The Week That Was - 13 May 2022

Published on 13 May 2022

Welcome to The Week That Was, a round-up of key events in the construction sector over the last seven days.

Queen's Speech 2022: construction implications

The Queen's Speech sets out the legislative plan for the upcoming parliamentary session. This year, the impact on the construction industry is largely indirect, for example:

  • Infrastructure developments: the Transport Bill will create Great British Railways intended to modernise services, the Levelling up and Regeneration Bill aims to regenerate towns and cities and reform the planning system, the High Speed Rail (Crewe-Manchester) Bill will create powers permitting the next stage of HS2 to be built, the Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill intends to extend 4G and 5G coverage, and the UK Infrastructure Bank Bill will complete the creation of the UK Infrastructure Bank.
  • Climate change: the Energy Security Bill aims to "deliver the transition to cheaper, cleaner, and more secure energy".
  • Regulation: the Procurement Bill aims to reform and simplify public sector procurement and "provide new opportunities for small businesses", requiring buyers to have regard to the government's strategic priorities for public procurement (set out in the national procurement policy statement) and will address unacceptable behaviour and poor performance through exclusion rules, the Modern Slavery Bill aims to reduce the prevalence of modern slavery in supply chains and the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill will strengthen powers to "tackle illicit finance" and "reduce economic crime".

For more, click here

Delivery of new homes paused due to environmental impact

Natural England has alerted councils to issues being caused by the release of elevated levels of nitrogen and phosphorous in rivers and estuaries by new housing projects.  Natural England states that these nutrients, which are released by untreated waste water from development sites, are contributing to a loss of biodiversity.  As a result, the delivery of some 100,000 homes has been put on hold across 74 local authorities.  

Natural England has offered a 'net neutrality test', which may mean that local authorities can only approve new developments that will not have a negative effect on protected wetland areas.  The Home Builders Federation considers that nutrients from the urban environment contributed to just 4% of the problem and has called on the government to provide a uniform set of standards and compliance methods to help combat the additional delay that this is causing to an already slow system and the housing shortage.  

For more, click here or here.

HSE warns of mechanical faults in mast climbers

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has issued an alert about the use of mast-climbing work platforms or 'mast climbers', which are used to support working at height.  Used as an alternative to large-scale scaffolding, mast climbers are frequently used in cladding replacement works at high-rise sites.  

The HSE's alert identifies that mast climbers can fall from height if mechanical faults in the drive units on the masts go undetected.  The HSE identified that failures can mean that neither centrifugal brakes (which are intended to limit the speed of descent) nor automatic brakes (which engage when powered travel is stopped) are able to have an effect, leading to a risk of falling from a height. 

The HSE has asked the industry to establish urgent checks to detect mechanical failures in the safety systems, including in the centrifugal or automatic brakes. The HSE explains that mast climbers that use two independent motor drive units per mast are often not fitted with the right controls to manage the risk of dropping from height at excessive speed.  In addition, the HSE has reminded the industry that care needs to be taken to ensure platforms are not overloaded, that inspections and tests need to be carried out routinely by competent inspectors and that operators must be properly trained.  

For more, click here.

ISG joins structural steel re-use project

Contractor ISG has joined the Government backed 'DISRUPT' (Delivering Innovative Steel ReUse ProjecT) to assess the potential for reuse of structural steel in new projects. 

The DISRUPT project is attempting to deliver a new costed circular business model to ultimately achieve a greater supply of reused steel in the market.  While previous studies have identified barriers to the reuse of structural steel (including economic factors, supply chain issues, availability and lack of demand), it is hoped that a new costed business model will ensure the benefits of steel reuse are accrued across the value chain and that reused steel is readily available and easy to specify within construction projects. 

For more information, please see here

Council fined for multiple cases of Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome 

Lancashire County Council (LCC) has been fined after several employees were diagnosed with Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) in their highways department, despite an improvement notice being served by HSE in July 2019 in respect of HAVS.  HAVS is a painful and disabling nerve disorder caused by regular use of vibrating tools which can severely affect everyday life.

HSE found that there had been insufficient supervision to ensure that exposure to vibration was properly monitored and risk assessments were inadequate in controlling the level of exposure to vibrations.  LCC were also found to have failed to act upon health surveillance records promptly when symptoms of HAVS were first reported which could have prevented the diagnoses. 

LCC pleaded guilty to breaching safety regulations and received a fine of £50,000, as well as being ordered to pay costs of £10,366.78.

To read more, please click here

CLC calls for further engagement on Construction Industry Skills plan 

A year on from its original Construction Industry Skills plan The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has published it's update for the UK Construction Sector 2022-23.   

The objective of the plan is to help the construction industry meet its skills need. 

The CLC has identified four strategic priorities to achieve that aim:

  • Improving access to the industry for all. 
  • Boosting routes into the industry. 
  • A focus on Competence over qualifications (using sector-specific competency frameworks)
  • A focus on future skills that will be required to transform the industry. 

The plan calls upon support and engagement from the construction industry as well as from the government.

Click here for more information. 

Thanks to Felicity Strong, Harry Collins, Ella Ennos-Dann and Faye Hopton-Cottrell for contributing to this week's edition.

Disclaimer: The information in this publication is for guidance purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  We attempt to ensure that the content is current as at the date of publication, but we do not guarantee that it remains up to date.  You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content

Stay connected and subscribe to our latest insights and views 

Subscribe Here