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The Image of Women in Construction


The role of women in the construction industry is changing.

As part of our commitment to supporting this process, The Highwire team is delighted to be getting involved with a new NAWIC initiative – The Image of Women in Construction 

The project is a collaboration with photographer Morley von Sternberg (http://www.vonsternberg.com) in a photographic book that will reflect the person : properly, engaged in the moment. The aim is to showcase who the women really are, their passion, not only the fact that they are women working in construction.

The project aims to highlight the contribution of individuals to the industry, by capturing the real face of women and the range of roles in the construction sector.

You can find out more and get involved here

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New Civil Engineer 100 Awards 2018 – Shortlist Announced


The Shortlist for the NCE100 Awards 2018 is now out and Highwire Finance Director, Liz Rickard, is on the judging panel. 

“I am delighted to be involved in this year’s awards ” says Liz. “It is a privilege to be on the judging panel for the awards, and to be able to  recognise & celebrate best practice in this exciting industry.”

You can view the full shortlist here. 

The winners will be announced at a gala event at The Troxy, London on 23rd May.

You will find full details of the awards here

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New Standard – Personal fall protection equipment. Anchor systems. Specification – BS 8610:2017


In December 2017, the British Standards Institute launched BS 8610:2017. These are new standards for Personal fall protection equipment – Anchor systems and they represent a significant upgrade from the older standards they replace. As a consequence, they are somewhat more complex.

We recognise the importance of getting key standards and safety information distributed across our sector and to assist in this process, Highwire are working with BSIF and other sector experts to develop a simplified position paper.

We will publish this as soon as possible.

In the meantime, if you would like to know more we would love to hear from you.

Alternatively, you can access more details on the new standard here.


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Health and Safety matters to everyone


Health & Safety often gets bad press for being a box-ticking exercise. However, a recent case handled by the HSE demonstrates that height safety needs to be on everybody’s agenda.

The case, which resulted in a scaffolder receiving a suspended sentence for not wearing a harness at height, highlighted the fact that this happened despite him being experienced and having had full training.

The moral of the story – Health & Safety is something that needs to be embedded within the culture of a company, and be seen as important to everyone, and not just those with “Health & Safety” in their job description.

You can read the full story here




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Specialist Height Safety Apprenticeship gets the go-ahead


In early October the Height Safety Trailblazer Group received notification that their proposal to develop a Fall Protection Technician apprenticeship has been approved.

The approval recognised that an appropriate quality of training is available for the Height Safety sector. Approval of the apprenticeship on a national framework is immensely valuable. It means small to medium-sized companies will be able to access grant funding to support apprentice training. It ensures that our sector is able to obtain skilled worker cards for operatives, following the withdrawal of CRO cards this year

What is the Height Safety Trailblazer Group?

A Height Safety Trailblazer Group is a group of employers representing the Height Safety Sector. They have come together to develop standards for apprenticeships specific to relevant job roles in the sector.

The British Safety Industry Federation, Height Safety Group (BSIF HSG) has been formative in setting up the Trailblazer group. A key aim of the group was to ensure it is fully representative of the sector. SME installers make up 50% of the representation.

The group obtained specialist advice from trainers, educators and awarding bodies including BEIS, CITB, HSE etc.

High-Quality Fall-Protection Training

In approving the Height Safety Trailblazer proposal, the Construction Route Panel was particularly complimentary of the “well-written and clear proposal”.  Panel members noted how the proposal clearly explained details of the Fall Protection Technician role in a way that is accessible to someone who perhaps doesn’t have in-depth knowledge of the sector.

We anticipate that the new Fall Protection Technician programme will be available to apprentices next year.

In the meantime, the Height Safety Trailblazer Group will continue to develop the standard, extending it across a range of occupations throughout our sector.

For more details of the Height Safety Trailblazer Group and the new Fall Protection Technician apprenticeship, contact us at Highwire 

For wider information on Trailblazers see Future of Apprenticeships in England: Guidance for trailblazers.

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Highwire celebrates 20 years of delivering height safety


As a result of Autumn 2017 sees Highwire celebrate 20 years of commitment to Height Safety and the drive to enhance safety, equality and diversity across our sector.

Marking the anniversary, we decided to look back at some highlights of our journey that started in 1997.  Working with partner Liz Rickard, Structural Engineer Lee Rickard recognised that, at the time,  there was no company in our industry set up by graduate engineers to provide structural verification. Consequently, he decided to explore the opportunity!

Over the next few years, the business grew steadily with a growing number of high-profile clients. We are proud that Sir Robert McAlpine was one of our first customers.  Despite these early successes we recognised that continuing innovation was to the future. Our aim was to drive professionalism in our sector and, in turn, drive success. We were early sector-adopters of AutoCAD and with it, the ability to provide comprehensive engineering drawings to clients.

