Fallon folds

Midlands demolition firm appoints administrators.

In another sad turn of events for the UK demolition industry, DemolitionNews has learned that Redditch-based S Fallon and Sons (Contractors) – which trades as Fallon Group – has appointed administrators.

Full details of the company’s premature demise are not yet available; but DemolitionNews has been told that the appointed administrators – KJ Watkin & Co – issued redundancy notices to the company’s remaining staff almost a week ago. A meeting on the proposed liquidation of the company is scheduled for 11 November. DemolitionNews approached S Fallon and Sons but no-one was available to comment.

According to the company’s website, S Fallon and Sons could trace its history back some 40 years. During that time, the company has demolished single storey structures, high-rise buildings, warehouses, factories, petrol stations, residential properties, supermarkets and petrochemical plants.

The company’s collapse marks a sad day for the founders and directors. But the news is saddest of all for the S Fallon and Sons staff who now face an uncertain future amidst these challenging times and in the run-up to Christmas.

If any of those staff are reading this and we can help in any way, please contact manthony@markanthonypublicity.co.uk.

Working for the Greater Good

DemolitionNews forges alliance with UK Demolition Jobs to help industry.

The world’s largest news portal for the global demolition industry is joining forces with the UK’s leading demolition recruitment website to help demolition workers find work and to help demolition companies find suitable workers in these difficult times.

The alliance is a continuation of DemolitionNews’ initiative to help newly and long-term unemployed workers back into gainful employment within the industry; and it plays to the strengths of both partner companies. Demolition workers seeking work via DemolitionNews.com will be matched against the UK Demolition Jobs database of positions vacant. Any demolition companies seeking workers through DemolitionNews.com will be directed to UK Demolition Jobs. Furthermore, those vacant positions will also be featured on DemolitionNews.com.

“DemolitionNews has the biggest audience and the biggest reach in the industry while UK Demolition Jobs has the infrastructure to marry vacant positions with willing workers,” explains DemolitionNews founder, Mark Anthony. “Importantly, the new alliance is entirely altruistic. Through no fault of its own, the UK demolition sector finds itself facing a huge amount of uncertainty and that uncertainty is likely to lead to demolition men and women seeking alternative employment. Rather than trying to exploit that situation for financial gain, our new alliance will simply draw upon the existing strengths of both companies, providing demolition workers with ready access to available work while providing demolition contractors with a cost-effective means by which to advertise their vacant positions.”

Continuing that altruistic theme, Anthony says that no money will change hands under this new alliance. “Now, perhaps more than ever, this should not be about money,” he says. “There are many demolition men and women out there that are facing an uncertain future in the run-up to Christmas. If this alliance can help just one of them find a suitable role, then that will be reward in itself.”

Comment – Walking Away…

Regardless of industry or chosen profession, it is not unusual to hear entrepreneurs and company founders describe their company as their baby; and for good reason.

A new company is often born out of a moment of passion. In its first year or two, it requires constant attention and nurturing. It causes endless sleepless nights and requires almost constant sacrifice and compromise. Slowly, ever so slowly, it begins to grow and to support itself. It still needs a guiding hand, of course. But it can now stand on its own two feet.

The parent will do their best to imbue their offspring with values and principles that will prepare it for the years ahead in a rough and tough world. With luck, that offspring will ultimately become wholly independent and self-sufficient and it will make its creator beam with pride. With even more luck, that proud parent will be able to sit back, put their feet up and rest easy in the knowledge that their work here is done and that their constant attention is no longer required.

Sadly, however, some companies – just like children – have their problems and their struggles. Just when you think they’re able to stand-alone, they buckle and require picking up and dusting down. They get in with the wrong crowd and the sleepless nights return. And, like an errant or troublesome child, such companies test their parents’ patience, resolve and love to breaking point.

Over the years, it has been my misfortune to speak to and interview countless demolition men that have seen their companies – those babies they created, nurtured and raised – slip, stumble and fall. They have seen years and decades or tireless and often thankless work crumble and their companies collapse.
Those individuals speak openly of their anger at the hand that life, clients and the economy has dealt them. They speak of their disappointment in seeing their life’s work vanish, often through no fault of their own. They are equal parts resentful, heartbroken and bitter. There is an unspoken sense that a bit of them died with their failed company.

I spoke to Chris McFletch of McFletch Demolition last week, shortly after he announced his decision to shut up shop and walk away from an industry to which he has devoted much of his life.

There was no heartbreak and no bitterness. In fact, rather than sounding in any way broken, McFletch sounded genuinely relieved to be leaving a sector that he believes has changed for the worse.

