An Interview with a Career Scaffolder
When did you start in the scaffolding industry?
I began working as a scaffold labourer at the age of seventeen, when I left school. I was part of a three-man team working for a small company that is based in Chatham, Kent. The work was dirty and dangerous. Our team arrived at the yard at 6 am to load the lorry and then, we headed out for work. I continued working as a scaffold labourer for some years but then, I grabbed the opportunity when there was an opening for an advanced scaffold inspector within TRAD and then, I moved further to become a SHEQ officer. I now work as the Group Safety, Environment, Health, and Quality manager under the leadership of my group safety director in the SHEQ team.
How has scaffolding changed since you started?
The safety culture was extremely poor when I started working as a scaffold labourer for many small companies as little training was given and some scaffolders preferred working in an unsafe manner. Accidents at the worksite were often regarded as an occupational hazard. Thankfully, the industry has improved by leaps and bounds driven by reputable clients, the rise of mobile aluminium scaffold, NASC and companies such as ours. These days, scaffolders get a lot of training. I take proud in the professional approach of our scaffolders who maintain safe behaviour which substantially reduces the chances of injury at the worksite.
What’s your opinion on injury at work statistics?
The NASC safety guidance for safe working at height, SG4, was introduced in 2000 and it has brought about a substantial reduction in the accidents involving falls from height. There has been an 80% reduction over the last 18 years and the 2018 safety report by NASC confirms that the accidents involving falls from height have further reduced by 46% as compared to last year.
Before the introduction of safety guidance, these accidents were common. Some of my friends and I personally know people who have lost their lives or have suffered serious injury while working for scaffold companies. However, members of NASC have not had any fatality for the last 5 years. However, it doesn’t mean we can get complacent and it’s important for us to continue to improve.
What are the advantages of being an NASC member?
Being an NASC member provides substantial value for workers as well as clients who choose NASC contractors. NASC members are eligible for many benefits such as additional funding for training, accreditations for SSIP as well as access to important advice on various matters such as those related to tax and employment, and a lot more. When you choose an NASC member such as TRAD, you will always get well-trained scaffolders (minimum 75% PAYE and more than 50% gold or blue carded). Also, all the members are strictly audited and it is ensured that they are competent and safe.
What are the biggest challenges in front of the scaffolding industry?
The scaffolding industry is moving towards becoming a specialised trade. This is why companies in the scaffolding industry need to devise ways to get young people who have the required determination and drive to become great scaffolders. There is no dearth of potential but the construction industry has to actively work to seek it out. A lot of apprentices are employed by TRAD. We offer an exceptional mentoring scheme and several ambassadors work to recruit the next generation of scaffolders.
How has your job experience helped you become a better safety professional?
My previous jobs have helped me a lot. I have worked my way through the scaffolding sector and it has given me a lot of first-hand knowledge and experience. The jobs I have done have contributed to where I stand today. Working as a scaffold inspector, I was able to personally see examples of bad workmanship as well as good quality work which reinforced the importance of high-quality training for scaffolders.