Shannon update…

Positive news emerges on young woman hurt in demolition accident.

It is just over a month since 20-year old Shannon Brasier was critically injured in an incident on a demolition site in Southend. At the time of the accident, she was said to be fighting for her life due to the extent and severity of her injuries that are thought to have been caused when she was apparently struck by a machine.

However, we spoke to one of her friends – and one of those responsible for the ongoing fundraising for Shannon’s family – and the prognosis is much improved.

“Shannon is still in hospital but she’s doing so well. About 10 days ago, she had major facial surgery to fix all the breaks in her face, repair her badly cut lip and her septum but in time she will need plastic surgery. Her eye is damaged, she’s having to wear an eye patch and at the moment there is still a lot of pressure behind the eye. On Wednesday, she had more facial surgery to take all the wires out from her jaw, so she looks like she’s been in the wars again,” her friend says. “The doctors have said she is actually a miracle and they really didn’t expect her to live but she has done extremely well.. She’s been up walking and has physiotherapy twice a day. Yesterday she managed to walk up a few stairs. She can’t close one of her hands yet but hopefully in time she will. She is such a strong girl and she’s accepted what’s happened to her really bravely. She can’t wait to come home now, maybe a couple more weeks if there are no more setbacks.”

The fundraiser established to help Shannon and her family originally aimed to raise £1,000 but – at the time of writing – it now stands at £4,730.

I don’t know about you but I hate uneven numbers. So I am calling upon all demolition men and women to help get the figure up to £5,000.

You can donate here.

Business Briefing for August 2020

An upbeat month, but the underlying imbalances remain.

UK construction sector delivered another upbeat set of new contract awards in August 2020 research carried out by Builders’ Conference shows. But underlying imbalances in the make-up of those figures make for more telling reading.

In this exclusive video, Builders’ Conference CEO Neil Edwards reports:

ARCA unveils ALFA app…

Web app allows contractors to rate operative performance.

The Asbestos Removal Contractors Association (ARCA) has announced the availability of a performance rating app for short-term asbestos removal operatives.

The Asbestos Labour Feedback App, ALFA, the first of its kind in the industry, enables ARCA member licensed asbestos removal contractors to rate the performance and behaviour of operatives supplied by ARCA labour supply members.

Having an overall performance rating available for an operative, as well as certificate information, available in one App, will provide the contractors with a better understanding of the competency of an agency operative before he/she arrives on site.

The App enables ARCA member licensed asbestos removal contractors to rate short-term operatives over nine categories. Ratings are requested on the last day of an assignment or every two weeks where applicable. All ratings, from various contractors over a number of assignments, are used to calculate the overall performance rating (calculated once five ratings received) for an operative, which is displayed by stars. An operative’s overall performance rating, and average rating per category, is then available for an ARCA member contractor to view, if/when that operative is assigned by an Agency to that contractor’s job, within ALFA.

Read more here.

Comment – Fighting a losing battle…

In the war for the hearts and minds of potential employees, demolition is falling victim to friendly fire.

Demolition is an industry that is constantly at war. It fights daily battles with competitors and rivals. It fights to win new work and to get paid. It fights battles with clients that expect a Rolls Royce service in return for a Dacia budget and that regularly demand that months of work is completed in weeks. It fights with legislators that are constantly shifting the safety and environmental goalposts. And it fights for recognition and to have its voice heard over the constant yelling from its noisy neighbour, construction.

As individual companies and as an industry, demolition wins more than its fair share of these battles and skirmishes. It may suffer a few war wounds long the way but, in the main, demolition emerges victorious just often enough to make it worthwhile.

But there is one battle that demolition is losing consistently. It is a battle that grows more intense with each passing year. A battle in which demolition is frequently outgunned, outmanoeuvred and now – apparently – betrayed by its own. To make matters worse, it is a pivotal battle that could dictate the outcome of the wider war.

