Essential e-learning launched to beat construction-related occupational cancers

New course to help construction workforce spot dangers and mitigate risks of developing occupational cancers

The Considerate Constructors Scheme has announced a new e-learning course ‘Occupational Cancers‘, designed to help the construction industry’s workforce to improve its understanding of occupational cancer risks and how to mitigate them.

With 40% of all deaths from occupational cancers arising within the construction industry, the need to support the workforce in this area has never been so critical.

The main causes of occupational cancers in construction work are exposure to silica dust, asbestos, diesel exhaust emissions and UV radiation, with those working in construction:

  • 100 times more likely to die from an occupational disease than a workplace accident (BOHS, 2016)
  • 6 times more likely to develop skin cancer than the general population (HSE, 2018)
  • Dying by cancers caused by silica dust – over 500 workers a year (HSE, 2005)

The ‘Occupational Cancers’ e-learning module is made freely available to the entire construction industry via the Scheme’s Best Practice Hub. It follows the successful series of e-learning courses on other cross-industry issues, including Air Pollution, Drugs and Alcohol and Mental Health.

The Scheme’s e-learning courses have received unprecedented engagement, with over 53,000 people working in construction taking the courses so far.

Edward Hardy, Chief Executive of the Considerate Constructors Scheme said: “There is no doubt that the shocking number of deaths and long-term illnesses caused by significant exposure to carcinogens in the workplace needs greater attention by everyone. We must continue to improve our standards in how we raise awareness and understanding of the risks and how to take measures to, where possible eliminate them, or at the very least minimise them.

“We call on everyone across our industry to take the ‘Occupational Cancers‘ course and to encourage colleagues, friends and family members to do the same.

“The Hub also features the ‘Spotlight on…occupational cancers‘ campaign which provides excellent examples of best practice in tackling this issue provided by construction sites, companies and suppliers to the industry across the length and breadth of the UK and Ireland. We anticipate more examples of best practice being shared across the coming months in order to drastically reduce the impact of carcinogens on our workforce.”

Click here to take the ‘Occupational Cancers’ e-learning.

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Lesley McLeod, CEO, The Association for Project Safety

“Safety needs to be built in so, while the government’s commitment to additional funding to replace high-rise cladding is welcome, it is better sense to tackle construction risks at the outset. The Association for Project Safety (APS) believes it is vital everyone who lives in a high-rise home can be confident they are safe so safety must be the priority right from the planning stage.

“Safety is at the core of good design and the APS remains committed to working with the government and other professionals in the construction sector to promote and share good practice, as well as making sure everyone can build the skills and knowledge, they need to make Britain’s building better.

“The APS welcomes the use of public funds to make high rise buildings safer, but we are concerned the timetable is very tight and that funds may prove insufficient – we believe it is better to do things right than force a potentially unrealistic deadline and budget on the project.”

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Those Working In Construction Ninth Most Likely To Take Time Off Work For Their Mental Health

A recent UK study has revealed which sectors are the most likely to need to take time off work for their mental wellbeing, with healthcare topping the list (26%) followed by those working in the media (23%) and those working in education (21%).

This research into the mental wellbeing of Britons was conducted after the inventor of income protection discovered that 7% of all claims made in 2018 were related to mental health.

The team at conducted the research to find out how each sector was affected by absence relating to mental wellbeing. A total of 3,000 adults aged 18 and over from the UK, were quizzed as part of the study. Respondents were split evenly across 15 key sectors.

Initially, participants were asked, “Have you ever taken time off work for your mental health?” with the following emerging as the results for each sector:

  1. Healthcare – 26% (of employees have taken time off work for their mental wellbeing)
  2. Media – 23%
  3. Education – 21%
  4. Banking/Finance – 19%
  5. Public Sector – 17%
  6. HR/Personnel – 15%
  7. Retail – 13%
  8. Marketing – 12%
  9. Construction – 11%
  10. Transport/Travel – 9%

When asked to elaborate on the reason for their mental wellbeing-related absence from work, if they felt comfortable doing so, the vast majority blamed it on burnout/stress (68%).

