18th December Journal Column

By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

It’s that time of year again when everywhere you look there are reviews of the last 12 months and predictions of what we can expect from the year ahead. If I had to summarise what 2015 was like for our industry, I would say two things- amazing, but bloomin’ hard work!

A new year is a natural point in time where we assess how things have gone over the past 12 months and look at what we can do better in the coming year. We’re all so busy these days (which,  of course, is never a bad thing) that we forget to stop and think about the bigger picture- the saying ‘remember to pause- or nothing worthwhile will catch up to you’ has never been so relevant.

In the past 12 months, there have been more highs than lows I’m pleased to say! The industry has progressed in terms of education, employability, and new technology.

We’ve finally joined the 21st century with awareness of BIM and 3D printing being higher than ever across the industry, and it’s a good job too, with the government announcing the BIM Mandate which states that all firms tendering for Government projects must be using Level 2 BIM technology by 2016 – which somehow is almost upon us!

Throughout the year we’ve seen that BIM is high across building services, and although they are aware of BIM and the looming deadline, most firms still have a long way to go in order to meet it. Hopefully these technologies will just be a normal part of the construction process in the next few months (we don’t have much choice really) – and if a technophobe like me can say that, there’s hope for us all!

Wherever you look, there are campaigns to encourage people to consider a career in construction – a huge success this year in my opinion.

This year we’ve supported The Armed Forces Employability Pathway programme which links Army Reserves, Local Authority, Job Centre Plus and local employers to help people into work.

The Journal also launched their ‘Let’s Work Together Campaign’ and the Construction Industry Training Board have launched their Go Construct campaign, both encouraging companies to address the skills gap in the region and working towards filling the 220,000 jobs that are needed in the next few years.

The government are also encouraging people into the industry by increasing the apprentice wage by 57p – the largest increase in history. It’s good to see everyone is doing all they can to encourage more people to look at our industry as a first career choice- hopefully this will only continue as we go into 2016.

There are so many other things that I could mention, but I don’t want to keep you away from your festivities for too long! So, based on that, there’s just one thing left for me to say, from all of us at Constructing Excellence in the North East, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous 2016.

17th December 2015 Newsletter

To view the final newsletter of 2015 full of event information for the new calendar year 2016 please click here.

11th December Journal Column

hh By John Nielsen Director of CK21 and CIC/APS/CENE board member

The North of the country has been a little under the weather this week, literally. On Saturday, the majority of the North East and North West were struck by Storm Desmond which caused mass floods and devastation.
Carlisle in particular has been heavily affected, which was unexpected given that £38m was spent on flood defences in the area following the floods in 2005 which led to three deaths. Here we are 10 years later and the same is happening again, making me question whether the money was actually worth spending.

More than 3,500 properties flooded, 55,000 properties were without power and a number of people were hurt as a result of the flood devastation. Earlier this week, Chancellor George Osborne announced a £50m fund, which will mean families affected will be able to claim and the money will be administered by local authorities – good move!

However, for those affected in the industry, there will be a bit of a longer wait. The current level of damage to infrastructure along with current flood defences are being assessed, and funds will be made available accordingly.
Although the government have stepped up to helping those affected by the floods, they overlooked a document earlier in the year which could have been of some use. Back in March the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the built environment published their ‘Living with water’ report which gave recommendations for developing flood resilience. Let’s hope they revisit the document which is now incredibly relevant.
A good construction project plan will allow for unforeseen weather conditions, let’s face it, in the UK it’s not exactly unforeseen, so we should always have measures in place to minimise the effects.

Rain creates slippery surfaces, both on the ground and on tools and machinery, which sounds like an accident waiting to happen. I’d suggest installing protective sheeting around scaffolding, which will protect the site from wind and rain and allow for work to continue as normal in the safest possible way.

Always ensure you have protective sheets on hand to quickly protect materials. I see machinery and tools left out on sites in the rain uncovered, and it just makes me think of the damage, which could have easily been prevented by a simple polythene sheet. The effects of frost and snow (which is pretty much inevitable in the Winter) can be prevented by using straw-filled matting and polyurethane foam – something good to remember for the next few months given that the Met Office have predicted snow between January and March- hurray!
The power of the weather can create unforeseen problems, cause delays and health and safety risks, but there are measures that can be put into place to reduce the damage caused. So, let’s all plan ahead, schedule time for consequences of weather and have a winter where we concentrate less on project disruption and more on Christmas cheer.

CENE are hosting an event looking at Climate Change and Flooding Management on January 28, for more information contact Leanne McAngus on 0191 500 7880 or email Leanne@cene.org.uk.

10th December 2015 Newsletter

To view this week’s newsletter containing information about the beginning of the 2016 calendar of events please click here.

4th December Journal Column

By Stephen Jones, Business Manager, Elas

I’ve always thought that businesses in the industry focused too much on safety rather than health. There have been big improvements and preventions put in place to reduce the number of construction related injuries, but health issues continue to affect workers. Thankfully, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have finally done something about it!

The HSE have produced specialist guidance in a bid to improve the management of health risks within the industry.
The new guide written by The Construction Industry Advisory Committee (ConIAC) with the help of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) offers practical advice on what health risks mean for the industry as well as offering advice on how to prevent such risks.
Whilst plenty is done to manage safety issues, serious health issues in the past have been ignored. I’m not saying people aren’t making the effort, I just think maybe there’s confusion over occupational health, about how serious risks can be and how they could be prevented.

A recent inspection across construction sites revealed that there was a misunderstanding of what occupational actually meant. During the inspection HSE more than 200 health-related enforcement notices were issued – proving there’s still a lot of work to be done.
Many employers are failing to meet the required levels of health screening for their employees. Regular health screening for Hearing Tests, Lung Function Testing and Hand Arm Vibration testing (HAVS) all being mandatory are being overlooked.

The main health risks relating to construction work range from; cancer to work related stress and asbestos. The Health and Safety Executive estimates that past exposures in the construction sector annually cause over 5,000 occupational cancer cases and 3,700 deaths.
When shocking figures are showing that workers are at least 100 times more likely to die from a disease that was made worse or caused by work, something must be done.

Those working in the construction industry make up only five per cent of UK workers; however they make up 27 per cent of work related fatality cases and 10 per cent of major injuries in the workplace, something must be done to change this figure – which is what I’m hoping the new guide can help with.

The guide raises awareness of occupational health and provides information about where firms can get help and assistance.
If the advice is followed, it could help to lower occupational ill-health rates and change the perception of careers in construction, to an industry that is safe and more attractive.

The guidance is there to be followed, and make working life easier and safer, so I urge all companies to take full advantage of it, use all the resources that are available to you and let’s make 2016 the industries safest year yet!

For more information on your legal obligations for occupational health and what you need to do you can contact Stephen Jones on 07747 626 139 or email Stephen.jones@elas.uk.com.

3rd December 2015 Newsletter

To view this week’s newsletter which highlights upcoming events and information about the CENE and G4C 2016 Awards please click here.