Countdown to National Highways Sector Scheme

A new National Highways Sector Scheme affecting all contractors undertaking landscaping, grounds maintenance, arboricultural and ecological works within Highways Agency contacts will be launched at IoG Saltex by Lord Heseltine.

Certification under the new National Highways Sector Scheme 18 for the Environment and Landscape including Ecology will be mandatory for all contractors working for the Highways Agency, whether or not they are existing supplier. Those companies working on contracts for local authorities that opt into the scheme will also need to be NHSS18 certified.

The requirements of Sector Scheme 18 reflect those embodied in the EN ISO 9001:2002 quality management system, but with specific relevance to landscape construction and maintenance, arboriculture, pesticide application and environmental management. Any organisation working in these areas with ISO 9001:2002 accreditation already in place is well on the way to achieving certification.

Lance Williams, contracts and specification expert at the Highways Agency, has been guiding the industry working group through the consultation process. He is anxious that no organisation sees the new scheme as a barrier to working on Highways Agency contracts.

He says: 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 make as many organisation as possible achieve certification, from larger contractors to individual skilled tradesmen, although we are trying to agree a mechanism to enable self-employed tradesmen to gain 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.

Lord Heseltine says the new scheme is set to improve standards across the board. The addition of a scheme addressing landscaping and the environment to the National Highways Sector Schemes programme will help to raise management and operational standards, and hence delivery, in this critically important area, he says.

The scheme will be launched on Wednesday.

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