Relevant respondents were found to have taken an average of three weeks off for their mental wellbeing; of which a third (34%) said they received their full pay during this time and 57% said they received reduced pay.

Of those who had suffered with their mental health, just 1 in 5 (21%) said that they had gone to speak to a professional about this, with those that didn’t citing long wait times (78%) and not knowing where to turn (20%) as reasons.

Finally, relevant participants were asked if they believed that their work had contributed to their poor mental health to which 9 in 10 (92%) said that they thought it had.

Georgia d’Esterre, Head of Marketing at, said:

“Looking after your mental health is often far harder than looking after your physical self. After finding that 1 in 14 of our claims last year were related to mental wellbeing, we wanted to see how each sector is affected by this growing crisis. With mental health services overstretched and employees having to work harder than ever before just to make ends meet, we need to remember to take the time to look after ourselves.

“The horrid thing is that money is often a massive cause for worry which can contribute to mental health issues. Having to take prolonged time off work can be scary in these situations as your pay is never guaranteed. This is a prime example of why more needs to be done to educate people on the importance of income protection.”

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Experience ‘ground engineering’ in virtual reality with Aarsleff this Summer

This summer, Aarsleff Ground Engineering are inviting their valued clients to experience the virtual world of ground engineering at their Head Offices in Newark, Nottinghamshire.

Guests will be shown to the company’s VROOM where they will be given a short tutorial before leaving reality and entering Aarsleff’s ‘virtual’ one.

Equipped with a state-of-the-art VR headset, user’s will be taken through a 6-minute guided tour around the ‘Aarsleff World’, exploring some of the company’s core specialist ground engineering techniques – both above and below ground. Traversing through Rail, Commercial, Residential, Mining and Industrial zones, the user will be able to take a closer look at rigs and machinery by leading innovators Junttan, Klemm and Movax and experience the ground engineering techniques that the Aarsleff organisation deliver on site every day.

Aarsleff teamed up with leading UK 3D technology and software development studio Luminous Group back in October 2018 to develop the virtual reality application, and have since developed a close working relationship with the organisation for the development of future digital initiatives.

The experience has been created using the latest Unity games engine and HTC Vive Pro headset providing full natural interaction with six degrees of freedom and high-quality visuals. Users can view a mini table top view of the Aarsleff world or fly down to see interactive cut always of the ground below. Games engines with their real time rendering capabilities and ability to port content to multiple devices and platforms are becoming the preferred choice for creating interactive computer graphics, VR experiences and visual effects.

Aarsleff’s Marketing and Communications Manager said: “Finding ways to visualise and engage with ground engineering techniques can be challenging – everything our specialist industry does is underground or soon covered up. The new virtual reality application makes it possible for our users to experience ground engineering techniques in a more dynamic and accessible way than ever before, and this is what makes it really unique”.

With half a million workers set to retire over the next 10 years, the application has primarily been designed to address the growing skills shortage in the construction sector with a view to help attract the next generation of digitally native gamers into the industry. The application has been designed to both appeal to a new entrant into the field of construction, and an already established geotechnical engineer who would like to understand more about Aarsleff’s products and services including Drilling and Grouting, Soil Nails, Driven Piling, Mini Piling and Sheet Piling.

Managing Director Kevin Hague said: “In embracing VR, we also hope to tackle the challenge that ‘young people are not interested in construction’ by rolling out the virtual application at careers fairs and university shows. Students and aspiring engineers will be able to walk around on an Aarsleff site, helping them to understand several ground engineering disciplines and learn about the machinery operated on site – all whilst in a safe and engaging way”.

The Newark-based specialist contractor are exclusively inviting a selection of clients to their offices to experience their new VR application over the summer period, after which point the program will then be exhibited at careers fairs and shows and for all other interested parties to experience on a pre-booked basis.

For more information about Aarsleff Ground Engineering visit or contact a member of staff on +44 (0) 1636 611140

More information on Luminous Group can be found at and Ben Bennet can be contacted on +44 (0) 191 375 9040.

