It is not easy being a membership organisation; much of the work that it does goes unseen, un-noticed even and the result of all the effort is often delivered without ceremony, with only the headline actions being heard.
Take the Federation of Piling Specialists (FPS), to the wider construction sector, it will always be matters such as Working Platform Certificates and Schedules of Attendances and the lobbying that surrounds such issues that often gets noticed, yet to the piling sector it represents, it is the guidance documents, the health and safety activity and the work it does to promote ever higher standards that count and make the biggest impact to the construction industry.
The guidance documents, while important to its members, often have wider application in the construction industry. The FPS has issued guidance on blowing out concrete lines, recognising it is an important safety issue and recently agreed to include the topic in its revised FPS Concrete Pumping Guidance. It has also published advice on loading piling equipment onto wagons, which while aimed at the equipment commonly transported by its members can equally be applied to many other types of plant and equipment.
New PUWER (Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations) Guidance, which incorporates the new European Standard for safety equipment on piling rigs - BS EN 16228, has also been drafted and will be published shortly. It covers the new European standard that specifies the requirement for guards and auger cleaners among other safety innovations.
The FPS is keen to maintain the high standards for plant safety that it pioneered when the guidance was originally created. To the piling sector it is the PUWER Guidance that is perhaps the most important and one the FPS's flagship achievements. Originally developed with the support of the HSE, the FPS document introduced the requirement for guards and auger cleaners on rigs, and these were safety innovations that the FPS had to work hard at in order to overcome industry inertia and improve worker safety. The auger cleaners themselves were developed by the FPS member companies, to deal with the danger of spoil travelling up the auger and were also a technical/safety innovation that has moved the sector forward.
Work has also been undertaken regarding the design, purchase, delivery and lifting/installation of reinforcement cages. This includes guidance on compliance with the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) regulations. Further work is ongoing producing guidance on connecting cages and improving safety and quality standards in respect to pre-fabricated reinforcement cages.
The FPS is determined to improve standards in the industry. Guidance exists on such things as the requirements for site investigation and this is an area where we still see a need for improvement and work is ongoing to update the guidance.
The FPS has also participated in the task group and working process for the publishing of the Tremie Guide, which was put together by the EFFC and the DFI. The second edition of this guide is now available, and it brings together a great deal of information to help improve the quality of foundations constructed using tremie concrete. The replacement of the slump and flow table tests with the slump flow and slump flow velocity tests as the acceptance tests to be used on-site is potentially the single most significant development in relation to the control of the quality of tremie concrete in decades.
For years the FPS has taken the lead in opposing the withholding of retention and has produced guidance on alternatives that are now widely accepted in the piling sector.
That is not to say that we are not continuing to develop guidance on the Working Platform Certificate. The potential instability of working platforms is still one of the greatest risks that we face. Recent changes to the calculation of rig bearing pressures have been produced and training courses made available not only to members but to clients and designers of these platforms.
We also currently have working groups looking at how to improve the maintenance of exclusion zones around our operations and also at removing manual handling from segmental and mini-piling activities, both areas that from analysis of accident statistics have resulted in very serious injuries or a high accident frequency rate.
The key message is that the FPS produces guidance on a wide range of subjects that are often of wider interest than just piling, so why not visit the FPS website and visit the guidance section or make use of its search engine designed to make navigating to find the guidance that you are looking for even easier.
Of course, the lobbying elements are important, as are the wider issues, and championed by a collective voice do make an impact. For example, the work the FPS has been doing on skills shortages secured the Federation a voice and a submission to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment, an evidence-gathering government forum looking into the issue of skills shortages in construction. The FPS has also lobbied that all training and apprenticeship levies on construction and infrastructure businesses should be rational, ring-fenced and deployed for industry-specific training and development.
It is fair to say that the FPS is more than just a lobbying organisation - it is a facilitator of change, better working standards, ever higher levels of professionalism and above all a means to position the piling and foundations industry as an inclusive, attractive, safer and healthier sector in which to work and build careers.