The rise of innovation

Billy Jones discusses the factors driving the development of the scaffolding sector

Fundamentally, the role of the scaffolding specialist hasn’t changed since Millcroft was first established more than 40 years ago. Our role remains the design and implementation of structures that enable work to be done on a building or structure while supporting safe site access and working conditions for all operatives.

The way that construction projects are designed and delivered, the way we design scaffolding structures, the way we work with clients and the health and safety standards we adhere to have all changed dramatically over the years, however.

Smarter solutions
As the construction industry has become more complex and ambitious, the scaffolding sector has had to keep pace. Many of the projects we’re involved in now would not even have been attempted decades ago, but contemporary design techniques, construction materials and building methodologies are constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s achievable.

What that means for scaffolding companies is that we need to dovetail our scaffolding design with the complexities and scheduling of the main construction programme. Often this means creating an adaptable solution that can be modified multiple times over the course of the project. Frequently, it also means considering project-specific requirements such as wind loadings, fire risk management, public access or structural loading.

To ensure that the scaffolding scheme is truly in step with what the client needs, rather than simply providing what’s written in the brief, early engagement is critical. Increasingly, we’re working with architects at design stage to help overcome buildability challenges, as well as working with main contractors in planning the programme. The role of the scaffolding specialist has moved on from that of supplier to that of collaborative partner because of our critical role in making the project deliverable.

Advanced technology
Early engagement and the way we investigate the brief are not the only ways in which our design process has moved on. Technology now also plays a critical role in both our design methodology and the way we 9communicate the proposed solution to the client.

The use of 3D modelling design software has become a core tool for our design team, ensuring consistency and effective visualisation of the design. We can use these 3D designs to sense-check the scheme with the client and enable them to see where the access points will be. It also allows us to show the client how we will sequence the installation, where the adaptations will be and how they will be achieved.

Use of this technology also facilitates collaboration. At any point in the project we can check the installation on site against the 3D model. Every component of the installation is contained within the model, providing an important quality control tool and point of reference for the client.

Alongside design modelling tools, we also use data modelling software to inform the design. This enables us to calculate wind loadings so that we can ensure the safety of scaffolding structures and coverings, both during the installation phase and throughout the project.

During the project, we also use contemporary technology to record and report what’s happening on site. Our regular site inspections are delivered with the help of hand-held devices and all documentation is uploaded to the cloud in real time, enabling the client to access the information securely, whenever they need to from wherever they are.

Best practice health & safety
Health & safety has always been critical to the success of any scaffolding business because working at height is a core element of what we do. However, health & safety legislation and best practice has developed over time, providing greater clarity and consistency across the sector. As a result, safety behaviours that used to be defined by company culture are now mandatory requirements, along with accredited training.

Alongside routine training and toolbox talks, at Millcroft we’ve embedded health & safety into our business in a whole variety of ways, including a scheme to reward a health & safety champion each month for best practice on site.

Our purpose-built training facility is used not only to deliver health & safety courses for our own team but also for customers and supply chain partners. On site, safety is a collective responsibility and sharing our training centre resource in this way helps to communicate that philosophy.

Our most recent training development has been to implement mental health training across the team. The impact of poor mental health within the construction sector was probably the biggest unacknowledged health & safety risk in the sector for many years and, at last, the industry is now talking about it. More needs to be done, however, to equip people working under pressure in a site environment and the mental training we have implemented for our own team and our customers is helping to bridge the gap between raising the issue and addressing it.

Continuing evolution
The scaffolding sector has always been critical to project delivery for construction, maintenance and demolition projects. As these fields have advanced thanks to design innovation, technology and materials, the scaffolding sector has also evolved and will continue to do so.

Billy Jones is a director of leading scaffolding and access specialist Millcroft. A scaffolding company with a 40-year track record, Millcroft is a family-owned and operated business with a highly-trained team and an enviable health and safety record. The company specialises in complex and sensitive scaffolding projects, including major construction schemes, heritage buildings, industrial environments, transport infrastructure and the power and energy sector. With in-house design capabilities and a purpose-built training centre, it offers clients a turnkey service.
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