Companies in the Netherlands that have signed the Safety in Construction Governance Code (GCVB) will be incorporating safety awareness as a mandatory item in their tenders or contracts as of 1 January 2022. We refer to this collective agreement as Safety in Tenders (ViA).

ViA generates greater attention for safety throughout the entire chain. Karin van Looij (Manager Process Support) and Job Buisman (Supply Chain Manager) believe this represents a major step forward. We interviewed them for the ViA newsletter. Their appeal to chain partners: start making preparations for implementation now, since this will take a great deal of time! 

Why does Strukton Rail endorse ViA?

Karin: “Safety is a number one priority for Strukton. The sooner you can embed this into your processes, the better. With ViA you do this at the very beginning.” Job adds: “ViA applies to customers, as well as to contractors who in turn become customers themselves. This way you ensure that safety is embedded throughout the entire chain.”

Karin van Looij
Safety is a number one priority for Strukton. The sooner you can embed this into your processes, the better. With ViA you do this at the very beginning.

Karin van Looij, manager Business Support at Strukton Rail Nederland

How are the preparations coming along?

Karin: “We have invested a great deal of time at the front end of the ViA implementation to clearly understand what we are going to do. This is because some texts can be interpreted in multiple ways.”

Job: “For example, we wanted to identify exactly how ViA and the Safety Ladder would be carried further down into the chain. This is because Strukton not only is a subcontractor, it also is a customer. Although the Safety Ladder award criterion used by our most important customer ProRail does not carry over into ViA and ViA is not an award criterion as such, the Safety Ladder definitely affects the requirements we ask our subcontractors performing work for ProRail to comply with.

This is because ViA does not replace the Safety Ladder criterion, it runs parallel to it. This is why we have sent a letter to all Strukton subcontractors to inform them of the new rules coming down the road. As customers we must make our subcontractors aware of ViA and encourage them to actively start working with it. In the near future we will call the ten most important parties to see how they are progressing with their preparations.”

Are you coming across any unexpected plus points during the preparation phase?

Job: “There is more attention for the responsibilities of the main contractor. This is a real plus. It also creates opportunities for customers to include safety aspects in product certificates and in framework agreements with subcontractors and suppliers. This way you spread the responsibilities and this makes it possible to improve safety throughout the chain must faster.” 

Job Buisman
You cannot achieve safety throughout the chain through contracting alone. The key is to become increasingly better together.

Job Buisman, manager Supply Chain at Strukton Rail Nederland

What experience do you already have with the Safety Ladder in the chain?

Job: “We have been working at a high level of the safety ladder for quite a few years already. Working safely at this level, throughout the chain, is only possible when you work together and for each other. This is essential during implementation when you work with different suppliers and subcontractors. We contract safety in the chain through certificate requirements or rules of conduct, for example. But you cannot achieve safety throughout the chain through contracting alone. The key is to become increasingly better together. This is why we share incidents with each other so we can all learn from them. We motivate suppliers to improve their safety performance by making use of a preferred supplier index whereby safety is a key criterion. We involve suppliers in the preparations and instructions, we integrate our safety instructions and we hold each other to account for safe and unsafe behaviour. We share safety alerts and factsheets and we invite suppliers to participate in safety toolbox sessions. In fact our suppliers are going through the same safety immersion programme as our own employees. This way we ensure that our safety-related performance is top-notch, whereby having ‘everyone back home safe and sound’ is a key focus.”

Are there any lessons learned that you can already share with others right now?

Karin: “The ViA implementation is broad in scope, highly diverse and complex. That makes it labour-intensive for all parties: customer, main contractor and subcontractor. This is why we urge you to start preparing for ViA now, otherwise you are really going to be too late!”

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