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Fall Arrest Anchors on Test – Looks: Similar – Performance: see for yourself!

Poorly designed fall arrest systems are dangerous – and can be deadly!

Take a look at this video from 3M testing 2 similar-looking fall arrests that behave very differently when they are asked to do their job!

Whether you are looking to test and certify your existing fall arrest systems or specify a new installation, talk to Highwire – the fall arrest specialists

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Your operatives access to construction sites is at risk

The CSCS CRO Card is being withdrawn

Your operatives may no longer be able to work on construction sites from 1st October 2017. The CSCS CRO (Construction Related Operations) Card is being withdrawn with the majority of cards expiring within the next 12 months. No new cards will be issued after 31st March 2017.

It will be replaced with a skills card which is based on formal qualification (NVQ Level 2 or higher) and on-site assessed competence. For more information visit

http://www.citb.co.uk/cards-testing/construction-skills-certificate-scheme-cscs/cscs-card-cro-card-changes/

Under the CSCS CRO card scheme no formal skills qualification was required, simply a CITB Health, Safety and Environment test which could be taken online by anyone. This was ideal for the 100s of construction site skills where there was no formal qualification. However, the scheme also allowed people with no skills or experience to access construction sites. This is one reason why it was decided the scheme was no longer fit for purpose and in need of replacement.

New scheme demands formal qualification and practical assessment

A major difference with the new scheme is that cards will only be issued with enrolment for assessment of operative competence which must be carried out by an approved assessor.

The requirement for a formal competency assessment can be a big hurdle for trades and skills where there is nothing in place now. Potentially, there can be significant costs for anyone undertaking training and assessment. The National Apprentice Scheme, supported by the new apprenticeship levy on large firms, will offer training vouchers, but only for approved training programmes. While other programmes may be developed that meet the requirements of the new system, the costs of non-approved training and assessment must be borne 100% by the trainee and/or their employer.

Qualification for Fall Arrest Operatives

The relevant qualification accepted by CSCS for fall arrest installation operatives is the

Level 2 NVQ Diploma in Accessing Operations and Rigging (Construction) – Pathway 7 – Fall Arrest.

For your operatives who do not already hold this qualification, the first step will be to enrol them with a ProQual approved assessor. You can find one readily with an internet search for approved assessor. This will enable your operatives to obtain an “in training” CSCS card, which will be valid for 12 months. On successful completion of the NVQ, operatives can apply for the full skilled labour card.

Highwire has been actively involved in the development of this programme since 2005. If you have any questions about the training do get in touch.

CSCS cards are required on all major UK construction sites. They are already individually electronically verified, and by 2020 this will include biometric identification.

These are major changes to the way work can be carried out
on UK construction sites. You should be aware of the
new regime when organising planned works.

If you are a  specialist subcontractor enrol your operatives in good time to avoid them being turned away from construction site work.

If your project involves height safety/fall-arrest contact Highwire for the latest information on the new changes

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Is your site ready for the new operatives qualification regime?

The Construction Skills Certification Scheme CRO Cards are being phased out. No new cards will be issued after 31st March 2017. All cards issued since 31st October 2015 expire on 30th September 2017.

CRO cards are being replaced by a regime of skills cards which are only available to operatives who can show they have a qualification that is on the national framework AND have demonstrated technical and practical competence in their skill to an OFQAL approved assessor during on-site observation. Each card will only be valid for a single skill.

Are your sites ready to work under the new regime?

The existing CSCS  scheme has been adopted by most major construction groups as a platform for higher levels of skill, health and safety on UK construction sites. The new regime is significantly more rigorous and supports a better demonstration of skills competence. The principle of no card – no site access is set to get even more widely adopted.

The new scheme is likely to be beneficial to site operators wanting to maintain high levels of competence and Health & Safety on their sites.

The fall-arrest experience

Do any of your sites have people working at height?  Although the new scheme is only now been rolled out, Highwire has been working on developing and implementing the principles of the scheme since 2005. Highwire is currently unique in the fall arrest sector in that our operatives are Level 2 NVQ qualified and competence-assessed.