Unlike those that see their companies collapse, McFletch took the decision to walk away with his head held high. At the same time, he was shaking his head in disbelief at what has become of an industry he once loved.

Now, admittedly, McFletch is past retirement age. He has, without question, earned his retirement. But it is the nature and the tone of his departure that is the most telling. It also reveals some stark truths about the industry to which he devoted his life but which he is now glad to see the back of.

If Chris McFletch’s decision to walk away from the demolition industry was an isolated incident, it would be barely worthy of mention. It could be dismissed as a final shot across the bows from a man that has just grown weary of all things demolition. But it is NOT an isolated incident.

Back in June 2018, the founders of Liverpool-based Sloyan Doyle chose retirement over succession; bringing to an end a proud 40-year history in the demolition business.

In March this year, Forth Demolition chose the same option. Although their decision coincided with the unwelcome arrival of the Coronavirus, the speed with which the decision was made suggests that was merely the final straw and that the decision to walk away had been made long before COVID-19 made landfall in their native Scotland.

Of course, three companies out of an estimated 550+ UK demolition companies choosing to walk away is not a trend. But what has been most telling has been the wider industry’s reaction to McFletch’s decision.

Across social media, his decision had been greeted with empathy. Not a single person showed surprise or dismay. Rather, it appears that McFletch has merely done what a good many have been thinking.

What a sad indictment of the current state of the UK demolition industry that so many of its number have seemingly fallen out of love with the very sector to which they have devoted so much of their time, effort and life.

McFletch may have taken the entirely understandable decision to quit and to walk away. But he does so still swinging.

In my conversation with him, he railed against the inequities of the modern demolition industry; many of which – he believes – the sector itself has created.
He was particularly vocal in his disdain for main contractors, confessing that he had long ago taken the decision to not work for any of them, primarily over their refusal to pay their bills on time.

What does it say about the structure of an industry when a working man is forced to disregard an entire and potentially lucrative sector because of their tacit refusal to abide by fair payment rules? Moreover, what does it say about the demolition industry’s trade body that it continues to cosy up to an organisation of those very companies that make the demolition man’s life so miserable and that – by their own admission – do not pay their bills on time?

McFletch Demolition was a member of the NFDC right up until the day the gates closed for the final time. But Chris McFletch has very little positive to say about the Federation and says that he hadn’t attended an NFDC meeting in ten years or more, electing to send one of his team instead.

He is particularly critical of the NFDC and its National Demolition Training Group offshoot’s role in making demolition training so complex, onerous and expensive; or a “money-making exercise” as he described it

He claims that he was often required to spend days and even weeks ensuring that his company’s training was up to date; and that it was complying with the latest round of regulation foist upon the sector. He said that he joined the demolition business because he loved demolition but that – latterly – he found himself doing less and less demolition and more and more paperwork instead.

It is sad that the modern demolition world has evolved in such a way that a committed industry man would rather walk away than continue. It is sad that it has become such a grind that an industry veteran should sound so relieved to be closing the gates behind him for a final time. Saddest of all, however, is that the demolition industry itself has largely been the architect of its own fate.

Back at the beginning of this article, I compared the creation of a company to the raising of a child.

In McFletch’s case, he endured the sleepless nights and the sacrifice of those early years. He compromised and made allowances as his progeny went through the “terrible twos”. He guided, nurtured and advised as his offspring grew and became increasingly independent. He stood by his creation through its teenage years; and did his best to imbue it with his values and principles.

Ultimately, however, he has seen his offspring tainted and compromised by its surroundings and by the company it keeps.

Like any parent, I get the sense that Chris McFletch still loves that child he created and that he raised. But he has grown to despise the environment that child now inhabits.

It is fitting, therefore, that McFletch’s decision to call it a day was prompted by a conversation with his actual offspring.

He said that his daughter had questioned why he was still getting up at 4.00 am in the morning to drive 200 miles to work. She said she didn’t want to receive a phone call to tell her he had dropped dead in a digger.

It is a comment to which the families of many demolition men and women will relate.

It is to Chris’s credit that he heeded the warning; that he got out while the going was good; and that he chose the needs of his real offspring over the one that has consumed so much of his time over the years.

It is always sad to see the gates of a demolition company clang shut for the final time. It is equally sad that the industry has lost Chris’s experience, expertise and knowledge.

But Chris McFletch is not abandoning a metaphorical baby. He is embracing the needs of his real one. He is a man that has his priorities right. I wish him well in his hard-earned retirement.

McFletch closes the gates…

Suffolk-based demolition contractor calls it a day.

McFletch Demolition is to cease trading in a controlled closure of the well-established and respected company.

