Safety Act we’re seeing multiple scaffold designs having to be produced before erection, that’s not the scaffolding contractors’ fault and they shouldn’t be penalised,” he said.

Dickin added that there was potential for scaffolding contractors to be put under financial or contractual pressure through no fault of their own.

“If at any point through the process of developing a project a scaffolding contractor finds that there’s a design change that is going to require either an extension of the access and scaffolding solution or a change to the accessing solution, we need to know there is an understanding that additional costs may be incurred which should be borne by the client and not the scaffolding contractor,” he said.

Earlier this year, cross-industry body the Competence Steering Group warned that the sector was still not ready for the significant changes introduced under the Building Safety Act.

In January, the BSR revealed that the new rules will allow for initial designs to have some gaps that can be updated during the construction process. Finishes and Interiors Sector chief executive Iain McIlwee described the statement as a “watering down” of previous messaging.

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