How to Complete a Health and Safety Pre-Qualification Questionnaire
A pre-qualification questionnaire is the questionnaire potential clients need sub-contractors to complete before orders are placed.
This training will give you the answers you need to
- Understand the process
- Complete the form correctly
- Have the correct supporting documents
- Speed up the process of completing questionnaires
- Be ready for SSIP Level 1 Accreditation
Let’s Get Started
What is a PQQ?
PQQ is short for Pre-Qualification Questionnaire. It is a commonly used process that is followed so that companies can demonstrate they have checked that the sub-contractors they are using are Competent in terms of Health and Safety and the job they will be undertaking. This is a requirement embedded in almost every piece of Health and Safety legislation. This link will take you to the HSE Free Guidance on Using Contractors – INDG 368.
The PQQ process is widely used, particularly in construction and follows the same format:
- Client supplies Contractor with Questionnaire
- Contractor completes Questionnaire
- Questionnaire and supporting information Assessed by Client
- Contractor passes or fails
- Contractors that pass are added to an Approved Contractor List
- Information is updated annually
There are several versions of the questionnaire, but they all ask pretty much the same questions.
The benefit of putting a company through the process is that a client keeps a list of which companies have passed the assessment. The list is then used for tender enquiries, so theoretically once the process has been completed and your company is added to the list, you should get repeat work without having to go through this process again.
There are companies that accredit companies to a standard called SSIP1, or to give it its full title, Safety Systems in Procurement Level 1. I’ll explain this at the end of the post as the information you will need to supply to become SSIP1 accredited is pretty much the same as you’ll provide for every PQQ you complete.
Pro Tip 1
If you want to be accredited to more than one SSIP1 Company, for example you want SMAS and Constructionline, don’t start a full application for both. Get one first, then you can use your certificate to gain accreditation to other companies via the Deem to Satisfy Agreement.
Filling in a PQQ Questionnaire
There are different versions of a PQQ. Some are more thorough than others but I’ll take you through the standard questions in this post and if you have a particularly tricky questionnaire and need help, you can always leave a comment and we’ll answer it. I guarantee you won’t be the only one thinking it.
As well as the contact details for the company, the number of staff is required and the number of sub-contract staff.
The client wants to know if you employ sub-contract staff to ascertain if they are working to your safety documents or their own. The number of employees is relevant as if it is lower than 5, a lower standard of health and safety applies.
Some clients will also impose Sub-Contractor Health and Safety Requirements on you and this might include the requirement for you to have your sub-contractor complete the Clients PQQ process.
Don’t be tempted to lie about the number of staff or sub-contractors used. In the event of a personal injury, insurers can refuse to pay out if false information is given.
Most PQQ’s ask if an SSIP1 certificate, such as Constructionline, SMAS, CHAS or Safecontractor is held. If it is, you can bypass most of the questionnaire by sending a copy of the SSIP1 Certificate with the questionnaire.
The standard minimum limits for insurance are
Employers Liability = £5 million
Public Liability = £2 million
Most companies do carry £10 million employers liability and £5 million public liability.
There is no legal requirement to hold Public Liability but there is a requirement for an employer to carry at least £5 million as a minimum. There’s more guidance on this in the Health and Safety Executive Guidance on the Employers Liability Compulsory Insurance Act.
Pro Tip 2
You will be asked for this information everytime you complete a questionnaire. Why not cut and paste the information into a Word Document and save it to your desktop? You won’t have to keep typing in long insurance policy numbers and your company address over and over. It saves loads of time!
Health and Safety Policy
The client requires a copy of the Signed Health and Safety Policy Statement for the company. I have failed many, many companies for not supplying a Signed copy. I’ve had war and peace of a policy many times, but failed it as it’s not been signed or dated.
The policy must be dated within the last 12 months. This is to demonstrate that it has been reviewed recently.
Clients also need assurance that the policy is communicated to employees. This is usually undertaken during initial induction training when an employee starts their employment.
A large part of competence is training. Clients will need to see
- A training matrix of existing qualifications
- A plan showing forthcoming training
- Evidence of general health and safety training
- Evidence of specific trade training
- Evidence of Asbestos Awareness training
The asbestos training requirement can in some cases be avoided if contractors are not working in an environment where there is a risk of encountering asbestos, ie. They only work on new build properties.
Examples of Risk Assessments and Method Statements
This is also where a large number of companies fail.
A good risk assessment addresses the hazards of a task. So a risk assessment for roof construction would include Falls from Height, Working with Dust, Using Cartridge Tools, Manual Handling in one assessment. If four, separate, generic risk assessments are provided for Falls from Height, Working with Dust, Using Cartridge Tools and Manual Handling, the assessment will fail.