When it comes to attracting dynamic, educated and enthusiastic into its fold, demolition finds itself at a serious and almost insurmountable disadvantage from the outset. Even setting aside those young people that are determined to pursue a treacherous career path as a sportsperson or celebrity or that are attracted by the bright lights of Internet fame, to most young people, demolition has an image problem. It is seen as dangerous and dirty. It is perceived as hard and thankless work; suitable only for those that don’t mind constant exposure to whatever the weather and the economy might throw at them.

Make no mistake, when young people emerge from school, college or university in search of a career, they are comparing demolition with a multitude of sectors that offer air conditioned offices, on-demand coffee and subsidised restaurants, dress-down Fridays, expense accounts and – let’s face it – a degree of interaction with those of the opposing gender. Compared to those sectors, demolition’s (virtually) all-male workforce, muddy sites, falling debris and tea and bacon rolls from a nearby café with a questionable attitude towards food hygiene is something of an acquired taste.

In short, in the battle for the hearts and minds of the young people that will swell our ranks, drive change and improvement, and bring a fresh perspective to the demolition business, we are fighting against a battalion of other industries and sectors that have at their disposal all the latest weapons. Meanwhile, demolition has a pointy stick that is a bit muddy, in need of repair and that should have been replaced years ago.

I realise that I am playing to the industry’s stereotype here. But, unless a young person has had some prior exposure to the demolition business, stereotypes are all that he or she has to go on.

We can – as we have for a number of years – point out the similarities between the controls of a modern excavator and a PlayStation remote until we’re blue in the face. But to do so merely adds a dab of gloss to an otherwise muddy and rain-soaked picture.

So we can’t compete on working conditions and perks. The wider perception is that we cannot compete on rates of pay and career progression. And I think we can all agree that demolition can’t compete in the glamour stakes either.

Having been hamstrung by perception and circumstance, you might think that we would attempt to redress the balance by removing any barriers to entry that we’re able to control; to smooth the way for those young people seeking a rewarding (in all senses of the term) career path.

You might think that. But you would be wrong.

Thanks (but no thanks) to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, the UK finds itself in a strange and possibly unique situation. Many sectors have been forced to make some uncomfortable choices. Companies across a variety of industries have made staff redundant so there is a larger-than-usual pool of potential workers from which to draw upon. At the same time, both demolition and construction have three or four months’ worth of work to catch up on. And the UK Government is clearly pinning its hopes for a rapid economic recovery on the wider construction industry which promises some trickle-down positivity for demolition.

We have a glut of potential workers. We have a glut of potential work. The only thing standing between the convenient marriage of the two is the prohibitive cost of acquiring the competence card or cards required to get on site in the first place.

The National Demolition Training Group, which sits atop a large pile of accumulated cash, has the ability to marry willing workers with eager employees. But through inaction or greed or a combination thereof, it continues to “cock-block” any such interaction. With the sweep of a pen, the NDTG could slash or even temporarily waive selected training fees to take advantage of the fresh pickings thrown up by this unique turn of employment fortune.
It could make demolition the cost-effective choice for those seeking a viable career path. And it could redress the balance in the ongoing battle for the hearts and minds of young people that are currently negotiating the choppy waters of a post-pandemic recession.
T
here are those that will suggest that the NDTG’s inaction stems from the fact that it is run by and for those companies that are big, powerful and wealthy enough to dismiss training costs as petty cash. There are others that will insist that the NDTG is a sacred cash cow that requires constant fattening rather than a brief financial diet. Whatever the reason, the NDTG’s failure to make a land-grab at this time is an opportunity missed. With each passing day, the demolition sector surrenders the chance to seize a tactical advantage and to retake lost ground in the war against a seemingly endless skills shortage. Its failure to press home a unique and unforeseen advantage is to the detriment of the entire UK demolition industry.

In years to come, historians will see 2020 as the year of the Coronavirus; a global pandemic that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives across the globe and that quarantined great swathes of the world.

Demolition historians, meanwhile, might look back at 2020 as the year in which the industry snatched defeat from the jaws of a potential and much-needed victory.

