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The following frequently asked questions have been put together to assist those working with the National Quality Mark Scheme. They have been divided between:

  • General Questions about the Scheme
  • Questions about the SQP

If you do not find what you are looking for, please visit the HELP DESK on the CL:AIRE website and raise a help request under NQMS. 

NQMS FAQs - General

The NQMS is a system designed by the industry led Land Forum to raise standards in land contamination management work ensuring that the necessary technical and regulatory standards are met.
The scheme will be trialed in England, but its use will be commended (with suitable modifications regarding applicability of legislation and guidance etc.) to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Yes the scheme is voluntary; however you may find that some regulators and clients start to signpost to the scheme and ask for the NQMS to be followed.
The economic advantages to the developer/client of getting their proposals “right first time” will create the driver to use the scheme. The more projects that use the scheme, the more time will be freed up for Regulator(s) to scrutinise and challenge substandard applications. This in turn creates the incentive for companies to employ the scheme next time.
The principles of the scheme could be expanded to include remediation work carried out under the Environmental Permitting Regime or to cover soil and groundwater monitoring/baseline surveys (as required by Industrial Emissions Directive).
  • The technical standards to which work must be performed will be set with clear reference to compliance with current established guidance. This creates a clear expectation as to the standard of work to be performed.
  • The capability of individuals undertaking the respective diverse tasks within the project will have been checked. This ensures that individuals do not inadvertently undertake responsibilities for which they are not fit to perform.
  • The factual information and interpretations of the data will have been critically assessed and audited using an agreed and defined checklist/audit process. This ensures that any deficiencies can be clearly identified and challenged.
  • The SQP signing off the work is required to make a clear declaration of compliance. This is significant as the signatory is “vouching” for the suitability of the product which has implications for both “professional status” and “professional indemnity insurance”.
  • Liability for any residual environmental problems will always remain legally with the problem holder and in the unlikely event that regulatory intervention is still required all powers of enforcement are retained.

The NQMS scheme focuses on the concept of using capable individuals to provide defined products that may be considered of reasonable quality by following established good practice and requiring a rigorous process of auditing/checking. It then places the responsibility for the adequacy of that product on the SQP. Such products are produced by multi-disciplinary teams.

There are a number of existing or proposed registers of individuals, the purpose of which is to enable the consumer to identify capable people in different fields. The NQMS scheme provides a process to control the quality of the product and an umbrella under which professionals from all these different fields can operate together as part of a team. A person registered for a particular purpose (eg. SiLC, SoBRA risk assessor, CL:AIRE QP or ROGEP) can be regarded as being pre-assessed as being “capable” of performing in a particular field and will be able to thereby readily demonstrate this competence to the SQP.

The new scheme does include a register, but it is about getting people with the right skills to perform specific activities within a defined process. The aim is ensure the adequate management of land contamination issues. The existing registers help in identifying individuals with some (but not necessarily all) of the required skills needed to undertake the land contamination management process. The intention is to draw in and utilise those individuals within the new NQMS scheme as either candidates for SQP or recognised practitioners/reviewers in their own specialist fields.

The SiLC register was set up on behalf of a range of professional bodies/institutions (ICE, RICS, IEMA, CIWEM, Geol Soc, RSC, REHIS, CIEH and AGS) and provides a list of pre-assessed “capable” individuals who would be well placed to fulfil the role of SQPs under the Quality Mark scheme. However the NQMS goes beyond accreditation of an individual and defines specific tasks (auditing and verification) which are necessary to ensure that individual products may be considered of sufficiently good quality. Existing SiLCs would require additional training in order to fulfil the role of SQPs as defined by the scheme administrator. Depending upon the final form of the SoBRA risk assessor scheme, it is envisaged that any proposed register of risk assessors would provide an ideal source of pre-assessed “capable” individuals for undertaking tasks associated with risk assessment under the scheme and that some of those individuals will also be capable of performing the role of SQP. However the NQMS goes well beyond accreditation of an individual in relation to a specific subject area and imposes specific tasks (auditing and verification) which are necessary to ensure that individual products are fit for purpose.