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How to solve the Quantity Surveyor Crisis?

There’s been some alarming titles in the press for more than a decade now: “A global crisis of the surveying profession” (2008), “Surveyor skill shortage approaching critical level, warns RICS” (2015), “Easier to employ a ballet dancer than a quantity surveyor” (2017)…

The latest CIOB-cross industry research report published in January 2019 highlights that the issue is far from being solved, with 42% of construction businesses reporting difficulties recruiting quantity surveyors, both now and by anticipation, post-Brexit.

The RICS Construction and Infrastructure survey of Q1 2019 also confirms that quantity surveying is still the occupation with the greatest staff shortages, beyond trades, bricklayers and other construction professionals, with 60% of companies reporting skill shortages in the profession.

Why are there shortages of quantity surveyors?

The construction sector in general is experiencing an ageing working population, with nearly 430,000 construction workers to retire between 2010 and 2020. More specifically, the quantity surveying profession experiences difficulties attracting young students, due to the complexity of the role and the lack of clarity on the definition of the profession.

While a problem not limited to the UK, the uncertainties surrounding Brexit are enhancing this issue. As 26% of the UK construction workforce comes from the EU, the deterioration of the sterling makes the country less attractive as a work destination. Construction material costs inflation also leads to a greater need for complex cost estimates (and great quality quantity surveyors!).

What are the solutions to address the quantity surveyor crisis?

The government is looking at increasing the attractiveness of the profession, promoting apprenticeships and easing the barriers to immigration as different solutions to address this challenge. One of the recommendations of the CIOB-cross industry research report is to include the quantity surveyor profession to the future “Shortage Occupation List” of the Migration Advisory Committee.

As a construction business owner, there are three routes to explore to find quantity surveyors.

Take on apprentices

23,000 apprenticeships started in England in Construction, Planning and the Built Environment in 2017/18. Taking on apprentices can be a really great way to attract young professionals, especially as quantity surveying apprenticeships are fairly quick to obtain – from 2 years for a Surveying or Geospatial Survey Technician apprentice (Level 3) up to 5 years for a Chartered Surveyor Apprentice or Geospatial Mapping and Sciences Apprentice (Level 6).

The latest apprenticeship data from the Department of Education in January 2019 shows that only 9 people started an apprenticeship as a Geospatial Survey Technician since 2015/16, 506 as Surveying Technicians, and 1,892 as Chartered Surveyor Apprentices – there’s still room for many more!

Look for temporary contractors

Rather than desperately trying to recruit permanent quantity surveyors, recruiting contractors from temporary recruitment agencies can be a way to avoid turning down projects. While this route is typically more expensive than recruiting permanent members of staff, it can be a great way to release the pressure and gain flexibility. It might also lead some contractors to convert to permanent positions in the future.

Leverage technology

Becoming familiar with 3D modelling packages and BIM (Building Information Modelling) software (e.g., Estimator360, HBXL, PlanSwift, Clear Estimates…) to price projects can be another way to fix the crisis. While the barrier to entry can be high in terms of cost, digital skills required, and time required to select, implement and be trained on how to use estimating software packages, it can also be a great way to make the profession more attractive to younger generations too.

Whilst the crisis will not be solved overnight, there are some solutions out there to explore to help you address this challenge now.

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Bookings open for PCA structural waterproofing conference

Bookings are now open for a national structural waterproofing conference, which has become a significant event in the industry’s calendar.

The Property Care Association’s fourth annual International Structural Waterproofing conference takes place at The Slate, University of Warwick, Coventry on 17 July, 2019.

A dynamic programme – which includes a knowledge sharing hub, where experts and the audience debate key industry issues and best practice – has seen the event gain increasing recognition within the architectural, civil engineering and construction industries.

As well as professionals from these sectors, the event also attracts surveyors, lawyers, public authorities, geologists, ground engineers and academics.

Last year’s conference included insights into high-profile projects underground, technical details and an overview of liabilities and responsibilities, with speakers including academics, practitioners and industry experts.

