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Highwire celebrates 20 years of delivering height safety

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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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