Procurement Strategies Pose Risk to Life, Says Xmo Strata Boss

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The author of a hard-hitting book on the sign industry says that modern procurement trends are sending the signal that some large companies ‘don’t care about health and safety’.

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Modern procurement strategies are often devised by commodity buyers, not service buyers, and this poor technical knowledge base allows unscrupulous contractors a lot of leeway, which poses a risk not just to the contractor, but to the customer company and its managers

Steve Martin, Managing Director of sign installation and maintenance company Xmo Strata and the author of Safety Quality Tricks and Lies: dirty tricks in the British sign industry and 100 questions your sign company doesn't want you to ask, says that the tick-box approach to procurement questionnaires frequently sends a 'subtext' message to bidding companies that they can ignore health and safety related issues, or indeed that they are a secondary consideration after cost savings.

"The customer firm will sometimes have health and safety policies in place, and will make claims about its health and safety credentials. To comply with these policies, bidding companies often have to simply tick a box next to such a statement as 'please confirm your willingness to adhere to the company's health and safety policies' and possibly supply generic documents if requested. The rest of the tender then goes into lengthy details about performance, key performance indicators, price and cost savings, with the final part being 'now name your price', or words to that effect," said Mr Martin. "Any sign firm can win business which is decided on this basis - you hire cheap people, use cheap materials, bullshit where necessary and you go in with a rock-bottom price."

"The weight of wording about price and service often leads suppliers to think that safety is an afterthought and isn't critical to winning the contract. Questionnaires like this are a very loud signal that to the customer, health and safety is a risk which they wish to transfer to the supplier, and I'm afraid that under UK law you cannot do that, however much your procurement department may wish to.

"There is a clearly expressed legal obligation on the customer company to provide a 'safe working environment', and quite often risk transfer in a contract or procurement document simply won't be accepted by a court, which is the ultimate test. As the customer, you have a responsibility to ask contractors to prove that they are competent. Everyone involved in a project should share responsibility for good health and safety practices.

"If someone has an accident and hires a no-win, no-fee lawyer, they will probably sue the party with the deepest pockets, and that is usually the customer. Even individual managers in the customer company may be in peril of criminal proceedings if they are shown to have been cavalier in their attitude towards health and safety."

Mr Martin says that the sign industry is populated by a disproportionately large percentage of senior managers who have no formal management training and who have failed to keep pace with significant advances in health and safety legislation.

"This failure places both them, and their customers, at risk of prosecution and civil proceedings. Customer companies need to be a lot more vigilant to protect themselves from liability claims and reputational and brand damage, arising from accidents resulting in fatalities or serious injury."

Procurement questionnaires need to be a lot more probing about health and safety issues. Any prudent customer will have a documented audit trail showing that it has asked penetrating questions, and done everything reasonable to satisfy itself that the answers it has received are true.

"Modern procurement strategies are often devised by commodity buyers, not service buyers, and this poor technical knowledge base allows unscrupulous contractors a lot of leeway, which poses a risk not just to the contractor, but to the customer company and its managers," said Mr Martin.

Xmo Strata works in the retail, financial, and petrol forecourt sectors, and its engineers and fitters are the most highly qualified crews in the UK sign industry.

Notes to editor:

Xmo Strata is one of the leading sign installation and maintenance firms in the UK, built on an aspiration to provide the most highly qualified sign engineers in the UK, adhering uncompromisingly to health and safety regulations and best practice. The company focus is to provide a truly nationwide specialist service, ensure a safe working environment for all, offer a trusted, market leading service whilst delivering value to customers at all times.

Xmo Strata specialises in large national roll-outs and offers complete project management. The company offers a truly nationwide service, with crews based throughout the UK, with a specialist service including re-branding and maintenance of signage on petrol forecourts, retail parks, high street stores and shopping malls nationwide.

To find out more about Xmo Strata visit http://www.xmostrata.com or contact Steve Martin on telephone: 0845 2300 460.

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Alexa Gibb
Garnett Keeler PR
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