The past 12 months have been very busy for the UK’s demolition industry.
March 2015 saw a change in the National Federation of Demolition Contractors (NFDC) presidential office, with Safedem managing director William Sinclair handing over the chains of office to incoming president Martin Wilson, managing director of Lawson Demolition.
In his acceptance speech, Wilson called for the industry to remain as the safety-conscious and well-regarded entity it has become during the past decade.
The recent increase in overall construction output has been beneficial for many demolition contractors, although regional trends still benefit many of the southern-based members of the NFDC.
As is typical with trends in the industry, businesses in London and the south-east will see benefits before any other regions, although an increase in the overall workload for the demolition industry has been spread right across the UK. While the rise in output has been welcomed, there is still a cautionary tale to be told, as the NFDC has lost a handful of well-respected names due to the tight margins still in operation at many companies.
The massive fall in worldwide commodity prices has hit many contractors, with metals dropping by almost 75% in the past year. This decrease in demand for raw materials has put financial pressures on many companies who have, in the past, relied on the good returns for salvaged material to form the basis of profitability for their companies.
The knock-on effect has meant that reinvestment in plant and equipment in the scrap sector has hit an all-time low, according to certain industry service providers.
While 2015 has seen the scrap and metal recycling industries hit hard, many demolition contractors – thanks to large order books – have been active in the replacement of older machinery. This was evident in June when the NFDC, along with the Institute of Demolition Engineers, hosted the second DemoExpo at the premises of London and Southern member, J Mould.
The free two-day event was aimed primarily at plant and attachment and service suppliers to the demolition and recycling industry. The show attracted more than 5,000 visitors from all over the UK and Europe from both the demolition and construction sectors as well as interested members of the public.
The Friday was a dedicated business day while the Saturday was family-orientated, with activities for children of all ages. Exhibitors have pledged their support for a third event to be held in 2017.
I have been particularly active in the past year with changes to the Certificate of Competence for Dem- olition Operatives’ Demolition Card Scheme. This is the industry recognised card for demolition personnel at all levels which demonstrates that training and competency has been obtained.
The introduction of a charge-hand category will give operatives a step up towards obtaining a manager’s card. The NFDC has also been active in the push for smartcard technology to be introduced to allow one single card to carry a full range of qualifications.
As one of the most safety-conscious industries, demolition companies signed up to the NFDC and the National Demolition Training Group are able to access a comprehensive range of industry-specific training.
To facilitate an ever-increasing number of trainees, the purchase of Vitalia House, next to the current NFDC head office, will increase both the capacity for undertaking training along with bespoke facilities including a home for the UK’s only demolition simulator.
Howard Button is chief executive of the National Federation of Demolition Contractors and the National Demolition Training Group