An Interview with a Lifelong Scaffolder
How long have you been working in the scaffolding industry?
I got out of school at the age of 17 and began work as a Scaffold Laborer, where I worked as a with two other guys for a small company based in Chatham, Kent. The job was very dangerous – what is called dirty work. We used to arrive at the yard at 6 am, then load the lorry and from there head out for a full day. I worked as a scaffolder for a lot of years, however, I was in a position to further my career the moment an opportunity came up in TRAD to become an Advanced Scaffold Inspector, and then proceeded as a SHEQ Officer. I now work as the Group Safety, Environment, Health and Quality Manager, where I work under the Group Safety Director and as a member of the SHEQ team.
To what extent do you think scaffolding has changed from the time you started?
The time I began working for small scaffold companies the safety culture was very poor, whereby the training was very little and some scaffolders accepted working unsafely, whereby accidents were seen as an “occupational hazard”. But over the years, a huge improvement has been driven by the NASC, some highly reputable clients and companies like ours, as well as professional scaffolding hire companies in Auckland. Scaffolders are now well trained. I am personally delighted by the professionalism portrayed by our scaffolders whose safe behaviour greatly reduces the chances of injuries.
What’s your feeling about the injury at work statistics?
There has been a notable reduction in falls from height since 2000, after the establishment of NASC Safety Guidance regarding safe working at height SG4. Over the past 18 years, the NASC has experienced an 80% reduction. (NASC 2018 Safety Report indicates another 46% drop in Falls From Height from last year alone.)
Earlier, FFH accidents were common. Lots of my peers and I have known a person who has suffered serious injuries or died while working on other scaffold companies. But, members of NASC haven’t had fatality injuries for 5 consecutive years, which is commendable but we can’t stop at this since we need to improve more.
How do you feel one benefits from being a member of NASC?
There’s huge value in being an NASC member and for clients to select NASC contractors. You’ve got some benefits provided, including additional funding for training, getting accreditations for SSIP, being able to access a range of advice plus much more. By choosing an NASC member such as TRAD you should rest assured that the scaffolders will have received ample training (with more than 50% blue or gold carded and receiving a minimum 75% PAYE). Workers will be strictly audited and will have proven to be competent and, above all, safe.
What do you find as the greatest challenges facing the scaffolding industry?
Scaffolding has the potential of becoming a more specialised trade. With this said, the scaffolding industry has to bring in dedicated young individuals with direction and determination and they can finally become excellent scaffolders. A lot of potential exists out there, however, the construction industry must actively seek it out. TRAD utilises a lot of apprentices. We have an awesome mentoring scheme and various ambassadors to help recruit the future generation.
Do you think the tasks you have performed previously have contributed to you becoming a better safety professional?
For sure, yes. Working in the scaffolding sector has equipped me with experience and first-hand knowledge that has helped me reach where I am today. Every job has helped me get to my career today. When I was a Scaffold Inspector, I used to see good quality work and poor workmanship, which enabled me to understand the need for quality training.