Opportunity for the next generation

Most noteworthy, 2001 was the year we took on our first work experience placement. Our WE programme continues today. We focus giving opportunity to girls from the local area. We help to open their horizons to the range of career and work opportunities in engineering, construction and technology. Shortly after this, Highwire founder/director Elizabeth Rickard started working full-time for the company. Alongside her professional work, she is passionate about the promotion of equality and diversity across the construction and engineering sectors. You can read her biog here.

Working in our field, we come across all sorts of situations. Even so, we have learnt there is always something new around the corner! During 2003 we were working on a major bespoke fixings project, at what was Piccadilly tower Manchester, when nesting ospreys interrupted the work!

Piccadilly Tower Project in 2003

Continuing our drive to provide quality service, in 2004 we took the decision to only employ direct labour. This was yet another first for our sector. Our growing retest and inspection team also necessitated significant expansion of our offices. In 2007 we bid for, and won, a project to undertake fall arrest work at Buckingham Palace. 

Focusing on Professionalism and Safety

In 2008, Elizabeth Rickard became a full member of the Institute of Directors. Following this appointment, Highwire joined the Construction Industry Training Board and also secured accreditation to the IIP standard. As a result of Highwire’s work with the CITB, we piloted the innovative BeFair initiative. Following the pilot, CITB decided to roll out the programme across the sector.  Alongside the extensive professional and sector developments we were involved in, our work continued to expand, in both volume and scope. For example, we were asked to engineer a system to hang artworks in a major exhibition- see image.

Artwork Installation 2009

Training is a critical element of the Highwire approach. Hence, in 2011 we became the first in our sector to develop and implement in-house competency and training for our technicians. Membership of the British Safety Industry Federation led to Highwire making active contribution to BS standards and industry regulation.

Over recent years, our focus has remained. In 2015, Elizabeth Rickard joined the BSI committee developing BS76005 – Valuing people through diversity. BSI launched the standard in 2016 and at the end of the same year, Elizabeth was invited to join the judging panel of the prestigious Women in Construction and Engineering awards.

Up to date

Bringing things right up to date gets to 2017. Expansion and formalisation of qualifications continue across the whole sector through BSIF and the Trailblazer Group. Elizabeth Rickard chairs the group and she is actively looking forward to the launch of the new apprenticeship programme focused on ‘Fall Arrest’. For the latest on the Trailblazer programme, click here.

In conclusion, we have had an interesting 20 years and we are proud of our achievements to date. Therefore we now look forward to the next 20 years and building on the solid foundations we have created with the support of our fantastic team.

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Meet the Team – Liz Rickard, FD


Liz is a graduate structural engineer and champion of women in engineering and construction. 

Her company, Highwire Ltd, was founded in 1997. The aim of the business is bringing new focus to professional height safety, providing structurally‐proven safe access at height. The company specialises in high-level access on some of the UK’s largest building projects. She has been interviewed on BBC North West Tonight and BBC Radio Manchester as well as various other media organisations

Liz speaks confidently about: 

  • Construction & engineering
  • Women in engineering
  • Science & technology in education
  • Height safety

She began her career in the construction industry 24 years ago as a graduate engineer. Working with a consulting engineers company in Manchester, she gained significant experience in structural design and assessment, client liaison, project management, loss adjustment, CDM supervision and tender assessment. Her focus was historic building remedial works and conservation, an area in which she still undertakes private consultancy work.

Since 2003, Liz has been Financial Director and Head Engineer of Highwire Ltd, as well as a co‐owner.

Taking Highwire forward

Since joining Highwire, Liz has consolidated the company’s financial and legal status and ensured that the correct support systems are in place to achieve a consistently high-quality service whilst expanding their operations.

A member the British Safety Industry Federation height safety group, Liz advises the BSI and HSE on industry standards. Consequently, she is actively working to raise standards and awareness within the height safety sector. For over 10 years she has worked with top international experts studying the dynamic engineering principles for height safety products.

Liz actively promotes improving the image of the construction industry. Also, she is a keen advocate of skills retention in the sector. As a result, she guided Highwire Ltd through the process of piloting the BEFaIR framework for the Construction Industry Training Board and as a senior member of The Women’s Engineering Society is working on a BSI committee for Diversity and Inclusion within the workplace.

In 2016 she has accepted an invitation to judge for the Women In Construction and Engineering awards, an area in which she is passionately active.

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New British Standard in Diversity and Inclusion


As Britain becomes an ever more diverse society it seems incredible that there are still so many sectors of business and industry that hold on to outdated ideas. 