Speaking exclusively to DemolitionNews, founder Chris McFletch says he has elected to retire and close the company. That decision is not connected to the COVID-19 crisis or the current economic climate, he says.

“About six months ago, my daughter asked me why I was still getting up at 4.00 am in the morning to drive 200 miles to work,” he says. “She said that she didn’t want to receive a phone call to tell her I had dropped dead in a digger.”

The decision to close the NFDC member business is also a reflection of McFletch’s disenchantment with the industry as a whole.

“We made a conscious decision not to work with contractors several years ago. They make life too difficult and they don’t pay their bills,” he says. “Now, we seem to spend more time on training and complying with some new piece of legislation than we do on actual demolition work. I am not interested in turnover. I am interested in profit but all these obstacles have just made it increasingly hard to realise that.”

McFletch’s offices, yard, workshops and its entire fleet of equipment and vehicles is scheduled to go under the hammer at the end of this month. Details of that sale can be found here. Some staff left some six weeks ago, followed by more just four weeks ago ahead of the final closure.

McFletch becomes the second demolition contractor to elect to walk away in just over six months, following a similar decision at Scotland’s Forth Demolition back in March this year.

Dredger detonated…

Controlled blast fells mining monster.

The first of the dredger demolition works has been carried out at the Hazelwood Rehabilitation Project.

The main outcome, a safe and successful fell, was achieved with Dredger 11 on the ground. All of the blast cutting charges were fully expended with no misfires. A thermal imaging sweep conducted by drone after the controlled collapse showed no issues with hot spots. The immediate geotechnical surveys also showed no issues and batter stability throughout the mine was not compromised.

Post-blast monitoring will continue for a further 24 hours to ensure the overall area has not been impacted for batter stability.

That’s just nuts…!

Walk-around Californian pistachio plant demolition.

At a pistachio plant in Lost Hills, California, Sierra International Machinery’s Safety Advisor Sergio Martinez explains the sampling and abating that goes into the process of demolition.

Merger makes strip-out giant…

Diamond driller LDD grows strip-out division.

Diamond drilling specialist LDD Construction is growing its existing strip out division after signing a merger deal with Prostrip Demolition Services.

Reported in Construction Enquirer, the move will see another 45 staff join LDD who will now offer one of the largest specialist strip out teams in London.

The expanded division is now targeting a turnover of £10m.

Prostrip Demolition Services is headed by managing director Colin Slade.

LDD Chairman Ziggy Seagroatt said: “Our biggest strength at LDD is our people and we know that the Colin and the team at Prostrip will fit straight in, creating one of the largest specialist strip out teams in London.

“I have known Colin personally for over 15 years, and what he will bring to LDD is a wealth of experience in this specific sector, bolstering our current strip out capabilities and bringing new opportunities for collaboration between the businesses.”

Read more here.

Cinema collapse charges…

Pair of companies face prosecution over Newcastle Odeon incident.

Two firms have been charged with safety breaches after a cinema collapsed during demolition work.

Masonry and scaffolding from the Odeon in Pilgrim Street, Newcastle, which was built in the 1930s, fell on 3 April 2017, crushing a bus shelter. No-one was injured when the building collapsed.

All Round Demolition Limited and Freemont Limited have been charged with failing to prevent danger while carrying out demolition work.

A pre-trial review will take place at Newcastle Crown Court on 16 October.

The case is being brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the companies have been charged under the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act.

All Round Demolition, of Halifax, West Yorkshire, and Freemont, of Bishopsgate, Manchester, are accused of failing to reduce danger to employees or members of the public during the demolition work, under the 1974 Act.

Comment – Two sectors divided by a single aim

It is a commonly-held belief that accident near-misses represent a valuable opportunity to control a hazard. True industry leaders view near-misses as both learning and improvement opportunities; a chance to understand the nature and cause of a near-miss and to put in place the appropriate improvements to ensure that an incident is not repeated.

I have worked with demolition company principals that have been agitated and even angered by a lack of near-miss reporting from their site teams. They suggested openly that if there are no near-misses being reported then their teams are not looking hard enough.

Against that background, a new initiative from the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) should be roundly applauded while the global demolition industry’s failure to follow suit should be seriously questioned.

IPAF recently relaunched its worldwide accident reporting portal as part of a major drive to gather the best quality data from around the world, in order to analyse that data and uncover what can be learned about improving safety in the powered access sector.

The new IPAF reporting portal makes it easier to report an accident or near miss. It works on multiple devices, allows multiple users per company, and has a feature for users to register subsidiary companies.

