Close to 400 delegates from leading contractors, associations and manufacturers once again came together for the Working at Height Best Practice Forum with the aim of improving safety standards within the industry. Celebrating its eleventh year, the event has grown in size and stature to become one of the UK’s leading powered access safety conferences. This event acts as a catalyst for the development of best practice and safe use of powered access.
“The Forum first established in 2008 with a small gathering of 30 like-minded delegates,” said Mark Keily, QHSE Director at Nationwide Platforms. “Although this number has now grown to nearly 400 delegates, its purpose and ethos of promoting powered access safety through leadership, innovation and collaboration remains as strong as ever. In its simplest form, the Forum is about providing delegates with practical takeaways which can be instantly applied within their companies to improve the safety of their employees.”
Held at Heythrop Park, the Forum continued its strong tradition of addressing and debating the very latest ‘hot topics’ relating to powered access. Key areas of discussion at this year’s event focused on managing and overcoming risk on major projects, collaborative working to meet sustainability requirements and the importance of health and well-being in the construction industry.
Colin Hotchkiss, Managing Director, Nationwide Platforms opened the forum, detailing to a full auditorium that whilst this is a UK event, Nationwide Platforms is part of an international group and the initiatives and participation of all those in the room leads to best practice rolled out in over 20 countries. This was followed by an impressive line-up of guest speakers; all figureheads within the construction industry.
First up we saw Mike Robertson, Head of Health & Safety at NNB – Hinkley Point C outline some working at height challenges that they face on Europe’s largest construction site. Duncan Emms, CAD Lead at HPC then guided us through how they are overcoming MEWP challenges on-site with the introduction and use of 4D Virtual Information Modelling for Safety (VIMS) pioneered at Hinkley Point C, setting future industry standards as they do so.
Next Graham Edgell, Director of Sustainability & Procurement – Morgan Sindall Group plc, talked of the Supply Chain Sustainability School and the growing need for world class collaboration within construction supply chains to enable a more sustainable environment. This comes on the heels of the imminent introduction of low emission zones across all major cities in the UK and the launch of minimum standards relating to plant specific conditions by early 2020.
Martin Coyd OBE, Head of Health, Safety & Well-being, Mace Construction then captivated the audience with his witty and honest account of his personal experience with mental health and why health and well-being is such an important topic within the construction industry. It was made clear those that work within construction are often vulnerable to mental health related issues such as stress and depression, with suicide highlighted as the number one cause of fatalities within the sector. Martin’s poignant presentation encouraged the leaders in the room to put a focus on the well-being of their employees with open communication, utilise education tools such as the Building Mental Health initiative, and offer clear pathways of help and support to those who may be suffering.
A Panel Discussion ensued with all the guest presenters who were also joined on stage by Mark Keily, QHSE Director at Nationwide Platforms, Giles Councell, IPAF Director of Operations, and Dr David Lefever, Health and Safety Executive. High on the list of topics was mental well-being following Martins presentation, with other questions focusing on reducing the environmental impact of the powered access industry by using sole plant suppliers, the advancement of work at height training and the development process of internal VIMS systems.
Following lunch in the expansive and picturesque grounds of Heythrop Park set to a backdrop of MEWP’s, group breakout sessions commenced. Topics included sustainable fleet selection and the work of the IPAF Technical Committee where delegates also had the opportunity to highlight key areas they wished the Technical Committee to consider for future review. Also included was a customer risk workshop outlining the biggest MEWP risks and concerns on a worksite whilst provoking reactions from delegates as to how they forward plan MEWP activities. Time was then allotted to the Manufacturers Showcase; an outdoor powered access exhibit and talks with the OEM’s who focused heavily on electric and hybrid equipment.
Finally, a breakout session dedicated to the Telecoms sector was set up to cover the major challenges posed by 5G installations including manual handling of heavier antennas, ECC challenges and compliance, and the implications of small cell installations on existing structures.
Concluding the event Mark Keily, said: “Each year, the event continues to build on its success, with leaders setting aside company and commercial advantages to come together as one to listen, share and learn. As always it was encouraging to see the level of passion and interaction from delegates regarding the importance of safely working at height as well as witness the levels they have gone to ensure it is implemented within their businesses. The comments, concerns and ideas deliberated at this year’s event will be carefully reviewed by the business and developed into solutions and / or shared with industry bodies where appropriate, so that the days outputs feed into the continued development of the powered access sector.”