A proactive approach to compliance

In this Opinion piece, Gary Griffiths, Managing Director of UK System Scaffold Hire, who are Associate Members of the Scaffolding Association, talks about creating opportunities to improve profitability…

None of us like being told what to do, but the knee-jerk reaction of feeling victimised by the seemingly never-ending increase in legal and social responsibilities – the belief that more and more regulations are symptomatic of a world that is determined to make our businesses ever harder to manage – may blind us to the positive opportunities that they create.

A more positive response is to take a strategic view of the core principles of statutory and social responsibility and to appreciate that a proactive approach to compliance can actually create opportunities and make the work environment both happier and more profitable. The secret is to avoid the impulse to do the bare minimum to “scrape through” compliance requirements and instead to adopt a mindset that “the world is changing – what can we do to keep one step ahead of our competitors.”

 How we have responded to legislation is a case in point

Over the last twenty years the impact of legislation on man-hours for scaffolders using traditional tube and fittings has been remarkable – double handrails added 8% to man-hours, SG4 and SG4:10 added 25%, manual handling another 5%, direct employment (with the need to pay for NI and holidays) added another 10%. Bit by bit, profitability has been eroded – and even before you build in inflation and wage rises – labour costs have increased by at least 50%.

Savvy scaffold contractors that have built their business on tube and fittings – because the initial outlay is significantly less than system scaffold – now realise that they’re missing out on the 60% saving on labour costs that can be delivered by system scaffold. This has dramatically changed the “return on investment” calculations on their next purchase. Labour is such a massive cost factor that key players are now investing in a combination of both tube and fittings and system scaffold as a means of being competitive.

System scaffold is not the be all and end all. It isn’t a panacea to every challenge faced by the industry, but using system scaffold alongside tube and fittings can be a strategic response to legislation, delivering both the safety benefits that regulations are designed to introduce and – at the same time – driving-up profitability.

Placing statutory and social compliance at the heart of what you do – knowing in your heart that you do the right things for the right reasons – also means you can sleep soundly at night: It’s not often that I quote Oscar Wilde, but his comment about a cynic being someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing springs to mind.

It is never worth being a cynic when it comes to compliance and safety

When I launched UKSSH ten years ago, there were a number of reasons why I decided to place an over-riding emphasis on value and quality – and first among them was peace of mind. I decided to stock only genuine products, which were manufactured with a proven reputation for quality control and safety, and that provided a clear audit trail to date and place of manufacture. Why? I wanted a clear conscience, knowing that I had done everything possible to ensure that I would never supply a substandard component that may fail and result in a scaffold collapse.

That peace of mind didn’t come cheaply – the best components never do, but the investment has reaped long-term financial rewards: the extra cost of buying high quality, high tensile steel components has delivered long term durability and an impressive return on investment.

Legislation is getting increasingly proscriptive. The CDM Regulations 2007 place an emphasis on planning and managing risk throughout the construction process. Combine that with corporate manslaughter legislation and buying substandard equipment is never worth the risk.

Taking a positive, proactive approach to your statutory and social responsibilities is a winwin strategy: First, compliance becomes part of your company’s DNA; Second, constantly reviewing best practice can help to drive up profitability; Last – but by no means least – it creates a culture where employees feel valued and staff turnover is greatly reduced.

FIND OUT MORE: UK System Scaffold Hire

This article was originally published in AccessPoint Magazine, if you would like to receive future editions of the magazine for free you can join the mailing list here:

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