Plant Hire Conference Review

CPA - Construction Plant HireIt may have been some time since the CPA last held an industry-wide conference, but the substantial list of attendees at this year’s event clearly demonstrated an appetite for discussion and networking.

With delegates from hire companies, contractors, industry associations and government agencies, the CPA welcomed more than 140 members, and equally importantly non-members, to hear speakers discuss the ways in which we can understand and influence the future of our industry.

Peter Hansford, Chief Construction Advisor to HM Government, provided delegates with an update on Construction 2025, the government’s vision for improvement within the built environment.

“Construction is important for the UK economy,” he said.  “It provides £90bn per annum to the UK economy, around 7-8% of GDP and safeguards 3 million jobs, 10% of the workforce. The important message now, is that the Government gets this.”

Construction 2025 aims to show the way forward for construction over the next two decades. Initially announced in September 2012, and published in July 2013, Construction 2025 calls for: a 50% reduction in construction time; a 50% reduction in greenhouse gases; a 50% reduction in the trade gap between construction imports and exports; and a 33% drop in costs.

He also called upon the industry to embrace diversity when looking for new employees. At present just 14% of construction workers are female, while only 2% come from ethnic minorities. And he outlined the need for an improvement in procurement methods, with greater cooperation and partnership required between suppliers, contractors and clients.

Contractor’s View

This focus on procurement is second nature to John Carroll, a Project Director at Skanska, and Head of Construction and Logistics for the HS2 high-speed rail project. HS2 looks set to be Britain’s largest transport project for the next two decades, offering opportunity for many member companies.

Phase 1 will include 230km of high-speed track, with 50% of construction involving cuttings and tunnels, along with more than 100 new bridges and tunnels. The quantities are incredible. More than 55m3 million of excavation will be required. Over 4m3 million of concrete will be used, along with 900,000 tonnes of rebar. There will be 4,500m3 of concrete segments, 700,000m3 of surfacing and 973km of actual rail line.

“The supply chain is the key to the success of HS2,” said Mr Carroll. “HS2 will deliver 50,000 jobs a year during construction. Those people will need training and upskilling. But we will also need 450 articulated dump trucks for the earthworks. The requirements for the next 20 years for the UK construction industry are clear.”

Improving H&S

Philip White, the Health & Safety Executive’s Chief Inspector of Construction, is of course no stranger to safety on site. He was keen to point out how far construction has come in recent years; it is now 40 years since the Health & Safety At Work Act came into force and he said that the UK is now a world leader in health and safety.

“We have to work together, but construction has come a very long way in the last 15 years,” said Mr White. “We want to continue that close working relationship that we have with the CPA and the Strategic Forum for Construction Plant Safety.”

While there have been huge steps forward in terms of safety, eight of the 23 fatalities on UK construction sites recorded so far this year were plant related, so there is always room for improvement. With that in mind, the HSE will release new Construction, Design and Management (CDM) Regulations in April of next year.

Training Challenge

Stephen Radley, Director of Policy and Strategic Planning at the CITB, recognised that as the industry continues to recover from recession, there is already a skills shortage in some areas.

He said that around 390,000 staff left the industry in the downturn and a further 410,000 are due to retire in the next five years. The CITB is therefore reviewing how it works and how it responds to the changing needs of the industry.

“CITB has to develop a greater understanding of what the future will look like for construction,” said Mr Radley. “Employers say that legislation, regulation and new technology are the drivers for change. We are also expecting new technologies to require new skills.”