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June 2011 – BCSA goes the extra mile

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That steel construction is inherently safer than other forms of construction is a key message that the sector has been at pains to deliver. Safety superiority is consistently proven to be no idle boast, with an improving performance that has seen accidents down by 25% in the past year.

This record has come about thanks to untiring efforts across the sector, from boardrooms to sites, and it is encouraging for all to see these efforts recognised by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) which has made the BCSA recipient of its first ever SME Assistance Trophy (see News).

This award is designed to highlight good safety practice, recognising where a trade association has gone the extra mile and made an outstanding contribution to promote health and safety among its  ‘small and medium enterprise’ members. The judges looked for, and found, solid evidence of performance, diligence and commitment towards improving safety in its examination of the BCSA’s safety credentials.

Congratulations are due to the BCSA safety group headed by Pete Walker, who receive as part of the award back up from RoSPA to enhance their contribution to improving members’ health and safety management systems even further.

Interestingly, the construction industry also won the most prestigious of RoSPA’s traditional awards, with the Sir George Earle Trophy going to contractor Balfour Beatty Construction Scottish and Southern, who we also congratulate. This trophy is not awarded solely on the basis of accident statistics, but also assesses health and safety management systems, a company’s overall approach to safety. Balfour Beatty has a ‘zero harm’ target across the group to be achieved by 2012. An entire industry can only wish them well, and the steel sector applauds the ambition.

Steel still the competitive choice

The annual Cost Comparison series of studies comparing steel framed solutions for multi storey commercial buildings against reinforced concrete alternatives extends back to 1993, and has consistently shown that if a cost effective, speedily constructed quality solution is needed then steel is the sensible option (see News).

The most recent study shows that despite recent fluctuations in world raw materials, energy and transport costs, steel solutions are still the most cost effective – the cost differential between steel and concrete is actually wider now than ever. Cost is a major reason for selecting steel but it is not the only one by any means. Safety for example, as mentioned above, could itself be justification for selecting steel.

Many other benefits like off-site fabrication and sustainability advantages, as are being revealed by the Target Zero series of design guidance, are increasingly being factored into the cost equation by savvy developers and other clients, which is maintaining steel’s market share in multi storey buildings as the latest Market Shares study shows.

Some construction markets are now showing clear signs of emerging from recession, but the focus on safety, sustainability and cost will not be any less during recovery than it was before.

Nick Barrett
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