It went on the record books as the PCA’s biggest one-day conference to date, with over 160 delegates attending.

Last year’s conference was also the first to be supported by specialist event technology – the PCA Structural Waterproofing app – which helped amplify the conference’s knowledge-sharing agenda.

This system played a key part in the proceedings, allowing delegates to ask questions to the speakers throughout the day and in advance of the Q&A sessions and panel debate.

The conference is of appeal to both members and non-members alike.

James Berry, technical manager of the PCA, said: “The structural waterproofing conference goes from strength to strength and the speakers lined-up and the subjects being covered in 2019 are set to make this year’s event a success too.

“The participants share a deep interest in this technical subject, and in turn that creates the atmosphere for an interesting and thought-provoking debate.

“Early booking is advised, as last year we were at capacity.”

Booking information for the event – priced at £100 plus VAT for PCA members and £150 plus VAT for non-members – can be found at

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Access North Ltd celebrates tripled turnover with new office and team growth

In the wake of tripled turnover and the launch of a brand-new division, West Yorkshire-based Access North Ltd is marking its biggest financial year to-date with an office relocation, following a recruitment drive which has seen the team double in size.

Company owners, Berenice and Daniel Northcott, credit the new Access North Build division – launched in 2018 – as the driving force behind the financial uplift, which has seen the group generate £1.75m of revenue over the past 12 months.

To facilitate a marked upturn in service demand, the firm has made eight new appointments since March 2018 and – having recently celebrated its eighth birthday – has now outgrown the base it has called home since 2013.

As a result, the 13-strong team recently moved to a larger space at the Park Valley Mills Business Park in Lockwood, Huddersfield – the local regeneration project complimenting the firm’s own commitment to breathing new life into existing spaces.

With a trio of team members having been appointed in October 2018, a further three new faces have joined the growing team of specialists in recent weeks. These include, Sales Project Manager, Paul Crawford, Procedures and Operations Manager, Louis Aspeling, and Business Admin Apprentice, Naomi Collins.

Access North Ltd managing director, Berenice Northcott reflected on a positive year: “It goes without saying that it’s been a brilliant year for us. With additional team members joining us and an office move, we have high aims for the next 12 months.

“Access North Build has enjoyed a fantastic start. Our work at Alsager School in Cheshire saw the team pioneer an industry first – a lightweight steel space frame supporting an ETFE membrane – while our work at Haggerston Castle in Northumberland has breathed new life into an inspiring space.”

Established in 2011, Access North Structures specialises in the installation, inspection and maintenance of complex structures, ETFE facilities and tensile fabric canopies, via rope access techniques.

Meanwhile, Access North Build specialises in the design, engineering and construction of ETFE, lightweight tensile fabric structures and structural glass roofs and facades – across a variety of construction projects.

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Brexit uncertainty puts more UK businesses into significant distress

Grimsby-based Forbes Burton, a company rescue and insolvency specialist has warned that ongoing uncertainty over Brexit means more companies could be facing financial difficulties in the months to come.

This warning has come as new figures from risk management specialists Red Flag Alert and The Insolvency Service have been revealed, showing that almost 1 in 5 UK businesses are classified as being in ‘significant distress’.

Rick Smith, Managing Director at Forbes Burton says: “This is a real concern and should be taken seriously. For example, in the Yorkshire and Humber area, companies with Critical Problems (companies with County Court Judgements totalling £5,000 or more) rose from 130 Q1 2018 to 172 Q1 2019 and in the East of England, which includes Lincolnshire, the figures were up from 155 to 168 over the same period.

“The impact of the uncertainty around Brexit is really starting to take hold now and we may see even more increases in the number of businesses facing problems in the future.”

The construction industry, usually used as a ‘bellweather’ for the UK economy showed a 9% increase in businesses in financial difficulty. The East of England specifically showed a 6% increase from the from Q4 2018 to Q1 2019.

