An Interview with a Career Scaffolder
Have you worked in the scaffolding industry for your entire career?
I left school when I was 17 years old and started working as a scaffold labourer. I worked for a small company based out of Chatham, Kent as part of its three-man gang. It was very dirty and dangerous work. We would get to the yard at 6 am to load the lorry and then head out for the day. I worked for many years as a scaffolder, but I was then able to advance my career when within TRAD an opportunity arose for me to become an Advanced Scaffold Inspector and after that a SHEQ Officer. Now, I am the Group Safety, Health, Environment, and Quality Manager. (I work as part of our SHEQ team under the Group Safety Director.)
How much has scaffolding change since you first started?
When I first began to work for small scaffolding companies, the safety culture was very poor, very little training was provided, and some scaffolders preferred working unsafely. Accidents were considered to be occupational hazards. Over the years, however, there have been significant improvements that have been driven by companies like ours, reputable clients, and the NASC. Scaffolders are highly trained these days. With the rise of trusted scaffold suppliers such as APL Kwikform, I am personally quite proud of the professionalism of today’s scaffolders. Their safe behaviour has significantly reduced the risk of injuries.
What do you think about the injury at work statistics?
There has been a significant decrease in falls from height since 2000 when the NASC Safety Guidance for safe working at height SG4 was introduced. Over the past eighteen years, there has been an 80% reduction seen by the NASC. (The 2018 NASC Safety Report shows an additional 46% decrease in Falls From Heights just from last year.)
Before that, FFH accidents were quite common. I and many of my peers have known someone who died or was seriously injured while working with a scaffolding company. However, for 5 consecutive years, NASC members have not had any fatal injuries. That is great but we cannot become complacent and need to keep striving to make further improvements.
What do you think are the main benefits provided to NASC members?
Being an NASC member has great value and is also very beneficial for clients who work with NASC contractors. There is a range of benefits that you receive like receiving SSIP accreditation, having access to a range of professional advice (like employment and tax issues), additional funding for training, and much more. By choosing an NASC member such as TRAD you can rest assure that their scaffolders are proven to be safe and competent, stringently audited, and well trained (with more than 50% gold or blue carded, with a 75% minimum PAYE).
What do you think are the biggest challenges that the scaffolding industry is facing?
Most likely, scaffolding will develop into a much more specialised trading. Keeping this in mind, it is important for the industry to attract dedicated young individuals with determination and drive who will become great scaffolders eventually. There is great potential out there. However, it needs to be actively sought out by the construction industry. TRAD employs many apprentices. We have an outstanding mentoring scheme and we have several ambassadors working to recruit the next generation of scaffolders.
Do you think the previous jobs you have done have helped you to be a better safety professional today?
Yes, definitely. Having the experience of working my way through the scaffolding industry gave me the first-hand knowledge and experience to get to where I am now. Each job I had has led me to where I am today in my career. When I worked as a Scaffold Inspector, I saw bad workmanship and good quality work. That helped me better understand the need to ensure high-quality training