Improving our trade

The paving and hard-landscaping trade has a pretty poor record on worker health and safety. I know because I speak from personal experience. Too many years of man-handling 6x12 kerbs and 3x2 flags resulted in my lower back failing catastrophically at the age of just 36, with one disc permanently and irreparably ruptured, and two others going awol. Just as I should have been entering my prime, reaching the peak of my career with 20 years of experience under my belt and a perfectly honed body (I have this in writing from Mrs Taz!), I was pensioned off and told I'd never lay paving again. Ever.

Over the last few years, a group of concerned citizens, including the inevitable Health and Safety representatives along with contractors, paving manufacturers, tool companies, trade unions and meself, have worked on a project to increase awareness of the damage that dust from cutting paving can do to workers' health. That project has been a fantastic success. Admittedly, there are still eejits out there dry-cutting paving despite knowing that it is buggering-up their lungs, and there are pillock employers letting them do it, but by and large, we are witnessing a real change in working practices, with the majority of the trade now aware that dust is a killer.

Now, to build on that success, we're expanding our remit and we want to improve all aspects of working life for those on the sharp end of the paving and hard-landscaping trade, whether they are flaggers, kerbers, block layers or streetmasons, whether they are one-man bands, patio and driveway contractors, landscapers or streetwork specialists.

dust leaflet Click for PDF leaflet

The official definition of the project is that it is " aimed at improving control and management of health risks in the construction and maintenance of paving, roads and highways ".

The dust project showed, beyond any doubt, that the so-called “Supply Chain” approach works best in this sort of undertaking. By involving everyone involved in the supply of paving, so that's everyone from designers, manufacturers, operatives, supervisors to the likes of the Highways Agency, Transport for That London, training groups and even the media.

Project launch event

After a couple of years exploring what might be possible and what should or shouldn't be included, this new project will be launched at Transport for London 's offices in Southwark on the 6th October 2011 . As the press release states, this meeting will bring together representatives of the construction supply chain from designers and clients through to contractors, product suppliers and worker representatives. The meeting will discuss the aims and objectives for the work and hear proposals to manage and deliver these through people who wish to play an active role or contribute.

The work of the group will be published on a dedicated " Web Community " site, where those who can't get to meetings can add their two penn'orth or just read about what's being discussed. The site can be accessed via the link above.

This is a project close to my heart (and even closer to my lower back) so I plan to play an active part, by contributing advice, experience and opinion when warranted, and by reporting progress (or lack thereof) on this website. This is our trade and we have the opportunity to shape its future. Sign up for the web community, make your opinion count, and keep checking for further news.