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Contractors face waste hazard

Government is getting tough on waste from construction sites and building services firms will soon have to deal with new legal measures, says Bob Towse, head of technical and safety at the HVCA
SITE Waste Management Plans (SWMPs) have been around for a while and large contractors have been involved in voluntary schemes since 2005.

However, government is now upping the ante and, as of April, SWMPs will become a legal requirement for construction projects of more than £250,000 in value. More complex requirements will be put in place for projects of more than £500,000.

Waste management, therefore, becomes a legally enforceable issue at all stages of a project and the client has ultimate responsibility. In practice, this means the main contractor will be charged with managing waste arrangements and will require all sub-contractors to put plans in place for their elements of a project.

Therefore, any contractor unable to show relevant expertise, strategies and procedures for dealing with waste could find themselves excluded from tenders.

Under the forthcoming Site Waste Management Plans Regulations 2008, the client or main contractor will be forced to use only licensed waste management contractors and have a plan for monitoring and reporting resource use and the amount of waste generated.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is proposing that local authorities and the Environment Agency (EA) will have the power to check SWMPs and take action against anyone failing to put one in place.

The proposed penalty is £300 for 'failing to produce a SWMP if requested to do so by an enforcing officer during a site visit', but larger fines and even imprisonment are threatened for serious waste offences.

The most important impact on contractors could be how all this affects arrangements for tendering and on-going site operations.
The principal contractor is allowed to delegate individual responsibilities for waste management tasks to their sub-contractors under the proposed rules.

The Heating & Ventilating Contractors Association is making the point very clearly to government that it is important these new waste plans are linked to the site management practice already included in the new Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM), which came into force in 2007.

We don't want to create confusion and have unnecessary bureaucracy by having separate regulations - a bit of joined up thinking on this one would be more constructive.

The main point is that SWMPs should help to reduce accidents, due mainly to better on-site storage of materials and better segregation of waste, and they have a massive environmental implication.
It should also lead to better management of projects - at present 13% of materials delivered to site go straight to waste.
This is a terrible misuse of resources.

'The construction industry is a major contributor to the UK economy, but this comes at a cost,' a DEFRA statement said. 'Of the 400 million tonnes of solid materials used each year, only two-thirds is added to the building stock - the rest is consigned to landfill.

'Government is also concerned about the small, but increasing amount of construction waste that is illegally dumped or fly-tipped.
'As waste controls tighten there is an increased risk of companies inadvertently employing illegal waste operatives,' the statement added.

DEFRA's consultation process ended in July 2007 and the paper on SWMPs can be found at:
www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/construction-sitewaste/index.htm

1 January 2008

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