Managing health and safety with technology and using it right

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

This week we’ve had some of the nicest weather of the year, with the sun finally showing its face. While the weather puts us all in a good mood, I can’t help but immediately think of outdoor workers, working under the sun, and whether they’re managing health and safety correctly.

The use of technology can improve the level of health and safety within the industry, I keep saying there’s no need to fear technology, and it’s true. Digital technology, at the level it is now, can make the industry more productive, cost effective and the big one for me, safer.

A study measured UV exposure among workers across 9 sites and found that many were irresponsibly putting their health at risk because of a desire for sunlight and a tan. The aim of the research was to investigate whether short messages delivered to worker’s smartphones, as well as appropriate organisational support, could prompt them to change their behaviour. The messages, delivered in the summer, encouraged workers to seek shade and use sunblock to avoid sun damage, but they had little or no effect on workers behaviour. Every year there are more than 3,000 cases of skin cancer caused by outdoor work in construction and other industries, and by the sound of it, we can all be doing more to prevent this.

I don’t think that technology is to fault here, we have so much out there to improve health and safety, it’s just a case of workers taking advantage of that. With something like the sun, we all know how dangerous it can be and workers know what they should and shouldn’t be doing. It’s important to just pay attention to how you’re feeling in the heat. If you don’t feel right, hydrate and have a rest in the shade. Maybe this is another example of site culture which needs to change.

We’ve got wearable technology that can detect drowsiness, changes in blood flow, signs of stress and a change in posture so the ability to know your body is struggling before it’s too late and to raise an alarm at the touch of a button has the potential to change the industry going forward. Virtual reality reduces accidents on site by creating simulations of real workplaces and hazards, allowing workers to be more aware of dangerous situations. Drones inspect a job from above or in places where it is dangerous for a human to go, allowing the technology to spot potential hazards and monitor ongoing activity. Is this not just another example of technology working for us.

I’m so proud of the way the industry has (finally) accepted technology and just run with it. We live in a world where gadgets and technology make our lives easier daily and we’re lucky enough to have it available to us in most areas of the industry, so we’d be pretty foolish not to use it, especially where health and safety is concerned.

For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email catriona@cene.org.uk.

BREEAM Pre-Approval process – cutting time and cost.

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

The Building Research Establishment (BRE) has introduced a pre-approval process for its Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) sustainability certification scheme. The new process enables more than one project of a general specification to be evaluated by BRE Global together, helping clients to achieve the sustainability goals in a more time and cost-effective way.

BREEAM is an international scheme that provides independent third-party certification of the assessment of the sustainability performance of individual buildings, communities and infrastructure projects. Assessment and certification can take place at a number of stages in the built environment life cycle, from design and construction through to operation and refurbishment. A qualified and licensed BREEAM Assessor ensures that it meets the quality and performance standards of the scheme. At the heart of this process are certification bodies – organisations with government approval to certificate products, systems and services.

Assessments carried out in accordance with BREEAM schemes rely on evidence to demonstrate compliance with the relevant requirements. This evidence usually relates to a specific development, but some clients do use a standard specification across multiple builds, which is why the Pre-Approval process has been introduced. The Pre-Approval process shows that BRE Global are both listening to and acting upon the market’s requirements and finding time and cost savings for clients and assessors, whilst maintaining the integrity of the world’s leading sustainability assessment and certification method for buildings.

A number of clients have been involved in a pilot scheme over the last year to evaluate the Pre-Approval process. Their detailed input about their building types, and how they have embedded BREEAM requirements into the design was invaluable in understanding the breadth of differences between general specifications of various building types, and understanding what clients needed from the process to maximise the potential benefits.

Lidl Sverige KB were one of those who contributed to the pilot scheme. They said the scheme facilitated and streamlined their work in projects and gave them the opportunity to manage several similar projects in parallel in a smooth way. The Pre-Approval process is perfect for the project team who can now spend more time on carrying out pre-studies and analysis to find the most suitable and efficient system solutions for the concept store, rather than spending a lot of time on assessor BREEAM report writing at design stage.

I think this is the perfect example of what we can do going forward, in any aspect of the industry. We’re always looking for time and cost-efficient methods of doing things and pilot schemes provide the perfect opportunity to test ideas and receive honest feedback and when they are successful it’s even better.

For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email catriona@cene.org.uk

Is adjudication incompatible with insolvency?

By Neil Harrold, Partner, Head of Restructuring and Insolvency, Hay & Kilner and Rebecca Weir, Solicitor, Construction Team, Hay & Kilner

The introduction in the 1990s of adjudication as a quick and effective means of resolving disputes in construction contracts has had a transformative effect.

At the same time, construction companies are no strangers to insolvency processes. But does the ability to adjudicate disputes prevent one of the parties entering into administration, liquidation or bankruptcy?

Earlier this year the Court of Appeal heard two cases which concerned the ability of a company to refer a dispute to adjudication whilst insolvent, although in one the form of insolvency concerned was liquidation, while the other concerned a company in a company voluntary arrangement (CVA).

It’s important to understand the difference between a company that is in liquidation and one which has an approved CVA in place. Whilst liquidation pretty much means the end for a company, a CVA is a procedure under which a company can escape either administration or liquidation by entering into a legally binding arrangement with its creditors.

In the first case, the judge had the issue of deciding what the Insolvency Rules meant for the contractor’s right to adjudicate.

Under both the Construction Act 1996 and the Scheme for Construction Contracts 1998, a party can commence an adjudication “at any time”. It was held that a company in liquidation cannot refer a dispute to adjudication when one party is in liquidation because the dispute is no longer a construction contract dispute.

