This July, ECA and CHAS teamed up to provide 'eRAMS' to the contractor and maintenance marketplace. eRAMS is a very practical web-based system for producing concise risk assessments (RAs), method statements (MSs) and construction phase plans (CPPs). For the last two years, it has been available free to ECA members, and member experience and feedback has been essential in helping us to bring the product to market, via CHAS, our commercial partner.
Now eRAMS is on the market, I'd like to share how it was started. Four years ago a highly motivated group of London-based M&E contractors invited me to discuss the health and safety issues of the day, over a coffee. High on their list was the paperwork anarchy that went under the name of 'method statements'. One contractor showed me a 39-page MS, and all of them could point to some sort of ‘arms race’, where clients and majors asked for more and more information, all in the name of health and safety, and most of it working against health and safety.
I came away from the meeting undertaking to achieve wider understanding of what a 'good enough' MS should look like, and notably because - unlike risk assessments - we couldn’t find a simple template from the HSE. The second undertaking was to see if we could get typical, good quality, task-based method statements under four pages.
The first stop, as with the parallel work we were doing to help rationalise health and safety pre-qualification questions, was to gather a wide range of MSs, and ‘boil them down’ for the common headings. Industry colleague John Carpenter and I then wrote a piece entitled ‘Method statements: less is more’ in Health & Safety at Work magazine (November 2013). There was significant and ongoing reader interest in that article, and notably ECA’s offer to share a draft method statement template with readers. In fact, over three years later, we still get requests for the template from HSW subscribers.
Based on the encouraging feedback from that article, and further discussions with industry players, the ECA made further refinements to the template and issued a Word version to members. The response could be summed up as "this is good – where's the e-version?". We realised that if we were going to go electronic, we’d also need to back-engineer an e-risk assessment (RA) template that would help to populate the method statement. With the arrival of a new risk assessment template, after nearly a year of member field testing and internal software development, our combined RAs and MSs were typically running out at around four to six pages. This was easily in line with the original request to get the pagination of good quality RAMS under control.
As a result, we launched ‘eRAMS’ to ECA members in 2015 and it is already, and increasingly, being used by hundreds of members (for free) as part of the ECA‘s health and safety support service.
The lesson for me from all this has been, don't just talk to your customers, take every opportunity you can to talk to your customers. In this case, contact with a group of forward-looking M&E contractors back in 2013 revealed what the industry really needed in this area, and it helped us to embark on a four-year journey to not only develop a practical solution, but make it commercially available to the wider marketplace.
In the last three months, we have added a CPP template to eRAMS, and customers can now find out if we have hit the nail on the head when it comes to site-based RAMS for small to medium-sized businesses. I've yet to see an eRAMS print-out that runs to 39 pages, so it could be we are on the right track...we trust customers will agree, and we very much welcome customer feedback on what is the new contractor RAMS product on the block.
eRAMS is free to ECA members, and is commercially available to other contracting businesses via CHAS. To find out more, please visit: https://www.chas.couk/our-services/membership-services