Demolition LIVE – Combatting the urban explorers

Urban exploration is a growing craze among young people attempting to achieve Internet fame and notoriety by breaking into demolition and construction sites to capture a photo or film of themselves stood atop a building with the cityscape stretching away far below.

So how does the industry protect against these urban explorers, crane climbers and unwanted thrill-seekers?

In this exclusive episode of Demolition LIVE, I will be joined by Kai Stok, founder of Stok K9 Security to find out more.

Join us LIVE at 6pm, UK time tonight.

Hard Rock recovery underway…

Demolition of New Orleans’ Hard Rock hotel commences.

A little over nine months after the Hard Rock hotel construction site partially collapsed in the New Orleans French Quarter a move to remove the bodies of two of the men who perished in the collapse has finally gained steam.

New Orleans Fire Chief Tim McConnell said that the work to retrieve the remains of construction workers Quinnyon Wimberly and Jose Ponce Arreola has started, with hopes that the first victim’s remains could be out by week’s end.

Cantillon acquired…

Concrete-frame specialist takes majority stake in respected demolition firm.

The Morrisroe Group has acquired a majority shareholding in demolition contractor Cantillon.

According to a statement from Morrisroe, “This is a strategic move by Brian Morrisroe that demonstrates confidence in the construction industry and further strengthens the position of the Morrisroe Group as a market leader.

This acquisition strengthens the range of specialist services that the Morrisroe Group offers to the sector, and opens up new and exciting opportunities for each of the specialists within the Morrisroe Group.

Greater integration, coordination and collaboration between the specialists within the Morrisroe Group will create value for customers. The combined expertise of each company will result in greater efficiencies and will improve our productivity.

The Morrisroe Group now has the capability to provide a full demolition and basement box solution in house and this supports the long-term strategy of the Morrisroe Group to remain the contractor of choice within the Construction sector.

“I am delighted that The Morrisroe Group has acquired a majority shareholding in CANTILLON, a highly respected market leader in demolition. This broadens the scope of services the we can provide in-house and builds on our reputation for delivering complex and challenging demolition and sub structure works in City Centres. The acquisition is a significant addition for us and good news for the market. I believe our clients will benefit from the greater integration of contractor specialisms from the early project planning stages through to execution in the field,” says Brian Morrisroe, CEO Morrisroe Group. “The Morrisroe Group is now positioned as one of the leading specialists in the Sector and I am looking forward to welcoming the Cantillon team and its clients to our Group.”

New Zealand cement works fall

Nikau Group strikes again with epic demolition project.

New Zealand’s favouriate and most famous demolition sons – Nikau Group has carried out the demolition of a Holcim Cement Works at Westport during what is surely one of the most picturesque demolition project ever:

Holcim Cement Plant Demolition Westport NZ from Nikau Group on Vimeo.

Bunker bay blast…

Demolition Services caries out another successful blast at Ironbridge.

Working in partnership with SES Explosives Engineers, Leeds-based Demolition Services carried out the successful explosive demolition of the bunker bay at Ironbridge Power Station shortly after 11 am today.

The steel bunker bay structure was the first of three planned explosive events in order to bring down the former boiler house, with the turbine hall itself having been demolished using traditional high reach methods earlier this year. The company has already seen success at the site when it executed the explosive demolition of the four cooling towers back in December 2019.

The company, working in partnership with site owners Harworth Group Plc, has been under the ongoing scrutiny by principal designers RVA Group since demolition works commenced in June 2019.

We are hoping to bring you more details of this project in a forthcoming edition of the Demolition magazine.

IDE seminar falls to COVID-19…

Key industry event postponed amidst Coronavirus fears.

The Institute of Demolition Engineers’ Autumn seminar is the latest public event to fall victim to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Originally scheduled to take place in September in its One Great George Street spiritual home in London, the event has joined the likes of the Hillhead exhibition and Wimbledon fortnight by succumbing to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The IDE’s annual general meeting – scheduled for 27 November – remains on the Institute calendar at present, which will be of some comfort to AR Demolition’s Richard Dolman who is set to become the new IDE president on that day.

The loss of the Autumn seminar will, however, be widely felt by IDE members – particularly those in the south of the country – for whom the event is an important learning opportunity, a key source of CPD points, and a chance to socialise with their demolition engineering peers.

Comment – Shooting ourselves in the foot…?

Industry veteran decries four-fold hike in training costs.

Along with death and taxes, a skills shortage within the UK demolition and construction sectors is one of life’s great certainties.

Now that the industry is returning to work full-time after the COVID-19 crisis, it is likely that we will once again find ourselves hampered and hamstrung by a shortage of operatives to carry out all the work that placed was on hold during the pandemic and the ensuing lockdown.

Companies will be understandably reluctant to employ and train new operatives until they see firm orders and signs of a brighter future. Conversely, they will need to increase operative numbers to meet current workloads.

