The construction industry is the lifeblood of any country, creating bankable assets and long-term jobs with every building erected. JACO DE KLERK uncovers some positives and negatives within this economic driver.
Many of the industry’s workforce, including managers, are used to the old way of doing things. That’s according to Lourens Swanepoel, owner of Cymbidium Safety Solutions and health and safety manager of the Rencio Group. He believes they don’t realise the importance of health and safety in the workplace, overlooking the fact that it can help them to work smarter and safer and reduce lost man hours due to accidents.
“They are still resisting change; but a cleaner workplace, use of the correct safety equipment and having proper monitoring and management in place makes good business sense – saving companies thousands in the long run,” he adds.
Cymbidium Safety Solutions, a health and safety consultancy servicing various industries, with a major client in the construction industry that runs multiple sites, offers training courses ranging from first aid to fire hazards, and also fulfils an auditing and monitoring role.
“The monitoring and auditing processes provide ongoing feedback about safety issues, and we are proud to say that we have had zero fatalities this year,” says Swanepoel. “On the six external project sites, we’ve only had two minor incidents this whole year.”
On the environmental side of things, Swanepoel says Cymbidium aims to educate its clients about the growing green concerns and how related activity can save them money and make a difference. “Checking leaking and damaged water pipes prevents spillage, and mixing mortar in lined and bunted areas prevents ground contamination and seepage into ground water,” he says, pointing out that these are simple but effective management steps.
The company is also planting trees on its own site to offset its carbon footprint, and is in the process of setting up a recycling plant where old building rubble will be converted back into workable material.
Approaches such as this demonstrate that the construction industry has progressed rapidly over the past decade, with things being done faster in a more environmentally friendly manner. Swanepoel stresses that the way a building is put up and the time needed to do it vastly differs from project to project, so contractors must also be versatile and adaptable.
Atlas Copco Construction Technique South Africa, provider of construction and demolition tools, portable compressors, pumps and generators, lighting towers, and compaction and paving equipment, is one company that can assist industry players in keeping up with the rate of change in today’s construction industry.
“We have much to offer our customers,” says Construction Tools Division business line manager Neville Stewart. “And we have been proud to introduce our brand new demo truck, the first of its kind on the African continent.”
The Isuzu FRR 550 demo truck was officially launched on November 6 at the Misty Hills Country Hotel west of Johannesburg. “It will not only showcase our expansive range of equipment but will also provide hands-on demonstrations on our customers’ doorsteps,” Stewart explains.
“The equipment on board our three-and-a-half tonner will include concrete vibration and surfacing equipment, plate compactors, rammers and rollers, hand-held hydraulic construction equipment, motor drill breakers and pneumatic demolition equipment. The demo truck will also be put to good use for the introduction of new products.”
Stewart is confident that South Africa will mirror the success of the demo truck serving Atlas Copco’s European market. The local route will largely be determined by major exhibitions, shows and customer days around the country, and will support dealer activities. The truck will also make its rounds to customers in Botswana and Namibia, with Mozambique being on the agenda for a later stage.
“As a customer-focused company, our customers’ interests are our number one priority, and strengthening our customer and product focuses were two main reasons why Construction Technique was established as a fourth business area,” explains Stewart. “The demo truck addresses both these important focuses and will enhance our customer relations by providing us with the opportunity to present the Construction Technique business area to
The demo truck can also be used for training, two types to be exact, as Stewart highlights. ”Informal training will be done at the customer’s site during product demonstrations. We also offer formal training for which we can issue a certificate of attendance.” He says there are plans in the pipeline to introduce certified training in 2014, which will be accompanied by a certificate of competence.
Stewart states that Atlas Copco’s dealers and employees will also undergo extensive theoretical and hands-on training. “The demo truck certainly offers excellent new career opportunities for our employees and the expected growth of the Construction Technique business area – organically and through acquisitions – will undoubtedly create opportunities for our employees to further improve within the group.”
The construction industry is growing at an exponential rate, which, as Swanepoel points out, is all the better for everyone. “If we wish to grow, we need to build more. It is really simple – housing provides schools, schools education and then shops and factories. It is a cycle that not only provides enormous economic opportunity for the industry, but for the entire country as well.”