Our experience can help you make the most of the new regime on your site  – call us to discuss your needs.

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New qualification regime for construction site operatives

As announced recently, despite the looming Brexit, it is business as usual for height access and fall arrest safety standards in the UK

The same cannot be said regarding the qualification requirements for construction site operatives!

Over recent years there have been increasing concerns as to whether individuals working on construction sites have the required training and qualifications for the type of work they carry out.

The existing Construction Related Occupation (CRO) card (in place since 2005) is operated by the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS). The CRO card programme has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years. The introduction of the CRO ‘Labourer’ card in 2014 saw the number of cards being issued jump from around 3000 per month to over 12000 per month.

With cards being available to anyone passing the straightforward CITB Heath, Safety and Environment test online, questions have been raised as to whether the CRO cards effectively demonstrate that holders have the required training and qualification for the work they are carrying out.   The conclusion was that CRO cards do not meet this requirement.

The new system

With the CRO card recognised as no longer fit for purpose, the CSCS has consulted with industry to determine the best way to address this issue.

October 2015 saw the start of the introduction of new measures which are paving the way for the withdrawal of the CRO card. Now, in 2017 the impact is really starting to be felt.

No new CRO cards will be issued after 31st March 2017 and any cards issued since 1 October 2015 will expire on 30 September 2017 with no option to renew.

In future, every construction site operative will be required to have a card showing that they hold
a nationally recognised qualification and/or formally assessed experience and demonstrated
skills for the occupation being undertaken. Cards will be occupation-specific.

Potentially, there can be significant costs for anyone undertaking formal training and assessment. To address this, the National Apprentice Scheme, supported by the new apprenticeship levy on large firms, will offer training vouchers, but only for approved training programmes. While other programmes may be developed that meet the requirements of the new system, the costs of non-approved training and assessment must be borne 100% by the trainee and/or their employer. Clearly, training and assessment which attracts funding will be in demand!

The impact for Fall Arrest

The CRO card scheme covered 100s of construction site occupations for which there were no nationally recognised qualification – including fall arrest. With the new scheme, national qualifications or formally assessed skills capability are mandatory.

For Fall Arrest, there is currently only one recognised qualification:

The ProQual L2 NVQ Diploma in Accessing Operations and Rigging (Construction) Pathway 7 Fall Arrest.

Approved competency assessors are also the only people approved to undertake skills/competence assessment

This effectively means that any prospective new fall arrest operatives must enrol with an approved assessor. This will enable them to obtain “in training” CSCS card valid for 12 months. On successful completion of the NVQ operatives can apply for the full skilled labour card.

Without this card, operatives will not be able to work on fall arrest tasks.

Talk to Highwire

Since 2005, Highwire has been aware of the need for formal, nationally approved training and qualification standards in fall arrest.

Over the past 12 years, we have been working actively on the development of the training programme which is now the heart of the new ProQual L2 NVQ Diploma. This experience has put us in a unique position in our sector. HIGHWIRE OPERATIVES ARE ALREADY NVQ QUALIFIED AND ASSESSED.

Whether you are looking to ensure your project sites meet the new standards or that your operatives are fully prepared for the new regime, Highwire services and experience can prove invaluable. Please get in touch to discuss your requirements.

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Business as usual for height safety standards following BREXIT vote

There has been a good deal of speculation as to what will happen to a range of safety standards originating from Europe following last June’s vote.

We have now started to see indications that just because the UK is leaving the Single Market and Customs Union doesn’t mean a free for all on the standards front. This is particularly important in the world of height safety where retaining and developing the highest standards for both working practices and equipment is critical to maintaining a safe working environment for everyone involved.

A recent BSI committee meeting at the end of January has released this press statement confirming that European-based Safety Standards will remain at the heart of good business practice in the UK.

Highwire Ltd has been at the forefront of developing the highest levels of safety, training and inclusion across the Height Safety sector, as well as the wider construction industry.

