Thank you for reading this, my first blog as Chair of the Federation of Piling Specialists (FPS) and what I hope will be the first of many blogs I shall be writing periodically.
I am tremendously excited about this opportunity to express some of my thoughts, despite the troubled times that we find ourselves in. This  was supposed to be the year when we would leave the troubles of Brexit and uncertainty about HS2 behind and move on to a more certain and stable footing. Post-Brexit, the ground engineering sector was forecast to boom, and companies would be able to reap the benefits of growth. Instead we have been faced with a challenge that none of us could have foreseen and with it has come a greater threat to the continuity of our businesses than the global recession of 2008 and 2009.
Despite some early confusion the government has now made it clear that they want construction to continue, where safe and practical to do so. Personally, I believe there was merit in halting construction on large sites in urban areas to slow the virus, however, the moment to do that seems to have passed. For those people and businesses choosing not to work I am sympathetic, as by now most of us will know someone who has been directly affected by this terrible illness. This means the consequences of our decisions are very much in our consciousness and what difficult decisions they are too. Whether as individuals or business leaders we are carrying out risk assessments and putting in place mitigation measures, which could literally mean life or death for colleagues or family members. It’s therefore crucial that we keep an ongoing dialogue with colleagues about how best to protect them. The FPS Safety, Plant and Operations group has already been helpful in sharing best practice ideas and the Commercial group will have a part to play in ensuring members are aware of their rights at this difficult time.
For those of us that are continuing to work we have been adjusting to a new reality and many aspects of this have been quite positive. Let’s take a moment to consider the benefits that comes with home working. If we can spread our work out over a seven-day week it enables a sharing of child caring responsibilities and as we aren’t travelling as much, we have increased family time overall. Meetings that might have once taken up a whole day are now an hour’s video conference – which makes me think, what really took up all that time?
For those people that need to travel to sites they have found that their journey times have been reduced and when they arrive many have encountered welfare facilities of a far greater standard than they have experienced in the past. Within my own business we have worked with clients to offer our people the option of a shorter shift without breaks in order that social contact is minimised. There are aspects of these changes that one would hope could be used to help us shape a more sustainable future and I look forward to discussing this in more detail in forthcoming articles.
On behalf of the piling industry I particularly wish to extend gratitude to those site-based workers and their families who are helping us to keep operational at this challenging time. I am aware of the anxiety that many will be feeling and the importance of the emotional support that we all require.
I also wish to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to people that have played a part in enabling me to take up this privileged position. Without the dedication, expertise and support of my family, teachers, mentors and lecturers I would not have been able to be the first member of my family to complete university and go into business. I would also like to acknowledge the help of colleagues at Central Piling, the FPS Executive, Forum Court and Jooce.
My vision is for an industry that is healthier, happier and more equitable. To do that I need to connect with more people throughout the industry at all levels and in all organisations so I can gain a better understanding of issues and solutions. I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible in person or through social media.
Until then, take care of yourselves and each other, Steve Hadley