News & Views

The Way Ahead….

With 2020 firmly behind us, I thought I would begin the first of this year’s blogs with a very brief look forward at some of the Federation of Piling Specialists (FPS) plans.

I guess I can’t really talk about anything without referencing the coronavirus and I hope that this year ultimately brings some normality to what has been a very difficult and trying time for us all, and not just on the work front. The arrival of the virus and all that it has impacted, has brought about much introspection on the ways we work, but also raised the profile of mental health and wellbeing. I would like to think that some of the taboos surrounding the issue have be removed a little and we are all much more able of confronting what would typically have been repressed. Mental health and wellbeing will be a backdrop to a lot of what the FPS does this year, and rightly so.

On a related theme, the FPS will be continuing its work with Fatigue Science and will be publishing a Best Practice Guide to Fatigue Management. The FPS has plenty of data collated, so the next step is the analysis phase and researching existing methods of good practice, before the findings can be turned into something that everyone can work from.

On the guidance front, the FPS will be publishing documents on labour-only best practice and on dust suppression. The labour-only guidance working group discussions have started and it is hoped that the reports will be drafted soon, prior to consultation with industry partners, and ultimately the recommendations will be adopted into company processes soon. It is an important document the FPS is trying to improve the working conditions and standards for people in the industry by setting out its expectations for labour agencies and the piling community, while upholding these standards within our membership. With the dust suppression, a number of volunteers have come forward to share experiences and these should help steer the guide on this. It is hoped that when complete the guidance will be circulated amongst membership, as well as to the wider industry.

A Restricted Zones document has also recently been completed and after its internal review will be pushed out externally later in the year. It is an important document, as it emphasises the need to respect the space around a rig. It is all too common an occurrence that principal contractors don’t provide enough space around the rig, or require us to work close to other activities, which leads to their site operatives walking through our working areas.

The FPS is also looking to update its Concrete Pumping Guidance, with a view to getting any revisions adopted by the HSE. The working group overseeing its update has met several times, so its production is looking good for this year.

The FPS is actively trying to improve Rig Operator Training and there are already a number of simulators in the country which would enable trainees to practice the use in a safe and controlled environment. The long-term plan is to have a training standard recognised across the industry and the FPS will be progressing this through 2021.
The FPS is also looking for volunteers from each of its committees to update the procedures surrounding the FPS Audit. The revised standard will recognise the continual development of all aspects of our industry and we are looking to publish a final document this year.

Environmental sustainability will obviously form a big part of the FPS’s activities this year, as it is an issue, like mental health, that cannot be ignored. The government is committed to net zero emissions by 2050, as construction is currently one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases, we can play a large role in improving the situation. An FPS working group has already been established, which will look at the various elements the industry will need to tackle, from waste and materials use, to energy and life-cycle costs on various projects. The FPS will be hosting webinars – as well as pulling together all-industry views on the topic – to establish a framework that will underpin our progress towards net zero: and expect to see quite a bit of on-going activity on this area over the year and with a bit of luck some actionable objectives that will see our carbon levels reducing quickly.

Having led its inception, the FPS is pleased the Ground Forum Mentoring Scheme is now well underway being enthusiastically supported by the GF Members who have provided funding, mentors and promoted it within their networks. Already mentors and mentees have met with placements being established too.

This initiative, so important if we are going to widen diversity and inclusivity as well as tackle the growing skills shortage, has got off to a flying start and this momentum will continue. The FPS is also looking to promote the use of degree apprenticeships and will be working with Universities to ensure that the content is developing the skills that the industry needs. The Trailblazer Apprenticeship already has people on courses and whilst COVID has impacted this a little, the FPS is hoping to see some completions soon.

With so much activity of the FPS having been transacted online last year, a more holistic plan is to increase member engagement. We still have plenty of webinars, podcasts and blogs lined up, as well as all the activity above, updates of which will no doubt be filling your inbox and posted on the FPS website, but it is the ‘live’ social events that I hope to see return at some point. These in person events are not only an important part of the FPS calendar, but I think also, an important component for the positive promotion of all our mental health and wellbeing. I look forward to seeing you at one soon.