Accordingly, the judge granted an injunction to restrain the adjudication – and it got everyone talking.

On appeal, the judge held that while the underlying claim was not extinguished upon liquidation with the consequence that, as a matter of jurisdiction, it continued to exist and was capable of being referred to adjudication. He concluded that adjudicators do have jurisdiction to hear disputes referred by insolvent companies. In doing so, he overturned the original reasoning. The judge confirmed however that adjudication would be a futile exercise and the court would ordinarily grant an injunction stopping the adjudication.

In contrast, in the appeal in the second case, the judge granted summary judgement and refused a stay of execution to an insolvent contractor in a CVA.

In other words, a company in a CVA might still be able to refer matters to adjudication. The judge said an adjudication is likely to be a practical benefit under a CVA.

Unlike an insolvent liquidation where the purpose is to secure the interest of creditors and limit damage, the goal of a CVA is to ensure cash flow and help a company recover.

For further information, visit www.hay-kilner.co.uk or call 0191 232 8345.

Building After Brexit – what can the industry be doing now?

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

With the EU exit deadline looming at the end of this month, the industry has devised an emergency plan to help prepare for whatever is to come.

‘Building After Brexit: An Action Plan for Industry’ identifies the need for construction to adopt a twin-track strategy: develop a home-grown workforce to reduce reliance on immigrant labour; and keep lobbying government for construction industry exemptions.

Recommendations include:

  • Attract talent by raising apprenticeship starts and completions, creating pathways into construction for under-represented groups including women, those with disabilities, those from an ethnic minority group and the LGBT community as well as providing better work experience opportunities.
  • Retain the workforce by supporting older workers to stay in the industry, upskilling the existing workforce and offering more support to tackle major issues affecting the industry, such as mental health.
  • Be productive by developing a Future Skills Strategy to identify the skills required to modernise the industry, drive digitalisation forward and boost investment in modern methods of construction.

The recommendations are what we already know we need to do, it’s just a case of seeing it through. The single biggest issue has been the same for a number of years now, the skills shortage. If we’re going to address the skills gap post-Brexit, the industry needs to step up and expand their training initiatives. We must simply do more to attract new talent, get better at retaining and upskilling the current workforce and embrace digital skills to be more productive.

The plan has been put together by the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA), the Construction Products Association, the Federation of Master Builders, the Home Builders Federation and the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), under the leadership of the Construction Leadership Council.

The latest forecast has revealed over 168,000 new jobs will be created over the next five years and with a likely post-Brexit reduction to the availability of foreign workers, it’s important that we act now to avoid widening the skills gaps. We need to work together and work with government to target these gaps because we really can’t afford to lose skilled workers. With access to a huge chunk of the workforce potentially about to be lost, we’ve got to work smarter. You really can’t fault the industry for its efforts in driving digitalisation and modern methods of construction, but we need to focus on delivering a Future Skills Strategy; going forward it’s skills we’re going to need.

Hopefully this time next month we’ll know more but one thing’s for sure, the journey towards Brexit certainly hasn’t been an easy one and sadly I don’t think it’s anywhere near over yet.

For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email catriona@cene.org.uk

Blazing a trail – #NAW19

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

As I write this, businesses up and down the country will be preparing to celebrate National Apprenticeship Week (4-8 March) – a week for raising awareness and celebrating apprenticeships and how rewarding they can be.

For such a long time, apprenticeships carried a very unjust stigma as an easy alternative to the academic route. But apprenticeships give young people hands-on experience and the opportunity to gain qualifications whilst learning skills and gaining industry knowledge – a great combination of on- and off-site learning and experience.

Last month, the government launched their ‘Fire It Up’ campaign to promote the benefits of apprenticeships to young people, parents and employers through a series of adverts on national TV and social media, featuring real-life apprentices. I’ve seen the advert and I love the idea behind it. Thousands of businesses are already offering world-class apprenticeship programmes, but we do need more firms to come on board. The aim of this campaign is to make employers aware of the changes to apprenticeship and the benefits to their organisation. The campaigns new website will provide advice and guidance, as well as access to a wide variety of apprenticeships options for all ages and backgrounds. The real-life apprentice stars are of all ages and backgrounds. There’s Sarah, who is retraining as a nursing assistant in her 50s, and then there is 20-year-old Megan who is training to be a building design engineer at construction firm, Troup Bywaters + Anders. The case studies prove just how many doors apprenticeships can open for you, no matter who you are or where you come from.

There are still too many people who are sceptical about apprenticeships and it’s down to all of us to change their minds and make sure they know everything that we have to offer. That’s why I love campaigns and national weeks like this, where the whole industry pulls together to celebrate apprentices and shows the benefits that apprenticeships can offer both employers and young people. 96% of employers with apprentices say they have experienced at least one benefit from taking on apprentices, and most can count at least eight benefits – for me they really do sell themselves.

Next week, National Apprenticeship Week will see industry stakeholders and employers celebrate apprenticeships and their positive impact on organisations across England. This year’s theme ‘Blaze a Trail’ will feature throughout the week to highlight the benefits of apprenticeships to employers, individuals, local communities and the economy. Blazing a trail is exactly what being an apprentice is all about. Last year, was a record-breaking week, with 780 events across the country, over 33,000 people engaging with our 10,000 talks movement and #NAW2018 trending on Twitter ahead of the Oscars – let’s aim for the same, if not better, this year.

For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email catriona@cene.org.uk.