If you have any questions about the potential impact of BREXIT on your height safety obligations, do get in touch

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Social housing and working safely at Height with Highwire

It is no secret that there is an alarming social housing crisis throughout the UK right now. With more than a million households currently on waiting lists for adequate social housing (a number that is steadily on the rise), the need for immediate action is becoming increasingly crucial. In fact, several reports indicate more than an 80% increase in the number of households waiting on social housing availability since 1997. So how exactly are these housing associations dealing with this crisis, while still ensuring that safety standards are being met?

Housing Associations are overwhelmed by both housing needs and the height safety requirements needed to maintain them

Addressing the current social housing crisis has unsurprisingly led to many housing associations being forced to take on massively large portfolios of properties, often without knowing exactly what type of housing they have, or what to even expect in terms of height safety issues. This often leads to several uncertainties as to the test/certification status, as well as the “fitness for purpose” of some height safety system installations.

With housing associations being responsible for every aspect when it comes to the safety of individuals charged with carrying out maintenance on properties (often subcontractors), it is vital that health and safety standards are both up to date and strictly adhered to. Keeping up with the ever-changing health and safety standards can prove to be an overwhelming task, especially considering that it is dealing specifically with the preservation of human lives. This is primarily the reason why many of today’s housing associations are relying on thorough Height-Safety audits to not only identify potential height-safety hazards but also find solutions to maintain good standards as well.

Highwire – helping to ease the burden

Highwire specialises in carrying out Height-Safety audits for numerous housing associations by creating detailed records (both written and photographic) of what height safety equipment is currently installed, to offer insight and support on how existing safety equipment can be both improved and enhanced.

In addition to assessing and reporting on the Height-Safety status of portfolio properties, installed equipment requires regular testing to ensure that it meets stringent height safety standards. This is why Highwire implements a re-test schedule for all safety equipment to ensure the safety of anyone who will be using or maintaining such equipment. We also apply recertification schedules that are both set up and managed by us to ensure that safety equipment is “in-test” as well as having valid certification.

Continued assessment and maintenance

Height safety involves far more than safety fittings and fixings to buildings, however. Increasingly, housing associations are encouraged to provide PPE (Personal Protection Equipment)– including equipment such as safety harnesses – alongside the safety fixings on site. This is vital for emergency repairs where a subcontractor may not have the correct PPE to hand, but also saves in terms of costs as it improves the efficiency of maintenance visits – meaning subcontractors don’t have to return again with more equipment.

Highwire not only adheres to all of the current height safety requirements – we feel we consistently exceed them by providing recertification schedules that are both implemented and managed exclusively by our team, as well as offering expert advice on carrying out practical and realistic solutions for each client’s unique needs.

We have been able to provide businesses, not just in the housing sector, with the most workable and practical height safety solutions by forming and maintaining trusted and long-term relationships with each and every one of our valued clients.

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Highwire’s take on Fees For Intervention

A recent report released by the HSE has concluded that not only is the Fees For Intervention (FFI) scheme a good thing but that it is here to stay. Feelings on this news have been mixed, with some people of the opinion that FFI is nothing more than a tactic to raise revenues, as opposed to improving on-site health and safety.

The HSE, of course, disagrees with this opinion and instead theorises that the threat of monetary loss will improve health and safety practices among businesses.

Opposers struggling to find a practical alternative

The frustrating truth for companies at the moment, is that there is currently no practical alternative to the FFI. As much as we dislike any plan that involves the risk of additional costs, it is irresponsible to put a price on health and safety. The HSE is of the opinion that companies are more likely to take all necessary safety precautions when the fear of fines and penalties hang over their heads – an opinion that is, unfortunately, hard to disprove.

Are you at risk of receiving fines and costs associated with the FFI?

In a word, yes – especially if you are unsure of the current health and safety standards that are in place. Thus far, many companies financially affected by the FFI due to non-compliance of safety standards have claimed that although they have attempted to be diligent in their health and safety practices. Many claim they have ultimately struggled to keep up with all that the health and safety standards involve. Unfortunately for these companies, citing ignorance does little to reduce or eliminate the costs associated with non-compliance of health and safety law.