The person assessing the risk assessment is checking that the document reaches the suitable and sufficient standard. This blog post explains what Suitable and Sufficient means. If you want to check your risk assessment includes all it should do, read this post – 6 Steps to the Perfect Risk Assessment.
Most companies want you to provide two examples. This is to ensure they are different and that you are not supplying the same generic document for all tasks.
Health and Safety Advice
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations require companies to have an Appointed Competent Person to advise them about health and safety matters. Basically, to ensure that they have someone to advise them what they need to do to comply with the law.
There are many, many consultants available to provide this service. There are retained services which charge a monthly fee and the service received for that monthly fee varies greatly. As the owner of a Health and Safety Consultancy, I can’t recommend anyone but by own consultancy, Infinite Safety Ltd. A benefit of having a retained competent person though, is that they will fill in Client PQQ’s for you!
But back to the questionnaire, some Clients will permit small company owners to not have an appointed person if they can demonstrate they are up to date with health and safety law, if their health and safety system meets the minimum legal standard and if they know their limitations. Having said that, some clients are insistent on proof of the use of a Competent Person qualified to at least NEBOSH National General Certificate level.
Having no accidents is not a good thing. It’s fairly unrealistic, and personally, I think if a company has not had a single accident in the last three years, it just tells me that their accident reporting system is not working.
Be truthful about the number of accidents. You’ll just need to provide details of the action you took to prevent recurrence of the accident.
If you’ve not received any interventions or notices from the HSE, then great, you can sail through this section. However, if you have, be transparent and tell the client all about it. Include details of the intervention and the actions taken to resolve the situation. The client will check the Health and Safety Executive Enforcement Database to check the information provided is correct.
If you have an SSIP Level 1 Accreditation, you will need to send:
- The completed questionnaire
- Insurance Certificate and Proof of Indemnity Levels
- A Copy of the SSIP1 Certificate
If you don’t have a valid SSIP1 accreditation, you will need to send:
- The completed questionnaire
- A signed health and safety policy statement
- Training Matrix, Plan and Evidence of Training
- Two examples of risk assessments and method statements
- Proof of the use of a Competent Person plus their qualifications OR proof of qualification if this person is in house
- Supporting information for Accidents
- Supporting information for HSE interventions or notices
These are the basic requirements of a PQQ. Double check and read your clients PQQ to ensure you have sent all the documentation. If you don’t – you’ll fail. The
Speeding up the Process
The PQQ process is pretty much the same for all companies. So if you use Safecontractor, Constructionline, CHAS, SMAS whoever, you will be asked to supply the same information.
Set up a Dropbox file with all the information in. Make it super organised with a folder for each section. When you submit your PQQ’s send a link to the Dropbox to your client and they can check your supporting information online. If you keep this one folder up to date, you don’t have to go through the same rigmarole for each client.
SSIP Level 1 Accreditation
As promised, here’s a quick overview of SSIP1 and what it entails. There is more detailed information on this in the accreditations training module.
What is SSIP Level 1?
SSIP stands for Safety Systems in Procurement. The idea behind the scheme is that contractors complete one PQQ with one of the accredited SSIP1 providers (constructionline, SMAS, CHAS, Safecontractor and many more) then they use that certificate to avoid having to complete a PQQ for each different client.
In theory, this is great and to some degree it works. However it falls down a bit when clients insist on contractors being accredited to a certain provider. Many councils state that contractors must be accredited to Safecontractor. The reason for this is that they subscribe to Safecontractor as a buyer and they only use that one system.
Subscribing as a Buyer?
Clients looking for health and safety compliant contractors subscribe to the SSIP1 accrediting companies and select the contractors they want to invite to tender from the, for example, Safecontractor database. So, you may as a contractor, be approached by potential clients to tender for work. However, there is no promise of this and you may never get asked to tender.
Which is the best SSIP1 accreditation to have?
They’re all much of a muchness. Some are slightly easier to pass and the price varies greatly. I personally find SMAS the easiest to get as you are allocated one assessor and you can speak to them. I handle many SMAS applications for my clients in this way. CHAS however don’t allow third parties to submit applications, so I can’t handle the application for this for my clients beyond completing the questionnaire. Safecontractor can be quite pedantic on the design side of things if you are going for Principal Contractor accreditation and Constructionline pass the application through different assessors, so unless you pass first time, you can face several resubmissions as each assessor finds something different. It’s a decision you need to make based on your business needs really as cost is a big factor.
Is SSIP Level 1 Worth It?
Definitely yes. You get through this PQQ process much quicker and it shows the public that your company takes Health and Safety seriously.
The topic of SSIP Level 1 is covered in much more depth the SSIP section of the site. There’s also detailed information of how to meet the standard and templates for you to use.
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