Highwire is positioned squarely at the heart of two prime examples – engineering and construction. The Highwire directors recognise the real potential of a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

Several years ago they took the decision not to sit back and wait for things to change but to become actively involved with the movement for modernisation of employment practices.    

Joining a British Standards Institute committee, on behalf of the Women’s Engineering Society, Highwire Director and Chief Engineer Elizabeth Rickard has worked extensively (alongside her day job!) to promote the cause.

This effort bore real fruit last month with the launch, on 4 May 2017, of British Standard BS 76005 Valuing people through Diversity and Inclusion.

This video was produced by Manchester Business School who, in association with The Fairness at Work Research Centre, hosted the launch of the standard following its publication:

The new standard:

….provides a framework and recommendations for employers, and gives guidance on how companies can look beyond the protected characteristics such gender, race and disability described by the Equality Act 2010.   

Diversity & Inclusion are core to the Highwire business model. As well as being central to the development of BS 76005, Elizabeth Rickard has been actively promoting the standard and its principles.

Recently interviewed by Recruiter.co.uk, Elizabeth said that the key message for recruiters from the new Standard was that they should no longer look at a role and the kind of individual needed to fill it, but at a person’s capacity to do a role.

She continued:

“Employers shouldn’t assume that because a job had always been done or organised in a certain way this should ontinue. We assume that hours and place of work are part of the role, but when we break it down that is often not the case in the modern world.” “For example, through the use of technology, it can be fulfilled in a number of different places in a number of different times if it suits the company and the individual”.

You can read the full article on recruiter.co.uk here

The new British Standard isn’t Elizabeth’s only current work in the field. She has also recently been involved as a judge in the prestigious Women in Construction and Engineering (WICE) Awards which were announced at a gala evening in central London on 24 May. Read the full story here 

If you would like to know more about how the new standard can help benefit your business you can contact Elizabeth here


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Highwire judge at WICE Awards 2017


Highwire are again pleased to be supporting the annual Women in Construction and Engineering (WICE) Awards.

A great night for all at the 2017 Women in Construction and Engineering Awards 

Women represent only 11% of the construction workforce in the UK and most of these jobs are office-based and only 2% work in manual jobs. When it comes to women in engineering only 9 per cent of UK engineering professionals are women, 18 percent in Spain, 26 percent in Sweden and 20 percent in Italy.

According to the Department of Civil & Building Engineering, Loughborough University, UK;

"The construction sector plays an important role in economic growth. However, the sector remains 
male-dominated and women’s growing role as decision-makers and buyers is not reflected by their 
input into construction innovation and creativity."

The aim of the WICE awards is to make Construction and Engineering more enticing to women. To create role models for women considering a career in these sectors, while encouraging companies to employ and train more women in these industries”.

Following a great launch event in 2016, the 2017 awards event held at the Hilton Bankside, London on 24th May were equally successful. Another great event celebrating diversity and inclusivity of women in construction and engineering.

Sponsors of WICE 2017

Judging process

For the 2017 awards, Highwire Finance Director and Senior Engineer, Liz Rickard, joined a panel of almost 60 industry professionals assessing over 150 finalists across 24 award categories.

Judging was carried out over an intense day at the end of April. Following detailed assessments of all finalists during the day, the judges’ decisions were finalised at the evening Judges Dinner. 

Some images from Judging Day

Highwire commitment

Highwire height Safety operates at the heart od a sector where there is recognised potential for significant progress in diversity and inclusion. We are committed to working proactively to encourage, develop and implement best practice to ensure the widest opportunity for all across construction and engineering. 

To find out more about our work in  this area, or to discuss your height safety needs with a company who really cares, do get in touch 

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BSIF Launches its Election Manifesto


As the 2017 General Election approaches the British Safety Industry Federation is calling on the next Government to ensure that Britain retains its world leading position in occupational safety and health.

The BSIF is committed to the maintenance and continuing improvement of occupational health and safety across the UK

You may have recently seen the 1977 film of Blue Peter’s John Noakes (RIP) climbing Nelson’s Column. It is almost impossible to believe that sort of thing was common practice less than a generation ago!

 The new manifesto calls on the next government to be fully behind their aims and policy built around 4 pillars:

  1. Promoting the image and reputation of safety and health.
  2. Ensuring a good deal for the UK safety industry and workers in a global market.
  3. Enhancing the quality of safety products in the market and user knowledge.
  4. Implementing the Health & Safety Executive’s Helping Great Britain Work Well strategy.

Naturally, Highwire fully endorse the BSIF proposals

If you would like to read the manifesto in full, you can download it here

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