Contractors will be forced to comply with tough new health and safety targets or face being axed from the tender lists of leading clients.
The targets are to be set by the Retail Construction Benchmarking Forum, a client body that includes Asda, Dixons, Nationwide, Arcadia, WH Smith, Somerfield, B&Q, Safeway, Consignia and J Sainsbury.

The forum will assess the competence of contractors by examining their compliance with Construction (Design and Management) Regulations and general health and safety conduct.

Mike Abel, Asda's construction manager, said the form the audits would take was to be decided by the forum's health and safety subcommittee, which is to be chaired and organised by Sainsbury's in the next few months.

This group will look at what safety procedures the clients have in place, before establishing common targets for all members of the forum.

If the contractors fail to meet the targets then they may not be our construction partners

Mike Abel, Asda construction manager

Abel said Asda had a number of safety targets for its contractor partners that could be used as a template. He said: "At Asda, we already have a number of targets that contractors have to comply with when working with us. If the contractors consistently fail to meet the targets, they may not continue to be our construction partners."

Abel stressed that the clients' emphasis would be to offer leadership and work with contractors to help meet targets.