Demolition Technology 2020 update

Friday night premiere…

A little treat before we sign off for the long weekend.

Monday is a national holiday here in the UK which means there will be no This Week in Demolition newsletter landing in your email inbox to start the new week.

To make up for that and to send you into the weekend with a little boost, an all-new 4k demolition video featuring Metro Deconstruction and a fleet of LiuGong excavators will drop at 7pm this evening.

The video was actually produced by the team at Diggers and Dozers. But, since I make a thankfully brief cameo appearance, I have seen the film in advance and I can tell you it is stunning to look at.

So be here at 7pm (UK time) tonight to check out just how good demolition can look when there’s a professional behind the camera!

Three fined over demolition death

“Inadequate planning and inadequate safety provision” cited in demolition death prosecution.

Portsmouth Crown Court heard how David Shayler, an employee of Ryde Demolition Limited, was removing roof timbers by hand with a colleague, when a gable wall partially collapsed causing him to fall backwards striking his head against a stack of roof tiles.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident which occurred on the 13 October 2016, found that the work was inadequately planned and managed by all the duty holders involved in the project, the technique used to remove the roof timbers was done out of sequence, and the brick gable had been left unstable. In addition, inadequate provision was made to prevent falls from height, despite concerns raised by workers in the days leading up to the incident.

Ryde Demolition Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching two counts of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and have been fined £80,000 and ordered to pay costs of £12,132.02. HJ Bennett Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching two counts of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and have been fined £120,000 and ordered to pay costs of £12,057.62. Stoneham Construction Limited of St Johns Place, Newport have pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 13(1) of the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015 and have been fined £56,667 and ordered to pay costs of £12,004.42.

Speaking after the case, HSE inspector Dominic Goacher said: “This was a tragic and wholly avoidable incident, caused by the companies’ failure to implement safe systems of work.”

“Demolition is a high-risk activity whose safe execution is complex and technical and where expertise is vital. The risk of unintended structural collapse is well known within the industry. Demolition requires careful planning and execution by contractors who are competent in the full range of demolition techniques.”

“Falls from height remain one of the most common causes of work-related fatalities in this country, and the risks associated with working at height are well known. In this case the risks of structural collapse and falling from height were not controlled, which led to the preventable death of a father-of-two.”

Paddling pools douse dust…

Unique dust suppression method deployed in French blast.

Way back in April 2013, DemolitionNews was fortunate enough to be invited to the city of Porto in Portugal to see a unique dust suppression system in action during the implosion of a 15-storey tower block.

More than seven years later, the team behind that deployment have done it again, this time as part of the blasting of the Pentagone Plaza tower located in Clamart, France.

Tough times for Coleman Group…

Latest statement shines light on industry issues.

It is two months since we reported that Coleman Group was restructuring amidst financial challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. But fresh details filed with Companies House reveals that this is just one of the issues facing the company.

According to Construction News today, the company took a £1.7 million hit when a subcontractor defaulted and failed to complete a contract. Meanwhile, Inside Media has reported that unneeded business premises have also been either disposed of or let to third parties, with CNC (the holding company) divesting itself of excess plant and machinery to the value of £2.0 million.

But it is the reasoning behind these decisions that will likely strike a chord with the wider UK demolition industry:

“The directors are of the opinion that the industry is suffering in an environment where work is won on price alone and that demolition contractors are expected to take on all risks for little reward.

As a consequence, they have decided to refocus on clients who work in a more collaborative way, including long-standing clients of the group and not to chase high risk, low margin opportunities. This will result in lower turnover going forward but will improve profitability.

These changes will ensure that the group has the correct recourses to complete the solid and profitable work already secured for 2021.”

Read more here and here.

Big BAM boom

Brown and Mason lays to rest part of Rugeley Power Station.

Brown and Mason’s one company mission to eradicate power stations from the UK skyline progressed yesterday with a successful blast at Rugeley Power Station in Staffordshire.