The UK Government has announced a number of packages to help and bolster the economy including more apprenticeships. But those measures offer precious little to help the demolition fraternity.

So is it time to radically rethink recruitment at grass roots level in the industry?

To answer that question, DemolitionNews reached out to a respected industry veteran for his views. Given the forthright nature of his response, we have chosen to protect his anonymity.

“Personally – and I stress that the view is a personal one and not of my employer or any organisation – I think we can make a massive difference with recruitment into the industry by going back to basics for new starters. Five years or so ago someone wanting to start in the industry could fund his initial training and ring round the local companies and look for a ‘start’ to earn a wage and prove their worth to his would-be employer for around £90.00. They would book themselves onto a £70.00 one-day course local to them that was delivered by an industry veteran. That course included a half-day asbestos awareness with real examples of what could be found on site; and a half-day health and safety awareness on what could harm them and their colleagues on a demolition site. On completion of the course, they could sit and pass the £21.00 CSCS health & safety test and they were good to go. The total cost of making themselves ‘work-ready’ was £91.00,” he explains. “The difference now is that to be good to go, they have to find and fund the following. A £100.00 half-day asbestos awareness course delivered by an approved supplier. A £225.00 full-day CCDO Labourer Green Card Course. And a £21.00 CSCS touchscreen test. That’s a total cost of £346.00, a near four-fold increase in just five years; an increase that puts the job well out of reach for the average person who is currently out of work or on low income.”

So why the increase? Are trainers being paid more per course for delivery? No. Have venue costs increased four-fold in that time? No. Has the course content been radically changed? Apparently not.

Our industry veteran is in no doubt over why the cost of joining the sector have sky-rocketed. “The costs have gone up simply because the card provider – and there is only one – has decreed that they will increase. They have risen by increasing dramatically the licensing cost to be a training provider and thereby increasing the cost to the individual booking the course,” he says. “Given the situation in which the wider demolition industry finds itself, the National Demolition Training Group should pledge that – for the next three years – all basic entry-level training will be provided for a lump sum £100.00. They could use the slogan ‘Get started in demolition for less than the price of a pair of new trainers’. The reduction in cost will not decimate the NDTG’s revenue, as the other courses in its portfolio will still be at the normal prices. But it will get people off the dole and into employment in a fantastic industry that offers variety, the ability to learn a trade and a better than basic wage. It is time for the industry leaders to lead and recruit the next generation of demolition operative at little cost to the new starter or the employer.”

Quarmby quits…

Former IDE president resigns from Institute council.

Former Institute of Demolition Engineers president Dr Terry Quarmby has announced that he is stepping down as a member of the Institute’s council and simultaneously relinquishing his position as a trustee of the organisation.

His resignation brings to an end more than a quarter of a century of unwavering commitment to the IDE cause. The loss of his passion, dedication and belligerence leaves a void that will be impossible to fill.

Quarmby enjoyed one of the longest IDE presidencies, stepping up from vice president to take up the mantle when the incumbent president – David Ross Turner – was suffering ill health. Together with his vice president and ultimate successor John Woodward, Quarmby presided over what many still see as the IDE’s Golden Age; a period in which the Institute evolved from parochial club to globally-recognised trade body. Subsequent IDE presidents might have basked in the spotlight of demolition degrees coming to fruition within their reign, but the seeds of those successes were sown and nurtured during the time of Quarmby and Woodward.

Quarmby is not without his detractors, of course. He was and remains an archetypal Yorkshireman: forceful, irascible, outspoken, often obstinate and occasionally obnoxious and frank enough to inflict blunt force trauma with nothing more than conversation. There is a Winston Churchill quote that could have been designed for Quarmby: “You have enemies? Good. That means you stood up for something, some time in your life.”

And boy did he stand up. Over a 26-year IDE career, Quarmby modernised the Institute, introduced the membership exam, acted as examiner, wrote and introduced CPD. He wrote, developed and presented lectures for the Masters Degree; wrote developed and presented the Foundation Degree. He represented the demolition industry on numerous occasions with Government, NGO’s, academia and trade bodies on subjects as diverse as safety, the environment, and waste management. He was an advocate for sustainable development and design for deconstruction long before they became fashionable. In his “spare time” he managed to earn himself a masters degree and a PhD that makes him the world’s first Doctor of Demolition.

This is not the first time Quarmby has quit the IDE council. Back in 2015, he resigned citing the apathy of others. With characteristic candour, he claimed that some IDE council members were overly negative and slow to make decisions. “I haven’t been happy for a while,” Quarmby said at the time. “And I don’t particularly agree with the views of some on the council who seem hell bent on taking us backwards rather than forwards.”

On that occasion, he returned to help push the Masters and Foundation degree courses across the finish line. Now in his (early) 70s, a second comeback seems less likely.