Rick added: “The hotels and leisure industry have also been hit hard by Brexit uncertainty. The reduced labour supply as the number of foreign workers falls and the cost of a 5% increase in the national living wage has pushed 9% more hotel businesses into financial distress as last year.”

Rick explains that the lack of business travel could have had the biggest impact on hotel profits, as businesses cut back on travel in light of the uncertainty over whether or not the UK can scramble together a Brexit deal.

Premier Inn owner Whitbread also recently reported a 40% decrease in annual sales since the Brexit referendum and blames lack of business travel as a major factor.

Rick continued: “Many businesses have been preparing for a no-deal Brexit for a while now, but if you haven’t, now is certainly the time.

“A no-deal Brexit has the potential to seriously disrupt business in the UK for an extended period. Every business should be ensuring that it has good cash flow and that all financial accounts are up to date. Should the country hit a period of even more economic uncertainty, it is essential that you know how healthy your business is and how well you can weather out the Brexit storm.”

“It’s also a good idea to check on your suppliers. I would always recommend you keep your options open. If your most trusted clients start to feel the pressure, ensure you can fall back to another more stable supplier. It’ll help keep your business strong and prepared for the future.”

It isn’t too late for businesses in the UK to find themselves back out of financial distress, as Rick explains: “The UK economy is generally in good shape and we are seeing a record number of people in employment. Hopefully, the government will be able to provide greater certainty around Brexit over the next couple of months which should increase confidence.”

To find out more about Forbes Burton, visit

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A growing workplace specialist is making an impact in sensor-based office space management, as firms seek better returns on real estate and new ways of working and retaining staff.

Hundreds of corporations worldwide have introduced Abintra’s WiseNet system to monitor and manage the use of desks, meeting rooms and other office spaces.

The patented system, two years in the making, relies on industry-leading sensors that detect if anyone is occupying a desk or a seat in a meeting room. The Wisenet software then delivers a real-time visual display of space usage floor by floor. Crucially, it gathers statistics over time that can be used to make space saving decisions such as implementing desk sharing, how many desks are required and rationalisation of office space. This in turn creates opportunities to introduce new ways of working with wellbeing spaces, such as break out and cafe areas.

Once a desk sharing system has been implemented, the system delivers information on communal screens so that employees can locate free desks, meeting rooms and other spaces.

Meanwhile, for managers, it allows for ongoing review of space usage and for dealing with that trickiest of tasks, managing use and abuse of meeting rooms. It displays information about how many people, if any, are in a meeting room against booking information for a better understanding of space requirement.

Abintra says Wisenet sets the standard in space utilisation systems. Unlike competing solutions, it doesn’t rely on employees to log on to a computer, upload an app to a phone or carry a sensor around with them to sense that someone is using a space. Methods like these have obvious drawbacks because they fall down if the employee accidentally or on purposes fails to use them. They also raise the spectre of employers spying on employees whereas the Wisenet sensors effectively record that someone is in a space without reporting on what he or she is doing or his or her identity.

Wisenet also scores against systems using off-the-shelf sensors, because its purpose-built devices are more precise and more discreet because they can be mounted underneath and at the back of a desk rather than close to the edge. That precision is important because it enables monitoring of other kinds of spaces than desks, notably individual meeting room seats. Wisenet says other systems can’t match its reliability in those areas and often amazed how companies get talked out of this most important requirement.

Tony Booty, director at Abintra, says: “Most organisations know they could reuse some space, probably a lot of it, but fear staff won’t understand how that can happen without them being cramped together. We can help. Instead of corporate real estate managers being seen as the enemy by building users, we give you a way to prove what will best support the requirement. Once people understand the statistics, they will understand the solution, which can be a better environment with a variety of spaces, better suited to the changing world of work.”

Wisenet maintains that any organisation can benefit from reviewing its space utilisation, but the company is typically called in when a corporation is going through a reorganisation, restructure or merger, or when it is considering moving offices.

“Once you have the data, you might discover you do not need to move to bigger premises, after all, but if you do, you will have a much better understanding of how much space you need in the new location,” says Tony Booty.