Highwire’s take on the current situation

There are two sides to every argument, and in this case, Highwire can identify with both. Because of how passionate we are about health and safety, we fully acknowledge the need for health and safety enforcement measures to be taken. However, we also recognise that for companies to remain successful and profitable, they cannot afford the staggeringly high fines and enforcement notice costs associated with the FFI, as well as the expense and inconvenience associated with the HSE getting involved.

Moving forward

The silver lining for companies when it comes to HSE involvement and the FFI is that if you are adhering to the current safety standards, you really shouldn’t have anything to worry about. This is why it is imperative that you hire a knowledgeable and experienced health and safety expert to deal with your health and safety requirements – particularly when it comes to specialist fields such as working at height.

At Highwire, we specialise in maintaining health and safety systems that can help you avoid a HSE visit or FFI charge.  We carry out up-to-date safety audits, as well as offering on-going support and advice on how to best improve and maintain crucial safety requirements – offering you not only protection from the HSE or FFI costs but peace of mind as well.

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Action against poor quality safety equipment

I hwlogorecently read an interesting article by Stuart Linnet. Manager, Global Engineered Systems at Capital Safety. Entitled Working at height:demistifying the myths, Stuart’s article discusses the importance of proper training and procedures in the use of Height Safety equipment and how people make assumptions about the quality and effectiveness of some safety equipment which simply aren’t true.

A key assumption made (quite naturally) by many people is that because a piece of equipment is CE marked it must be tested as safe and fit for purpose. This is not true!

As height safety specialists, Highwire do not simply supply a standard range of products. In every case, we make a professional assessment of the needs and application of each client and then specify a system and equipment that is, in our engineering experience, fit for purpose.

In our own experience we have come across height safety system installations which include components which simply WOULD NOT WORK in a fall-arrest incident, yet meet the basic required standards.

HSE-logoThis is a situation that the Health and Safety Executive is keen to address proactively. At a meeting earlier this year, HSE representatives agreed that where a BSIF member identifies an inferior piece of safety equipment which, in their opinion, is inappropriate for the particular installation, they should report this directly to the BISF who will then refer details to the HSE for investigation and any necessary action they deem appropriate.

The details of this new regime are still being finalised but it looks like it may be a significant step forward in raising UK height safety standards even further.

If you’d like to know more or to discuss your own height safety requirements, do get in touch.

 

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The value of planned maintenance

Planned maintenanceMaintaining a property is a never-ending task. Once you think that everything has been dealt with, something else inevitably crops up. If you simply react to a problem whenever it arises, you could find yourself facing a lot of inconvenience and unnecessary expenses. This is why a planned maintenance programme is advisable, irrespective of whether you are responsible for a factory, a whole estate, or a commercial building.

The problem with being reactive

When an unexpected problem occurs, it can be incredibly frustrating, especially as issues seem to happen at the most inconvenient of times. In a lot of cases, these issues will need to be dealt with straight away otherwise they can cause even more damage to the property. This may mean that you need to close your business for a number of days or that other plans need to be cancelled. You are also going to be faced with an expensive and unexpected repair bill, and if you’ve had to close your business, you’re going to be losing money in that respect too. Instead, you can manage the condition of your property with regular maintenance.

The benefits of regular maintenance

The cost of regular maintenance is a lot lower and you know how much you are going to pay every quarter or year, for example. This means that you have no nasty surprises – rather, you have a programme of planned maintenance that you can control and complete on your terms. You will not only save money in the short run, but the long term as well, as potential defects will be identified and addressed before they become costly disasters. This ensures the physical deterioration of your property is minimised, which will in turn increase your property’s value over time.