His resignation unquestionably leaves a void. IDE council meetings will appear anodyne and sterile for his absence. But his work here is done. And even though it is not in his nature, the cantankerous bugger has more than earned a break.

Explosive prison break

Implosion fells North Carolina facility.

This weekend saw the explosive demolition of North Carolina’s Western Youth Institute, commonly known as the High Rise Prison.

Comment – All deaths matter

TWO unconnected but deadly accidents. TWO industries with unanswered questions. NINE families left grieving. FOUR years and counting with no resolution. ONE organisation taking far too long.

On the afternoon of 23 February 2016, a part of the boiler house at the Didcot A Power Station in the ceremonial county of Oxfordshire collapsed, killing four demolition workers and injuring several more. With the remaining portion of that massive boiler house declared unstable, it would be another six months until the bodies of three of those men – Ken Cresswell, John Shaw, and Christopher Huxtable would be recovered from the tangle of twisted steel.

On 7 July 2016, even as the search for the remains of the fallen demolition workers continued almost 90 miles to the south, a second industrial accident claimed the lives of five men at a recycling plant in Nechells, Birmingham. Almamo Jammeh, Ousmane Diaby, Bangally Dukureh, Saibo Sillah and Mahamadou Jagana were killed when a 3.6 metre concrete wall collapsed on them.

Aside from the fact that the second accident took place in Birmingham, the city that is home to the company involved in the Didcot disaster, these two accidents are seemingly unconnected. Unconnected, aside from the fact that – four and a half and four years respectively – both accidents remain unresolved.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigators continue to sift through almost 1,000 tonnes of mangled steel recovered from the collapsed power station boiler house in the hope of finding the true cause of this tragic accident. Police officers involved in the Didcot investigation report that they have carried out 1,921 witness interviews. But having waited more than six months for the bodies of their loved ones to be recovered, the families of Cresswell, Shaw, Collings, and Huxtable continue to wait for answers.

That wait, that lack of closure, is all too familiar to the families of Almamo Jammeh, Ousmane Diaby, Bangally Dukureh, Saibo Sillah and Mahamadou Jagana who gathered at the gates of the Shredmet recycling plant late last week to mark the fourth anniversary of the passing of their loved ones.

At the inquest into their deaths in November 2018, the risk of the wall falling was described by the HSE as “foreseeable”. “The wall was overloaded and not safe,” said HSE expert Martyn Ostcliffe. “In my view it could have gone at any time.”

A jury returned an accidental death verdict. To date, there has been no criminal hearing. A spokesman for the HSE said it had been carrying out a thorough criminal investigation since the deaths and following up new lines of inquiry after the inquest, which meant the investigation had taken longer than hoped.

“Never did we think we’d be here four years later as this is the UK,” said Manka Sawo, who helped organise the Nechells protest.

That is a sentiment that will ring painfully true for the families of the four men killed in the Didcot collapse who similarly continue to wait.

The reasons for carrying out a thorough investigation in the aftermath of an industrial accident are manifold. There is, of course, a desire to establish the precise cause and to use that information to help ensure that an accident of this nature does not occur in the future. Such findings can be used to amend or fundamentally change current industrial methodologies and work practices to avoid a repeat of the tragedy. Those findings can be used as a learning opportunity and as a training aid. And there is a hope that establishing the precise cause and nature of the accident might provide bereaved families with some closure.

But ultimately – and increasingly – these investigations are carried out to establish accountability.

We live in a litigious age in which the mantra of “where there’s blame, there’s a claim” is seemingly a key driver.

With the dust from the collapse still in the air on that cold February morning, the site of the Didcot collapse was placed immediately in an impenetrable state of lockdown; partly because the remaining portion of the boiler house was considered unstable; and partly – I suspect – through a need to safeguard forensic evidence in what was instinctively viewed as a crime scene; a crime scene with four known victims and possibly one or more unknown perpetrators.

The families of the five men killed at the Shredmet facility claimed last week that they had been treated differently because of their heritage. “We are five black families, from Gambia and Senegal; it is as if our lives do not matter. Our lives do matter.”

Such a claim is quite clearly untrue. The families of the four demolition workers killed at Didcot have been waiting almost half a year longer for resolution, apparently (and equally) with no immediate end in sight.

Yet no-one could blame the families of the five men killed in Nechells for invoking the Black Lives Matter movement in an attempt to secure justice for their loved ones. According to the inquest, the men received “devastating blunt-force injuries” and had to be identified by their fingerprints after a wall and a mountain of metal weighing “the equivalent of 15 double-decker buses” collapsed onto them.

Those families are owed justice, just as the families of Ken Cresswell, John Shaw, Michael Collings, and Christopher Huxtable are owed justice.

This is not a matter of Black Lives Matter. It is not a mater of White Lives Matter. It is not even a case of All Lives Matter. In this instance, All Deaths Matter.