Banks, insurance companies and local authorities are among those who have used Wisenet to inform decisions about real estate, sometimes making huge savings in space usage and associated costs. Another significant benefit that Abintra points to is staff retention and reduced HR costs, by allowing customers to reconfigure floors for agile working with collaborative spaces and even coffee shops.

When the system was used to reconfigure one floor of an insurance company’s building, it opened the door to staff welcoming a move to new offices where they knew all floors would be configured that way.

There are other uses for the data, including risk management, providing information on how much space would be needed if an operation has to relocate because of an emergency such as a flood. It can be used to plan efficient security routes and to reduce energy costs and carbon footprint by managing heating and air conditioning based on utilisation. The sensors record temperature as well as occupancy.

Perhaps the feature that resonates most loudly with customers is accurate meeting room scheduling. Unlike button systems or paper trails, the system reports on how many people, if any, are in a meeting room at any time without those people being required to do anything. One customer discovered a senior executive was routinely using a large meeting room as an annex to his office. Another found that staff were regularly booking pricey hotel meeting rooms in Belgravia when, contrary to what their Intranet was telling them, there was meeting space free in the office.

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Apprentice accolade puts Kris on the career fast track

An apprentice, who was among the first to take part in a trade body’s pioneering training programme within a specialist area of construction, has been named one of the best trainees in the country.

Kris Marriott, aged 33, has won the Southern Counties Apprentice of the Year accolade at the recent Southern Counties and London Master Builder Awards.

From Biocraft UK – based in Reading – Kris will now go up against other winning apprentices from across the UK for the chance to win the coveted National Apprentice 2019 crown, as well as a cash prize of £500 from the Federation of Master Builders. The result will be announced in September.

Kris was among the first group of trainees to join the Property Care Association’s NVQ Level 2 diploma in Insulation and Building Treatments (Wood Preserving and Damp Proofing) apprenticeship in December 2015.

The cohort took two years to complete their training, with a programme including 21 days of offsite training held at the PCA’s dedicated educational facility in Huntingdon.

Supported and funded by CITB, the programme has gone from strength-to-strength since Kris and the others in the first cohort were inducted.

It has an industry-high retention rate of 91 per cent, with 18 students having passed the NVQ and a further 17 currently going through the training.

The programme provides a springboard into an area of construction not always considered as a career option and draws in trainees from companies based across the UK, in both PCA member and non-member organisations.

Jade Stocker, the PCA’s Training Manager, said: “We are delighted that Kris’s work has been recognised at this level.

“It is a well-earned achievement and we wish him luck in the next stage of the contest.”

According to the PCA, new recruits to the property maintenance and preservation sector are vital, to ensure the skills in this specialist area of construction are retained and fine-tuned for the next generation.

They say the apprenticeship is a valuable way of addressing a skills gap within the property care industry.

The programme covers important skills necessary to preserve and protect properties, with insight into subjects including wet and dry rot, wood boring insects, rising damp and timber treatments.

Kris Marriot said: “I am really pleased to achieve this award.

“Previously I had been a labourer with several other companies and when I joined Biocraft UK, I asked Martin Fosbrook, the managing director, about an apprenticeship to improve my job prospects.

“The apprenticeship was almost a return to education for me. It was daunting starting the training, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it and never looked back.”

Kris has worked for Biocraft UK for 10 years and the company has an award-winning approach to staff development.

Last year the business secured the Training and Staff Development title, at the PCA’s annual awards, held at The Slate, University of Warwick, as well as a Highly Commended accolade in the Outstanding Customer Service Category.

Run by Martin and Jill Fosbrook, Biocraft UK carries out specialist damp-proofing, timber treatments and basement waterproofing and conversions across Berkshire, Surrey, Hampshire and Oxfordshire.

Martin said: “We are very proud of all that Kris has achieved.

“Apprentices are key to the development and success of our business. Kris’ award is testimony to the opportunities and career satisfaction in our company and in the industry.

“The PCA apprenticeship is an excellent industry specific programme that meets the needs of our business.”

More details can be found at

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