A vital tool in preserving older structures

A comprehensive planned maintenance programme is vital for all types of buildings, especially older buildings, a lot of which do not have a maintenance programme in place. This is worrying, as small problems can quickly magnify if they are overlooked. With an older building, the entire structure must be assessed to ensure the useful and economic life of the property is optimised. It is also worth noting that legislative and statutory property requirements are regularly updated, which raises the upkeep standards that are expected. All in all, planned maintenance is a vital asset management strategy for businesses, particularly those in older buildings, ensuring optimal value and preserving the building.

How to plan your maintenance

The planned maintenance required depends entirely on your property. Reputable companies will not provide a one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, a professional will make a detailed survey of your building so that they can determine what scheduled works are required, which could be anything from structural surveys to dealing with asbestos related issues. They will then estimate costs and work out what projects need attending to first.

Access issues

One thing that is worth considering is that access can be a real issue, especially in regards to commercial and industrial buildings. This is something that can pose further problems and expenses if you react to issues instead of implementing planned maintenance. Luckily, this is something you don’t have to worry about if you choose Highwire, as we can develop an effective planned maintenance programme for your property ensuring you have the right equipment to access all areas.

Contact us to discuss your effective planned maintenance

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Valuing people – The power to deliver

BeFairRecruitment and retention in the construction sector is something that has been the subject of many debates, as there is a real issue in terms of developing standards, and ethnic minorities and women are also highly unrepresented. Here, we discuss this in further depth while also providing suggestions on what can be done to attract and retain the best talent in the UK construction sector.

Don’t ‘treat ‘em mean’

One issue that is plaguing the industry is that subcontractors often feel undervalued, which, of course, has a knock-on effect. Most would agree that there is a total imbalance of power. Barry Ashmore, the owner of a company providing dispute resolution in the construction sector, StreetwiseSubbie, remarked that younger people are being trained to think that beating subcontractors is the way to do business, calling it shameful.

Payment issues

Unfair payment practices are the main issue, with a recent survey revealing that every three in five subcontractors are underpaid by main contractors, even when they job they delivered was perfect. In addition to this, 55 per cent of SMEs need to wait over 30 days to be paid, and one in ten subcontractors mistakenly believe that main contractors can simply refuse payment without any justification.

We’re all equal – aren’t we?

There is then the issue that women and ethnic minorities are underrepresented in the construction sector. The industry is 13 per cent female, yet this drops to 5 per cent in technical and professional roles, while ethnic minorities struggle to make up a mere two per cent. Maternity leave is virtually anathema. In fact, in STEM roles as a whole, 28 per cent of women have taken maternity leave, which is shocking when you consider that 80 per cent of women in the UK have at least one child.

An industry-wide shakeup is needed

It is evident that there needs to be a push to develop standards in the industry, ensuring that there is more equality and a positive approach to diversity. However, the issue is that the focus on developing these standards tends to be with a few major firms, who are then expected to filter these standards down to SMEs. This makes little sense considering the sector is 96 per cent SMEs, and they can often feel like they are being bullied by the bigger firms, which in turn causes a greater negative spiral.

Starting from the bottom

Instead, it would be advisable to work from the bottom up to promote equality and diversity in the industry, showing businesses the value of this. There is also a need to focus on improving business management, encouraging a professional attitude towards managing subcontractors and being open to hiring women and ethnic minorities. By embedding respect throughout the sector and implementing good management practice, the feeling of being undervalued can be eradicated. Knowledge and information resources need to be easily accessible so that firms know what to do in order to raise standards while coherent communication and promotion of good practices is also vital.

Practice what you preach – we do!

At Highwire, this is something we are heavily invested in. We have active involvement in CITB BeFair, which is a structured approach to Fairness, Inclusion, and Respect (FIR). We are actually the smallest company to receive the CITB equality and diversity accreditation, and we are focused on driving equality and diversity from the ground upwards. Our director, Liz Rickard, sits on the BSI board and works alongside the government in regards to the new diversity standard.

It is vital that all businesses, even the smallest firms, start to take responsibility. The focus should be on working with companies that have the right attitude, instead of expecting to drive standards down from the top. Next time you have a project, see it as an opportunity to build for the future by taking this into account.

Contact Highwire to find out more

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