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

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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.

27th November Journal Column

Web-LogoBy Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

Remember a few weeks back when Chancellor George Osborne announced the new apprenticeship levy which was to be paid by ‘every big company’ in England? Well, according to speculation that could be all about to change, and the potential new changes could massively affect small to medium sized businesses.

This week the government suggested that it may cut the definition of ‘larger’ companies from those with 250 plus staff down to as few as 50 employees. This would result in thousands more companies in the industry paying two apprenticeship levies, which when the apprenticeship levy was suggested back in October, companies made it very clear they wouldn’t be willing to do – completely understandable in an industry where margins are tight.

The possible shift in policy was aired at a meeting held last week at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), attended by a number of construction sector organisations.

However, the view from the CBI was that the 50 employee threshold being floated in government circles was nothing more than a “scare tactic” and could well be revised upwards to 100 staff. Scare tactic indeed, it certainly scares me, as a supporter of both SMEs and apprenticeships, who knows how the change could affect apprentices.

So far the only reasonable solution that has been suggested is that the rate at which the new levy is paid would be tiered; meaning smaller firms which cross the new, lower threshold would pay less than the larger companies.

Luckily by Wednesday all speculation stopped, with the Chancellor’s spending review telling us that the new apprenticeship levy will be set at a £15,000 threshold for employers, meaning that the new levy will only be paid on employers’ pay bills of more than £3 million, so essentially larger companies.

According to the Chancellor fewer than two per cent of employers will pay the levy, meaning small and medium sized businesses can breathe a sigh of relief and probably feel a lot better now than they did at the beginning of the week.


The apprenticeship levy is set to be implemented from 2017. It was designed to increase investment in training and forms part of the government’s pledge to support three million apprenticeships by 2020, which according to Mr Osborne it is still on track to do. The levy will raise £3 billion a year and promises that employers paying into it will get out more than they put it.

So for now, we’re a lot more in the know than we were at the beginning of the week, with speculations appearing left right and centre. We now know who will have to pay the levy and how much it will be. For now we’ll have to put our faith in the government that the levy can successfully deliver everything we have been promised.

26th November 2015 Newsletter

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20th November Journal Column

APS Black logo 2015By Phillippa Webb, Associate CK21 and NE Chair of Association of Project Safety (APS)

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) announced last month that there will no longer be a grace period of six months for the Site Safety Plus Scheme. So what does this mean, and what does it mean for the industry?
Well, considering the CITB updated the Site Safety Plus rules following customer feedback, it seems this is something the industry wanted.
The Site Safety Plus Scheme provides the building, civil engineering and allied industries with a range of courses for people wanting to develop their skills in this area.

The courses range from a one-day Health and Safety Awareness course to the five-day Site Management Safety Training Scheme, and everything else in between. There is currently a six month grace period between the expiry date of a certificate and the date needed to attend a refresher course, but come the new year that’s all about to change.

After 31 December 2015, the removal of the grace period means you must attend a refresher course before the end date on your safety certificate. Let’s hope you all have good memories, because failure to attend the refresher before the certificate expires means you are required to attend the full course again, so you must be aware of the expiry date on your certificate.
But don’t fret, Cskills Awards have given us a little time to adjust to this change, but come 1 January no registrations will be made that are beyond the end date of the certificate without formal appeal.

That being said, if your certificate has expired, or you are within six months of expiry, you should attend a refresher course before the end of the year – and considering we’re half way through November that’s not much time at all.
The grace period for the Site Safety Plus scheme has been removed to bring the scheme in line with other Cskills Awards products.
The revised Scheme Rules and associated course appendices are available to download from the Site Safety Plus page on the Cskills Awards website.
For me, the removal of the grace period isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Having a grace period in place plays down the importance of having an up-to-date safety certificate, there is less urgency to attend the refresher course. At least this way we know safety certificates will always be up-to-date, and skills are constantly being refreshed. It can’t do any harm to update and refresh your skills, in fact when it comes to health and safety it will do quite the opposite.

19th November 2015 Newsletter

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13th November Journal Column

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

I’m always supportive of getting young people into the industry and recruiting new staff, so it’s no surprise that I am thrilled with the information published in the recent report by Prospects.

The report shows that for architecture and building graduates, prospects are improving. Graduates from last year have topped the overall results for across the whole country. The employment rates for 2014 graduates were higher than average, with 85.1 per cent in work within six months of leaving university. Considering the overall employment rate for all graduates is only 76.6 per cent, I’d say that’s pretty good going for our industry.
Beating national averages can only mean good things and shows that the industry is going from strength to strength.

Only 5.3 per cent of graduates from 2014 were still unemployed after six months of graduating, and if we compare that to the rate of all graduates, 6.3 per cent, our industry is still coming in way above the rest. Across all subjects we’ve seen massive improvements; back in 2010 the unemployment rate six months after graduation was a lot higher at 10.9 per cent. Opportunities are increasing for graduates and in particular our graduates, which I love to see.

The report, published by Prospects, revealed the difference in employment outcomes among all graduates, showing which degrees are more likely to lead to a career in that particular area of study. Out of the top five, three were degrees relating to the industry; civil engineering, mechanical engineering and architecture and building; with them all having the highest rates out of the 24 that featured.

The Local Government Association (LGA) had previously announced that in the last five years the number of completed construction apprenticeships fell by 58 per cent, so it’s good to know students are still coming into the industry through other means. The LGA also reported earlier in the year that the numbers of students studying the subjects which relate to the industry are mainly boys, which wasn’t good news for an advocate of women in the industry like me. However, things finally seem to be changing, the Prospects report shows that across architectural related subjects almost 40 per cent of graduates were women – which is good enough for me.

As I have said many times before in this column, I am 100 per cent behind supporting new recruits, particularly students and young people, as I believe that the young people of today hold the future of our industry in their hands and we should therefore do all that we can to encourage them into the industry and show them exactly what construction can offer.

12th November 2015 Newsletter

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