What Is The National Highways Sector Scheme 18 

National Highway Sector Scheme 18 (NHSS18) is a bespoke integrated quality management system for landscaping and the environment, including ecology. It is mandatory for all contractors working for Highways England and other infrastructure providers. The scheme aims to promote sustainable longevity, reduce maintenance on trunk roads and highways, and enhance road safety for the public. Here are some key points about NHSS18:

Purpose and scope:

NHSS18 focuses on landscaping, ecological considerations, and environmental sustainability.
It ensures that work related to landscaping and the environment is carried out to the highest standards of professionalism.
Contractors must comply with NHSS18 requirements when working on projects related to highways and road networks.

Principles of NHSS 18:

Environmental Sustainability: NHSS18 promotes sustainable practices to minimise the impact on the environment.
Health and Safety: It enhances safety for roadside workers.
Road Safety: NHSS18 contributes to road safety by maintaining roadside verges and shoulders effectively.


Certification for NHSS18 is carried out by accredited certification bodies.
These bodies assess compliance with the scheme’s requirements.
Accredited certification can be found on the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) website1.
Remember that NHSS18 is just one of several National Highway Sector Schemes (NHSSs), each tailored to specific aspects of highway work. These schemes ensure that work is carried out to the highest standards, using properly trained and competent staff1. If you’re involved in highway projects, NHSS certification is essential!

How can contractors get certified under NHSS 18?

Contractors seeking certification under National Highway Sector Scheme 18 (NHSS18) must follow specific steps to achieve compliance. Here’s a concise guide on the process:

Download Scheme Documents:
Begin by downloading the Sector Scheme Documents (SSDs) for each scheme you wish to be registered for. These documents outline the minimum requirements you need to satisfy before certification.
You can find the current scheme documents on the Schedule of Suppliers website.
Contact an Accredited Certification Body:
Next, reach out to a relevant NHSS-accredited certification body. These bodies are accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) to provide certification for individual NHSSs.
Arrange a preliminary audit check with the certification body, followed by an assessment visit.
You can obtain a list of certifying bodies from the UKAS website.
Compliance and Certification:
During the assessment visit, the certification body will evaluate your organisation’s compliance with NHSS18 requirements.
Once all criteria are met, your organisation will receive NHSS certification.

Are there any ongoing requirements after certification?

 After achieving National Highway Sector Scheme 18 (NHSS18) certification, contractors must adhere to ongoing requirements to maintain compliance. Here are the key points:

Annual Surveillance Audits:
Certification bodies conduct annual surveillance audits to ensure continued compliance with NHSS18.
During these audits, your organization’s processes, procedures, and practices related to landscaping, ecology, and environmental sustainability will be assessed.
Address any non-conformities identified during the audit promptly.
Document Control and Updates:
Keep your Sector Scheme Documents (SSDs) up-to-date.
Regularly review and revise your documented procedures to reflect any changes in legislation, best practices, or company policies.
Training and Competence:
Maintain the competence of your staff involved in landscaping and environmental work.
Provide ongoing training to ensure they stay informed about the latest practices and safety measures.
Environmental Monitoring and Reporting:
Continuously monitor the environmental impact of your activities.
Report any incidents, accidents, or environmental concerns promptly.
Communication and Collaboration:
Engage with relevant stakeholders, including clients, subcontractors, and regulatory bodies.
Collaborate on environmental initiatives and share best practices.

What are the consequences of non-compliance with NHSS18?

Non-compliance with National Highway Sector Scheme 18 (NHSS18) can have significant consequences for contractors working on highway projects. Here are some potential outcomes:

Contractual Penalties:
Contractors failing to meet NHSS18 requirements may face contractual penalties.
These penalties can include financial deductions, delays in project completion, or even termination of the contract.
Reputational Damage:
Non-compliance reflects poorly on a contractor’s reputation.
Negative publicity can impact future business opportunities and client trust.
Legal Consequences:
Regulatory bodies may take legal action against non-compliant contractors.
Fines, legal proceedings, or other enforcement actions can result.
Safety Risks:
Non-compliance compromises safety for workers, road users, and the environment.
Poorly executed landscaping or ecological work can lead to accidents or environmental harm.
Loss of Certification:
If a certified contractor consistently fails to comply with NHSS18, their certification may be revoked.
Losing certification affects eligibility for future projects.
Project Delays and Costs:
Non-compliance can lead to project delays due to corrective actions.
Rectifying issues incurs additional costs.

How can contractors proactively prevent non-compliance?

To proactively prevent non-compliance with National Highway Sector Scheme 18 (NHSS18), contractors can take several measures. Here are some practical steps:

Robust Training and Awareness:
Ensure that all staff involved in landscaping, ecology, and environmental work receive thorough training on NHSS18 requirements.
Regularly update their knowledge to stay informed about any changes or updates.
Document Control and Review:
Maintain accurate records of procedures, processes, and practices related to NHSS18.
Regularly review and update your Sector Scheme Documents (SSDs) to reflect the latest standards and best practices.
Risk Assessment and Mitigation:
Conduct risk assessments specific to landscaping and environmental work.
Identify potential non-compliance risks and develop mitigation strategies.
Internal Audits:
Conduct internal audits periodically to assess compliance.
Address any non-conformities promptly and implement corrective actions.
Collaboration with Stakeholders:
Engage with clients, subcontractors, and regulatory bodies.
Collaborate on environmental initiatives and share insights.
Continuous Improvement:
Foster a culture of continuous improvement.
Encourage feedback from staff and stakeholders to identify areas for enhancement.

