Comment – Only the good die young…

That old cliché – only the good die young – doesn’t hold water, does it? I know it’s a nice thing to trot out when a beloved friend or family member checks out prematurely; and if that phrase helps friends and family cope with their passing, then that is fine and dandy. But in practice, it just doesn’t stack up.

Take actor Kirk Douglas. By all accounts, he was a thoroughly decent chap. He took his final curtain call at the grand old age of 103. Dick Van Dyke is still going strong at 93. Mel Brooks is 92. And Honor Blackman – Pussy Galore herself – is 93. Yet Hitler was just 57 when he made his way downstairs for (hopefully) an eternity of fire and brimstone. Osama bin Laden was 54. Serial killer Ted Bundy was 42; and murderer and renowned head collector Jeffrey Dahmer was 34.

But while this tired cliché doesn’t hold true in the field of celebrity and murdering assholes, it does appear to contain a certain truth in the field of demolition companies. Because, as Northbank Demolition has just proved (if proof were needed), it is often those that go about things in the right way that are the first to suffer and that are among the most vulnerable when business takes a turn for the worse.

There is a very good reason for this. Doing things right is expensive. Prohibitively expensive.
Buying the latest, greatest and safest equipment and then maintaining it to the highest possible standard costs a fortune. Training staff properly and regularly is similarly expensive. If you want to retain those well-trained staff, chances are you’ll have to pay them a little above the going rate or offer them some other perk, both of which cost money. You’ll need the very best insurance, which carries a price tag that would make King Midas blanch. In addition, you’ll need highly trained people to digest and interpret ever-changing regulations and training schemes. You might need the support of a company or individual that can produce sexy 3D animations to show prospective clients how work will be carried out. You’ll need expensive monitoring systems to manage dust, noise and vibration while the project is in progress. And you might also like to invest in a video or drone company to capture all of this for posterity in the hope that might help you win more work farther down the line.

Now compare that to a less scrupulous and less reputable company.

They will make do with older equipment that may or may not be suitable for life in demolition and which may or may not be sufficiently large enough for the task at hand. If it breaks down, hey-ho. They can largely bypass the need for training because, for every unscrupulous demolition contractor, there is a dozen equally unscrupulous clients that are willing to look the other way in order to secure the lowest possible price. Wages aren’t a huge issue either when you’re drawing the bulk of your workers from the local pub on a Friday night ahead of a Monday morning start. Insurance is probably optional – If things go wrong, you shut up shop and start again under a different yet similar name. Site hoardings, perimeter fencing and other items to ensure the safety of the general public are considered unnecessary luxury items; personal protective equipment (PPE) is only used if the workers choose to bring their own. And, frankly, when you’re working like this, no-one wants it captured for posterity, least of all the client.

In short, while a reputable demolition company will need to be making money faster than the Royal Mint merely to cover its overheads, the cowboy contingent can strip their overheads to virtually zero by bypassing rules and regulations and foregoing what most consider to be safe methodologies.

In a just world, the CDM Regulations would have sorted this out once and for all. Sadly, the CDM Regs are almost as toothless as some of the older celebrities mentioned earlier.

Some (though, thankfully, not all) clients view applying CDM Regulations and placing competence above cost in the same way turkeys consider voting for Christmas. And the Health and Safety Executive is now stretched so thin that you can actually see through it.

Against this background, I can see only one way in which to level the playing field and to ensure that all demolition contractors abide by the same rules. A demolition license.

I realise this is not a universally popular concept. I realise that this would need to be monitored and properly and independently regulated. And I realise that some companies might decide that they cannot or will not make the standard required to earn that license.

But surely it is better to lose companies that are unable or unwilling to maintain a certain standard than to lose more that have tried so desperately to comply?