Welcome to The Week That Was, a round-up of key events in the construction sector over the last seven days.

Health and Safety Executive undertaking unannounced inspections

Following a labour-force survey in 2020/21, which found that around 40,000 workers were suffering from musculoskeletal disorders (MSD), the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are undertaking 1,000 inspections throughout October and November in order to investigate unsafe lifting operations. HSE's head of construction, Sarah Jardine, has outlined HSE's intention to visit numerous construction sites to see what measures businesses have put in place to protect their workers, on the basis employers have a legal requirement to prevent the ill-health of their workers. Sarah Jardine has said: “Everyone involved in construction has a role to play in keeping people safe. Risks must be managed where they can’t be prevented, and risk-management arrangements must be reviewed frequently to ensure they are effective." Employers will also benefit from safer lifting operations, as a study by Loughborough University in 2019 has shown that MSD costs construction employers £646m per year.

Read more here.

Material sales fall 13%

The Builders Merchant Building Index (BMBI) report has revealed that builders' merchants have sold less goods, with sales in July being down 12.8% year-on-year. The BMBI uses data from GfK’s ground-breaking Builders Merchants Panel (which itself analyses data from over 80% of generalist builders’ merchants’ sales throughout Great Britain). Month-on-month, total merchant sales were also down 2.6% by value in July, compared with June 2022. Mike Rigby, chief executive of MRA Research, which produces these monthly reports, said: “A flat July was probably to be expected by merchants, as the construction sector was hampered by everything from lost working days due to the exceptionally hot weather to the cost of living crisis having a continued impact on consumer spending – particularly in the repair, maintenance and improvement market."

Read more here.

PD 57AD in force from 1 October 2022

Following operation of the Disclosure Pilot Scheme (PD 51U) (the Pilot) in the Business & Property Courts since 1 January 2019, the Pilot will transition into permanent rule PD 57AD from 1 October 2022. In an announcement on 15 July 2022 confirming that the Pilot would become permanent, it was explained that PD 57AD is "substantially in the form of (and replaces) Practice Direction 51U". That being the case, the vast majority, if not all, the caselaw and guidance relating to the Pilot will continue to be relevant to PD 57AD. However, since a number of changes were made to the Pilot when in operation, when considering judgments under the Pilot in the context of PD 57AD, it will be necessary to check whether there have since been changes to the relevant rule.

Amendments to forms following the accession of His Majesty King Charles III

On 20 September 2022, the Ministry of Justice announced approved changes to "all approved forms requiring amendment" following the accession of His Majesty King Charles III, which include the following replacements to references:

"Elizabeth The Second" with "Charles The Third" "Queen" with "King" "Queen's Bench Division" with "King's Bench Division" "QB" with "KB"

The use of the existing Court seal will remain until another seal is prepared and authorised by His Majesty King Charles III. Copies of Accession Council Orders can be found on the Privy Council Office website.

Timber playbook to reassure insurance sector

The UK-based Alliance for Sustainable Building Products has been awarded a €97,000 grant from Built by Nature, a timber building network, and €17,400 by insurance broker Marsh and Zurich Insurance, to tackle the problems of securing insurance for mass timber buildings that currently exist. It aims to do this by creating industry-accepted guidelines for developers and designers, making the process of getting insurance for the construction and the occupation of mass timber buildings easier.

Guidance will include steps on how to engage insurers from the outset to enable timber use without compromising the overall structural integrity of the building. This will be peer reviewed by the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Read more here.

Two-stage procurement

In this blog, we explore two-stage procurement - what it is, why it is used and how it is documented.

We are seeing an increasing use of two-stage procurement in the construction market, particularly on major building projects, for a variety of reasons. Early contractor involvement promotes collaboration among the project team, and the project benefits from having the contractor's expertise from the outset by improving buildability, delivering greater cost certainty and reducing bid qualifications for the stage two tender.

Note: this article was first published in PLC here.