When did you begin your work in the scaffolding industry?
When I was 17, I left school and began work as a Scaffold Labourer in Chatham, Kent. I was part of a three-man operation and the work was dangerous and very dirty and there was nothing fancy like Wako Kwikform you get today. We would arrive early at the Yard to load up the lorry, before heading out for a full day’s work. I continued working as a scaffolder for many years.
Soon I found an opportunity to further my career with a position as Advanced Scaffold Inspector with TRAD. Soon after, I was promoted to SHEQ Officer. Today, I hold the position of the Group Safety, Health, Environment and Quality Manager and part of the SHEQ division.
Has Scaffolding changed much, since you started?
I began working in the scaffold industry at a time where safety regulations and culture were very lax and there was very little training involved. I know some scaffolders liked it this way and viewed accidents as an “occupational hazard”. But all this has changed thanks to the efforts of the NASC, forward-thinking companies like our own as well as responsible clients.
The scaffolders in operation today are highly trained professionals. I am very impressed with the level of professionalism on the part of our scaffolders. Their caution and skills allow them to perform their work with little chances of accidents.
Do you have any thoughts on the injury at work statistics?
Since the NASC introduced Safety Guidance in 2000 for decreased risks at height SG4, the number of falls from heights has been greatly decreased. There has actually been an 80% reduction in falling accidents over the past 18 years. According to the statistics in the NASC 2018 Safety Report, there was a 46% reduction in falls from heights (FFH) just last year alone.
Before this time, FFH was a far more common occurrence. Most of my colleagues and myself know people who have fallen from great heights and been seriously injured or even died while scaffolding. Nevertheless, NASC reports ZERO fatalities 5 years running and I believe this is a very impressive figure. We should not get complacent however, this is an area that must be constantly improved.
What do you feel are the main benefits of being an NASC Member?
There are some important advantages to being a NASC member and there are equally as many for clients to choose NASC contractors for their projects. Some of these benefits include funding for training, access to helpful advice on tax and employment affairs as well as accreditations for SSIP and many other things.
You can also rest assured that the scaffolders brought in to work at your site will be trained with high-standards of training. Over half carry blue or gold cards and have a minimum of 75% PAYE. These skilled labourers are audited regularly and certifiably competent and safe.
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the scaffolding industry?
I think scaffolding will become a more specialised trade as time goes by. This means that the industry as a whole will have to make itself more attractive to young people with drive and vision to go far in their career as master scaffolders. The potential is always high, but the industry has to do its part and get out there. We have a great mentoring system at TRAD and employ many apprenticeships as well.
Do you feel your previous experience has helped as a safety professional?
No doubt about it! My career from a scaffolder to the position I have today has provided me with the knowledge and experience I rely on today. Each task I have performed comes into play now. I have come to have a great respect for quality work and first-rate diligence. This is how I know what it takes to ensure good quality.