Why spreadsheets are behind non-compliance problems in the construction industry

spreadsheets behind non compliance problems

The construction industry is behind only agriculture when it comes to technology adoption according to the 2016 KMPG Construction Technology Report, so it’s not surprising that 69% of UK construction businesses admit they are behind the curve when it comes to embracing new technology. Instead of implementing new systems, many construction companies are trapped in a manual routine of creating and using spreadsheets to manage site health and safety, which is causing a number of non-compliance problems that can be easily avoided. Not only this, spreadsheets contribute to a loss in productivity because of these issues.

Despite this, many construction companies still use spreadsheets.


Why are spreadsheets used in the construction sector?

Spreadsheets are the default tool in the construction sector, used for everything from managing on-site costs and progress, to keeping track of tools and equipment. Most people are familiar with this kind of software, so in theory anyone can use it and most notably, they are free to use.

Many construction companies are complacent with spreadsheet use because of its convenience. Because they have been using them for so long, it can be difficult to comprehend that they can improve by implementing an entirely new system.

This may be because they aren’t aware of any alternative systems, or because of understandable concerns with new systems, such as the cost of implementation - it can seem a waste of time, money and resources on something that can otherwise be used easily, for free.

Because of this, many construction businesses see no reason to change their current asset management systems, however, many aren’t aware of the issues that an outdated system can cause.


Why do spreadsheets cause non-compliance issues for construction companies?

According to the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, where a machine or tool has a log, it must be kept up to date and maintained to an acceptable standard.

As a business grows, so does the size of its spreadsheets. Whilst smaller sheets are fairly easy to manage, the larger they grow the more room there is for confusion and error. Because spreadsheets rely on data input, there is considerable scope for human error in particular, with 55% of spreadsheet users rarely catching errors in spreadsheets they use. 

These mistakes can often lead to inaccurate reports and audits that could leave a company liable for any incidents that occur due to poor upkeep of their spreadsheet. Almost 90% of large spreadsheets contain errors, meaning that there is an increased risk that incorrect or outdated information could be used. Not only is this inefficient, it is unsafe.

A spreadsheet is able to store information such as tool certification dates, however it cannot alert you to when these tools need renewing. On top of this, it cannot store a data log, so once new data is entered, it overwrites any previous information and all historical data disappears, meaning that companies aren’t able to check or provide logs of this data in lawsuits or investigations.

This can lead to a number of issues such as: fines (due to tools that aren’t certified), employee accidents, and lost or stolen equipment that hasn’t been properly recorded. Without an automated system that is fully trackable, your company becomes fully liable for any accidents or incidents that you haven’t recorded to an acceptable standard. This can be extremely costly, particularly when a lack of traceable data puts your company in violation of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. 


What are the consequences of tools being non-compliant?

The consequences of non-compliant tools fall into these categories:


  1. Accident and Injury

    Accidents happen - they always will. However, with non-compliant tools you directly heighten the chances of them happening. This can be easily avoided when tools are properly maintained and kept track of. Hand-arm vibration and Dust inhalation are among the most common long-term injuries on construction sites and your company must be actively attempting to combat them. You can do this by ensuring your tools are compliant.

  1. Cost

    Non-compliant tools are expensive. If a tool malfunctions and causes issues and it hasn’t received proper checks, you would be found liable, and the accident would be considered to be your fault. When accidents do occur, these are also expensive: finding replacement personnel, paying legal fees and ensuring the injured worker has sick pay are just a few examples of this. 

  1. Reputation

    Non-compliant tools that lead to accidents can be damaging to your company’s reputation, as it suggests a lack of care for employee wellbeing. Not only this, but a lack of properly maintained, certified and trackable tools can lead to a site shut down of the construction site due to unsafe practices - which is detrimental for any construction business.


The construction industry is lagging behind when it comes to embracing technology, which leads to numerous issues that can be prevented. Spreadsheets have their uses, but they are becoming obsolete. By implementing an asset management system that is completely self-sufficient, your company will be able to prevent costly mistakes, accidents and loss or theft of equipment, whilst modernising itself in an industry that risks being left behind.

To ensure safety, it's essential to stay as productive as possible, so that's why we've created a free guide on how to increase productivity onsite.