What are some best practices for ecological monitoring during projects?

 When it comes to ecological monitoring during projects, following best practices ensures effective environmental management. Here are some key guidelines:

Baseline Assessment:
Conduct a thorough baseline assessment before project commencement.
Document existing ecological conditions, including flora, fauna, and habitats.
This assessment serves as a reference point for monitoring changes.
Clear Objectives:
Define specific ecological monitoring objectives.
Are you assessing biodiversity, water quality, soil health, or specific species? Be clear about your goals.
Regular Sampling:
Regularly collect data through field sampling.
Use appropriate methods for vegetation surveys, wildlife observations, and water quality measurements.
Standardised Protocols:
Follow standardised protocols for data collection.
Consistency ensures reliable results over time.
Data Management:
Organise and manage data efficiently.
Use digital tools for data storage, analysis, and reporting.
Species-Specific Monitoring:
Focus on key indicator species.
Monitor their abundance, distribution, and health.
Habitat Assessment:
Assess habitat quality and connectivity.
Consider factors like fragmentation, invasive species, and habitat loss.
Seasonal Variability:
Account for seasonal variations.
Different species and ecological processes may vary throughout the year.
Stakeholder Engagement:
Involve local communities and experts.
Their knowledge can enhance monitoring efforts.
Adaptive Management:
Continuously evaluate monitoring results.
Adjust management practices based on findings.

What Happens After You Have Achieved NHSS Certification

If you pass the assessment, you’ll be formally notified by the certification body and should receive a certificate, although this varies from body to body. Some will provide individual certificates for each sector scheme, while others may issue certificates that include details of NHSS assessments among other capabilities you may have been assessed on. The scope of your NHSS certificate will be agreed between you and the certification body but will align with the scopes included in Appendix K of the SSD.

Follow – Up Audits

The certification body will conduct surveillance visits at regular intervals – usually once every 12 months – to make sure that your systems continue to meet the standards needed for certification. You’ll also need to pass a re-certification audit every three years.

Development Of New NHSSs

Where a need arises, new NHSSs can be created. This can come from a variety of sources, such as legislation, a change in standards, or client and/or industry requirements.

When such a proposal arises, the proposed NHSS is discussed by the NHSS Liaison Committee, who discuss the commercial and practical viability of the proposed new scheme. If deemed viable, a Technical Advisory Committee for the scheme is formed.

Construction-related competency cards
You must ensure that each of your employees working on projects covered by an NHSS has an appropriately detailed skills card. This provides evidence that the person has all the required skills and training they need for the types of work they carry out on site. The cards should include the CSCS logo or mark (as appropriate) to be valid as meeting the requirements of the Construction Leadership Council.

Additional requirements may be required by the main contractor, for example, supervisor qualifications or the Highways Passport.

The Highways Passport will indicate that you’ve passed the highways common induction test and may also act as a permit to work on the national strategic road network. It may also record the qualifications you hold; however, it’s not recognised as a substitute for a CSCS card.

See the relevant Sector Scheme Documents and the guide on skills card and registration requirements.

What Are the Benefits of NHSS 18?

National Highway Sector Scheme 18 (NHSS18) offers several benefits for contractors working on highway projects. Let’s explore these advantages:

Sustainable Longevity and Reduced Maintenance:
NHSS18 promotes sustainable practices, leading to longer-lasting infrastructure.
Reduced maintenance requirements on trunk roads and highways save costs and resources.
Environmental Sustainability:
Contractors following NHSS18 contribute to environmental protection.
Sustainable landscaping practices enhance biodiversity and ecosystem health.
Health and Safety for Roadside Workers:
NHSS18 emphasises safety protocols for workers on embankments and verges.
Proper training and accreditation ensure safer working conditions.
Enhanced Road Safety for the Public:
Well-maintained roadside verges and shoulders improve road safety.
NHSS18 helps prevent accidents and hazards for drivers and pedestrians.
Defined and Measurable Standard:
NHSS18 provides a clear benchmark for quality and professionalism.
Contractors can assess and demonstrate compliance through accreditation.
Contractual Obligation:
Since August 4, 2008, NHSS18 is an integral part of the Manual of Contract Documents for Highway Works (MCHW).
Contractors working for the Highways Agency must comply with NHSS18.
Training and Accreditation:
Personnel involved in landscaping and roadside work receive training.
ISO 9001-compliant companies find it easier to transfer skills to NHSS18.
Customization for Smaller Contractors:
Smaller landscape contractors have a slightly less demanding component of NHSS18.
The British Association of Landscape Industries (BALI) administers this aspect.
Recommendation for Local Authorities:
Although not legally obligated, Local Authorities are encouraged to comply with NHSS18.
Representatives from LAs participate in the NHSS 18 committee.

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