Attendees at FIS’s annual conference earlier this month heard harsh messages and urgent calls for action from its four industry guest speakers regarding the Grenfell fire and building regulations, Brexit, skills shortage and mental health in construction.
Geoff Wilkinson, UK Building Regulations expert, opened the morning session with some hard-hitting facts about the Grenfell Tower fire; 87 sets of human remains had been found in the Tower. “That is the state of the UK construction industry,” said Geoff, linking to the Great Fire of London in 1666 when the first building rules were implemented. Delegates were visibly moved, with many sharing their observations on Twitter which were incorporated into the Live Blog.
Next up was Noble Francis, economics director at the Construction Products Association who was downbeat about the construction sector citing Brexit negotiations as bad news for the industry. The UK government labels the sector as low priority within the discussions, even though there are serious skills shortages. Noble reported that activity in commercial offices peaked this year but new orders since the EU Referendum were 19% down in 2016 and 24% down in the first half of 2017.
Tom Barton, executive director of the Get It Right Initiative conducted an interactive session, producing a list of delegates’ views which included poor culture in relation to quality and excessive commercial pressures. “We’ve never got the time to make it right, but we’ve always got the time to put it right” concluded Tom.
Our final speaker, Martin Coyd, head of health and safety at Mace, again touched nerves with the audience when talking about mental health in construction. “Two of our colleagues have killed themselves today,” he said. “If you work in construction, you are 15 times more likely to die from suicide than from an accident.” Anxiety and stress now account for 27 million lost days at work; one in four have a mental health issue in a year, and with as many as 3.6 million people working in the construction industry and supplier side, this is too much to ignore. Change is crucial.
Download the article ‘Get It Right’ as featured in the November 2017 issue of Focus magazine here.