This allows access, reporting and analysis across a group of companies in one or more countries, linked to one parent company, enabling firms to compile their own company or group safety analysis, while creating an anonymous, up-to-the minute database for real-time analysis by industry experts.

The new portal has launched in English but will see additional languages added through the rest of 2020.

While slightly over 60 percent of all the data gathered via the reporting project is from the UK, this proportion is decreasing all the time as members in other countries commit to using the portal, and updating the project with detailed information about incidents.

Deciding to focus initially on the data reported by UK members, IPAF has been able to take a granular look at some of the common underlying causes of accidents, locations and types of industry or activity in which they occurred.

Brian Parker- set to join IPAF next as the organisation’s new Head of Safety & Technical and a key part of IPAF’s Accident Project Work Group – looked in depth at previously unpublished data including the latest statistics for 2019.

He explains that data given via the IPAF portal tends to be more detailed and useful than those gleaned from national databases such as OSHA accident reports in the US. In fact, much of this third-party data has to be laboriously reviewed and cleansed to make it suitable for use in IPAF’s analysis.

As an example, he outlined how information relating to accidents leading to injuries and deaths involving delivery drivers showed these almost always involve the loading or unloading process. Accordingly, IPAF plans to overhaul its Load/Unload Training course for 2021, as it did with MEWPs for Managers training last year after statistics showed many accidents could be traced back to poor planning or oversight of operations.

While the powered access sector has pinned its colours firmly to the transparency mast, the same – sadly – cannot be said of the demolition sector.

In demolition, near misses are treated as a closely guarded secret as there is an abiding fear that the report of any such incident might somehow be used against the company involved. In demolition, a near miss is viewed not as a learning opportunity but as classified information. In demolition, we are far more likely to sweep a near miss under the nearest rug rather than post details of it on a dedicated website.

That attitude is not just myopic in its shortsightedness. Nor is it just selfish and self-serving. It is to the detriment of the wider demolition industry.

A near miss suffered by one company is a potential learning opportunity for the entire industry. A shortcoming discovered in a working practice or methodology here in the UK could potentially save a life in the US. Or France. Or Germany. Or anywhere.

It is easy to point to IPAF’s global reach as a key factor in its ability to develop and maintain a near-miss portal of this kind. This does afford the powered access sector with an advantage over the demolition sector, which is still “governed” in silos from individual nation states.

But as IPAF itself has pointed out, the website started with approximately 60 percent of its content sourced right here in the UK. And besides, the UK’s National Federation of Demolition Contractors, the American National Demolition Association, and the European Demolition Association are not strangers to each other. And while current travel restrictions largely disqualify them from meeting face-to-face, there is surely nothing to stop these organisations – and others – from getting their heads together and following the IPAF lead.

Similarly, there is a temptation to leave the accident and near-miss information gathering to the likes of OSHA in the US and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the UK.

I cannot speak for OSHA. But, as I have reported repeatedly since that fateful day in February 2016, details of the fatal accident that killed four demolition workers at Didcot Power Station remain locked within the HSE’s hallowed halls to this day. More than four and a half years later, and the industry is still waiting for some indication of just what caused that tragedy; information that could potentially save a life here or somewhere else in the world.

A near miss or a full-blown accident is a learning opportunity. Equally educational is the example set by others.

The International Powered Access Federation has done the hard yards in its potentially life-saving intelligence-gathering initiative. It has set the example and it has forged the path. The global demolition industry now just needs to follow that example and pursue that path to a better-informed and safer future.

C&D unveils new website…

Leading demolition consultancy demonstrates service breadth.

C&D Consultancy has unveiled its all-new website, further underlining the company’s transition to a full-service business for the demolition industry.

Previously, the company was perhaps best known for its demolition training activities and services. But following a change in ownership, the company has sought a significant change in direction, a fact that is highlighted in the new website.

“Under my predecessor – John Woodward – C&D was extremely demolition training focused, and rightly so. John helped devise many of the training courses and standards that are now used universally within the sector. But while training remains an integral part of what we do, the company has evolved,” explains managing director Mike Kehoe. “Our team now boasts more than 150 years’ demolition experience across more than 400 individual projects. Together, this allows us to provide a unique range of services from demolition and explosive engineering through project management and fulfilling the principal designer role.”

The company’s commitment to the demolition sector is further highlighted in recent investments that allow it to offer structural engineering expertise and 2, 3 and 4D modelling in-house. To ensure full national coverage and a faster response to client needs, the company also now operates from dual locations in the North West and the South East.

“The needs of or clients and their stakeholders is constantly changing and it is our job to change with them,” Kehoe explains. “Our new website reflects those changes while highlighting the breadth of the services we are now able to offer.”