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President’s Column: September 2018

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While BCSA steelwork contractors are required to have a fabrication facility in the UK or Ireland that meets stringent quality standards and undergo a competence assessment relating to the company’s work facilities, track record and technical and management experience, there are still some companies out there without the skills, experience and financial standing to be taking on structural steelwork projects.

Who are these companies? On paper, they might look like legitimate steelwork fabricators. Some have ISO 9001, CE Marking certification and have undergone well-known prequalification assessments. But incredibly, they don’t have a fabrication facility at all. These ‘desk and stool’ companies take on steelwork projects as if they’re an actual steelwork contractor that undertakes fabrication, and then they re-subcontract the whole lot out. Every last piece.
BCSA has even heard of examples where ‘desk and stool’ companies have passed off their subcontractors’ workshops as their own.

What’s wrong with this?

  • First, their certifications are not for steelwork fabrication. They are for their office and paperwork processes because that’s all that’s available to be assessed on.
  • Their knowledge and understanding of structural steelwork will be far more limited than someone who manages a steelwork fabrication facility day-in day-out.
  • They won’t have the wide range of experienced, permanent staff that a qualified steelwork contractor employs directly.
  • They won’t be keeping up with key technical issues or changes in regulations and standards, which means they may not be compliant.
  • They may not be undertaking rigorous design checks on every project to ensure that the structural steelwork is safe at all times.
  • They won’t be in direct control of health and safety in the factory, as the factory is not theirs.
  • And lastly, they will not have the financial standing to provide cash flow or manage project delays which could put the contract and overall project at risk.

For these reasons, BCSA has always excluded this kind of company from membership because it’s impossible to review the fabrication processes, personnel and quality.

BCSA does understand that subcontracting some steelwork out can be good business practice for legitimate steelwork contractors. But these steelwork contractors manage their subcontractors tightly, holding them to their own high standards and mainly using fellow BCSA members to undertake the subcontract work.

So what should clients and main contractors do to reduce this risk:

  • Always use a BCSA member company. Go to
  • Ask specifically whether they have their own fabrication facility and check its ownership.
  • Ask whether they have a welding certificate for CE Marking – they can only hold one if they have their own factory.

Another reason to always use a BCSA member.

Tim Outteridge
BCSA President & Sales Director Cleveland Bridge

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