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Steelwork’s future is bright

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Donal McCormack – BCSA President

Steelwork contractors are enjoying healthy forward order books and have captured record shares in key markets, said BCSA President Donal McCormack in his address to the National Dinner.

Mr McCormack also told guests at the Dorchester Hotel on 28 February that there were hopes that the current cycle of steel price rises was approaching its peak. He welcomed the launch of the BCSA’s Steel Construction Sustainability Charter last year, which allowed Charter members to demonstrate their sustainability credentials.  Steel as a construction material had excellent sustainability credentials, as opposed to concrete which was a major user of cement, which is the world’s third ranking producer of CO2.

Mr McCormack announced the release, later this year, of guidance on the allocation of design responsibilities in structural steelwork projects which would help the construction industry in its bid to provide accurate, timely and comprehensive information to improve sustainability and deliver improved service to clients. A steering group comprising architects, engineers, main contractors, insurers, SCI and steelwork contractors has been developing the guidance that will include checklists setting out all design activities and who is responsible for them.

Mr McCormack called on government to implement reforms to the Construction Act that would rectify payment abuse problems in the industry. He commended the Office of Government Commerce for its part in developing the Fair Payment Charter for the public sector which includes 30 day payment periods and project bank accounts. “These commitments – unthinkable a year or so ago – will make a real difference to the construction industry and its clients,” he said.

All necessary preparations were being made for the introduction of Eurocodes, he said, and BCSA was in discussion with ministers to ensure that the planned withdrawal of British Standards from the Building Regulations in 2010 is extended until the new Eurocodes and their supporting documents have been shown to be user friendly, unambiguous and result in safe and economic structures.

CE Marking of fabricated steelwork, purlins, sheeting, and decking was expected to start in late 2007 or early 2008, he said. BCSA is holding a series of seminars to explain all the new requirements related to CE Marking.

Mr McCormack said that the industry’s health and safety performance was on an improving trend, with no fatal accidents during the last year and the reportable injury frequency rate down. BCSA members were well on the way to meeting government targets for accident reduction.

Steel sector is the marvel of the world

John Spanswick CBE – Chairman Major Contractors Group

Guest speaker was Bovis Lend Lease Chairman John Spanswick CBE, also Chairman of the Major Contractors Group, who paid tribute to the BCSA, saying its members “enjoy a tremendous reputation not just in the UK but around the world, setting standards that others should follow”. He said he had never seen such prospects as were now open to members, including schools, hospitals, roads, bridges and the Olympics. Taking advantage of the prospects in face of inflation, and skills shortages, for example, was the challenge. Mr Spanswick was encouraged  that the Olympic Delivery Authority was in negotiations with McAlpine for the Olympic stadium, which could be a model for similar scaled projects in the future.

One key to the future would be to get labour intensive operations away from site. Health and safety was improving but there were warning signs that things had stopped improving and there were still a lot of ‘near misses’ that had to be looked at carefully. There were around 60 deaths a year in construction, but some 3,000 occupational health related deaths and that had to be tackled.

Supply chain management remained an issue. Main contractors and sub contractors might differ on how to tackle jobs, but early involvement of the supply chain in projects would ensure better outcomes.

In conclusion Mr Spanswick said: “We have a great steelwork industry that is regarded as a marvel around the world. You have a lot of opportunities for the future and strong leadership and I do not doubt that you will meet all the challenges of the future.”

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