Specification and requirements of the contract/service
As client you will need to specify the service you require (the what, how and when issues). Your specification will have significant influence not only on cost and service level, but also on the risks that will be encountered by householders, waste service workers, road users, plant operators etc and the systems that will need to be implemented, managed and adhered to.
Failure to recognise the importance of risk management and poorly thought-through choices made at this stage of the contract process can have a significant effect on control of subsequent risks and may require considerable additional financial and managerial resource to rectify, as well as creating a legacy of potential liabilities for you as client throughout the life of the contract.
Relevant health and safety factors are an important consideration when specifying any contract. They will not be the only factor to be taken into account, but they must be included. The nature of the risks and incident history across waste services emphasises the importance of giving health and safety issues appropriate consideration at this stage.
When developing any specification as client you should avoid being too prescriptive or detailed as this stifles innovation and limits the capacity of bidders to apply their own experience and expertise in designing their response. As client you should also take the opportunity to develop and improve the service over the lifetime of the contract – by being clear about any short-term constraints that the new contractor must inevitably inherit from the outset and by describing the type of service you want this to be progressively turned into.
Through undertaking your own risk assessment of the specification requirements you as client have determined, you should be aware of (and acknowledge a level of responsibility for) the health and safety implications you are expecting service providers to manage.
As client you should make it clear that safe operating procedure statements will need to be submitted with the tenders and evaluated. The contractors standards are likely to reflect those imposed by you the client and you both need to work to common levels of acceptable risk. As client you must allow adequate time for this important pre-tender process. Taking the following issues into account may help you with this.
- Existing arrangements should not necessarily be seen as ‘given’, but they provide a good place to start – factors such as the vehicle fleet, collection routes, receptacles, collecting methods and the recycling infrastructure.
- Various factors should be critically assessed against their inherent risks, eg manual handling, sharps, road traffic interfaces (see for example, summary list of health and safety issues to be considered in collection activities).
- Inputs from other council departments and services (such as Planning, Highways and the Health and Safety Adviser), as well as employees/workforce representatives, will provide valuable feedback on your own LA’s experience of working within existing arrangements to date, and of issues and developments/improvements they would like to see reflected in future working arrangements.
- HSE’s waste website contains more detailed information on specific issues and the standards of control that need to be achieved.
- As client you need to specify and describe the principal features of, and the health and safety performance standards for, the overall design of the service. In doing so, the you should make clear your desire to see bids which eliminate or minimise inherent risks, such as risks to pedestrians from reversing vehicles, for example.
Depending on available experience and expertise, as client you might not have the competence or information to fully address every aspect of the contract at the pre-tender analysis stage. There are, however, a number of additional measures to those steps described above that you can take which will help compensate for this:
- You should consider seeking inputs from others outside of your authority with the appropriate experience, knowledge and understanding (for example, other authorities who might be willing to assist, LA networks or consultants);
- You should consider seeking the early input of contractors with wider experience of providing such services (bearing in mind the need to comply with relevant procurement law). For example, this could be achieved through a soft market testing exercise;
- By incorporating practical and non-punitive arrangements for both parties to be able to negotiate and agree certain variations to the contract within its lifetime. This will allow the service delivery arrangements to respond to legitimate issues arising from monitoring and review processes, technological and market place developments, changes in legislation or recognised good practice, and experience elsewhere. Such a feature was specifically endorsed in Scotland’s draft Zero Waste Plan, for instance.
All of these good practice principles can be applied to the process regardless of the procurement route adopted (eg competitive dialogue or restricted).
During the pre-tender phase as client you need to define your own arrangements for providing initial (and any supplementary) operational data to bidders. For the best informed and optimal bids to be submitted, bidders will need accurate and appropriately detailed information from you to work on. However, the right balance needs to be struck, as too much detail or too definitive a requirement can sometimes be as unhelpful as too little. As client you also need to have arrangements in place to handle requests for clarifications or additional data during the bidding process and after a contract has been awarded.
As client you need to determine in the pre-tender phase how the bids will be evaluated, including declaration of any disqualification criteria. Issues to be considered will include the competence of those involved in the evaluation process and the relative weight to be applied to health and safety considerations compared to others, such as price. As well as being able to provide procurement advice, some organisations have experience in applying weightings.
If as client you have your own initial views on the process control measures you expect to see in place (for instance, on the bidder’s or preferred contractor’s internal performance monitoring and review arrangements; and operative training arrangements, such as S/NVQs or equivalents), it may be advisable to note these starting expectations as a baseline in advance of any dialogue taking place.
Although elected members should not be involved in any subsequent evaluation or selection process, they have a legitimate role to play in determining such policy issues as the identification of specification requirements and setting of evaluation criteria.
As client you will also need to develop arrangements for ongoing liaison with, and supervision of, the service provider once the contract is awarded, including how you will resolve any issues involving different departments within your LA. It is important that your staff acting in the client role effectively consult and manage liaison within your LA, to prevent bilateral agreements between those with individual interests and the service provider.
As a simple test of your own readiness to undertake the client role, you should be able to set out clearly your own internal arrangements for the receipt, evaluation, monitoring and response to risk assessments and statements of safe working practices/operational instructions, from service providers.