CL:AIRE hold a register of qualified persons for the purpose of implementing the Development industry Definition of Waste Code of Practice. This register is of people who have a knowledge of materials management issues but not necessarily those who undertake land contamination management. However there will undoubtedly be individuals on this register who would be eligible to perform tasks as specialists within the project team or who could fulfil the duties of SQP subject to appropriate examination and training.

The quality mark applies to specific products or reports and more specifically to their conclusions and recommendations. Reports may be desk studies, risk assessments, options appraisals or remediation verification reports. If a later quality marked report relies upon data drawn from earlier non quality marked products then the reliability of that data and its implications for conclusions/recommendations made in the later report will be made absolutely clear.

NQMS FAQs - Suitably Qualified Person

An SQP is an experienced professional in the field of land contamination. The SQP must be capable of assessing whether a document meets the requirements of the scheme. Although the SQP may delegate the peer review process of individual components of the work to other individual specialists, they retain responsibility for ensuring that those individuals are capable to undertake those tasks.

SQPs must be:

  • A Chartered person who has been assessed by a professional body/institution and is bound by the professional code of conduct of that professional body/institution
  • Of sufficient experience in the sector to have a good overview of what is required to effectively assess a site and remediate it to a suitable condition (and thereby meet the requirements for regulatory signoff)
  • Capable of recognising their own limitations and those specialist skills required of others in a multidisciplinary industry
  • Aware of the requirements of the regulatory regimes under which the work is being undertaken.
  • Bound by their professional bodies to undertake continuing professional development (CPD) and to maintain awareness of changing legislation, guidance and standards.

The competency of the SQP is measured in line with the definitions set out in the National Brownfield Skills Framework (NBSF).

As the scheme relies upon the integrity of an individual to operate (and the sanctions associated with their professional institutions) it makes sense for them to hold the authority to apply the Quality Mark. This also avoids the potential difficulties and costs which might be involved in auditing companies.

With professional status comes a commitment to an ethical code of conduct and the ability for a respective professional body to take action against those who behave inappropriately. For any scheme to be trusted by the Regulator(s) there must be a credible threat of sanctions against those who may be tempted to abuse the system.

In stepping back from scrutinising individual projects for regulatory compliance the Regulator(s) should be assured that the work will have been carried out to appropriate standards and that those checking or auditing the products can be trusted.

SiLC has been initially chosen as the organisation to award SQP status as they have an existing scheme with a robust examination system already in place. All existing SiLCs will need to undertake a conversion course to become SQPs (if the wish to operate under the NQMS).
Other organisations can award SQP status however their examination and awarding system would need to be approved by the Land Forum. Currently SiLC is the only organisation that has the approved training & examination process. All candidates applying for SQP status would be required to have the same minimum standards set out by the NQMS.
No. From Autumn 2016, the SiLC training/examinations will meet the SQP standard. Those candidates that are successful for undertaking the examination will be offered to use SQP, SiLC or both. For further information visit www.silc.org.uk

The awarding body (currently SiLC) will inform you that you have been successful and you will be directed to NQMS website and CL:AIRE (the NQMS Administrator) will award you your individual SQP number.

CL:AIRE will provide you instructions on how the Declaration Process will work. Please visit the SQP Declaration Process page.

You must meet the required standards as set out above. Then contact SILC (www.silc.org.uk) as they are able to let you know the examination process and when the next introduction day is available.

The NQMS is designed to be operated within existing quality management systems (often accredited such as ISO140001) which rely upon the concept of peer review/checking and sign-off. It works best if the SQP has an intimate knowledge of both the project in question and the staff undertaking the work. The administering body ensures that there is an external “independent” element that can be relied upon to police the process.

How can an SQP sign off a report and give it the National Quality Mark if it contains historical data collected before the scheme and its quality controls came in to operation?

The quality mark applies to the individual product being prepared (and the team preparing it). The SQP has to consider the reliability of any data collected in vouching for the reasonableness of any conclusions drawn from that data. Any critical uncertainties have to be identified as part of the process.

The form will provide confidence to the regulator that a SQP has reviewed the report and it meets the NQMS standard.
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