Category: News

Training up – Mental Health First Aiders

Last month, we were delighted with the success of several members of our team who gave up their time to learn and educate themselves in training to be Mental Health First Aiders. It’s certainly been a hot topic over the last couple of years and has thankfully started many conversations in how to approach and improve people’s wellbeing, especially in the work place. 

To date, 25% of our total workforce are qualified Mental Health First Aiders, as part of a new initiative that our business has decided to support and act upon. The health and wellbeing of our employees is very important to us, and we’re committed to helping our employees with their mental health and wellbeing by funding the necessary training for our employees. We have taken further steps to signpost across all our offices and sites who the MHFA’s are, contact information and how to seek support. 

     

We have been thrilled by the quality and format of training provided by Roulstone Training that was delivered over a 2 day period, by the very inspirational Lynn Forsyth – a brilliant raconteur to say the least. We look forward to having you back in the near future. 

Needless to say, the impact of Covid has compounded many existing problems, and you don’t have to look far to see the evidence of this in all areas of life. When we just focus on the construction industry alone, a large amount of research and statistics from a combination of sources have revealed the shocking extent of extremely poor mental wellbeing. For these reasons, we felt it was essential in demonstrating a proactive mindset that was willing to embrace change in this stigmatised field. 

The following statistics from the Mates in Mind charity organisation, cites the following information:

  • Male site workers in construction are 3x more likely to commit suicide than the average UK male worker.
  • A third of construction workers now suffer with chronic anxiety.
  • Reluctance to seek professional help among UK construction
  • workers is leading to increased alcohol consumption, nonprescription drug use and even self-harm according to a new major study in December 2021.
  • Mental health issues are the top reason given for sick days in the UK. Last year more than 17 million working days were lost as a result of stress, anxiety, or depression, according to the HSE.

 – https://www.matesinmind.org/news/mental-health-in-uk-construction-the-statistics 

  • Mates in Mind, is a charity established in 2016 and formed with the support from the British Safety Council, also offers mental health training to the UK industry.
  • It has built a community of more than 185 supporter organisations, reaching more than 187,000 individuals across the sector.
  • We signed up to be a Mates in Mind Supporter earlier in the year so that our business could access a range of resources designed to help us implement their guidance.

It is thought perhaps one of the reasons why construction is much worse than other industries, is due to the nature of the business. Being that there is a heavy focus on subcontracting and diversity of SMEs within the supply chain. This combination evidently makes it harder to identify those that might be suffering from poor mental health, and therefore adds to slipping under the radar as unidentified.

If we hope to learn and become better at handling mental health scenarios, then doing things differently will kick-start change in the right direction. By doing the same old things and expecting different results not only undermines the challenges of improving mental health but frustratingly makes things worse. No one is exempt from poor mental health, but checking in and talking with others can, and does, have the power to save you.

If nothing else, we hope this post will inspire other businesses in the construction industry to provide culture-appropriate wellbeing initiatives that suit their people, because they genuinely care for their employees and want to be part of the positive change in responding to poor mental health and wellbeing.

Tarmac: The effect of high temperatures

Why does tarmac melt?

Given the extreme high temperatures lately, everyone has been effected one way or another whether it’s trying to go from A to B by rail or road. The government advice has been to stay at home if possible and avoid travelling in order to reduce further risk to vehicle tyres on tarmacked roads. 

Tarmac is viscoelastic, meaning it can transition back to liquid when it’s hot enough, despite being strong and sturdy for the most part. The average temperature at which tarmac starts to soften is at around 50°C. 

With current rising temperatures in the UK and around the world, it is inevitable that the tarmac will soften and melt. The weight of heavy traffic severely impacts the roads causing ridges and further danger to other drivers, especially when the air cools and the tarmac hardens again making it brittle. With ground temperatures being much higher than air temperature, roads frequently reach over 50°C.

Can we build better?

Edgar Purnell Hooley, a Welsh inventor, was one of the first to create the product tarmacadam in 1902 which later became very popular as it was extremely smooth. Since then, many materials and ingredients found within tarmac have been upgraded and evolved into modern asphalt concrete and bituminous surface treatments to help protect the surface longer. 

The cost of asphalt and tarmac varies considerably, with asphalt often being the cheaper option and is more commonly used on our motorways. But not all our road surfaces are made from the same type of asphalt or tarmac which is why melting can vary so much. When the air temperatures outside is 25°C, asphalt in the sun has been measured at 51°C. 

Melting tends to only affect the top layer, better known as the surface course layer and this is normally between 3-5cm thick. On heavily trafficked roads, you would typically find three layers: a surface course layer, a binder course layer (about 7cm) and a base layer (10-15cm thick). But on country lanes, which carry less traffic, you’re likely to find only two asphalt layers.

With this in mind, the road industry introduced a new asphalt specification in 1995, allowing asphalt surfacing’s to be made using polymer modified binders. This is so that the softening point of the asphalt is raised to around 80°C instead. In the UK, it is estimated probably less than 5% of all the road surfaces contain polymer modified asphalt. 

The grade of bitumen binder used to make the asphalt is the main contributing factor in how quickly the surface will soften. Harder paving grade bitumen’s are resilient which allows for the asphalt to better withstand high temperatures.

From country to country, you will find a huge variation in quality of product due to the design and build parameters that have been applied. Consequently, any weather extremes are able to cause huge damage to our roads, but planning ahead for such eventualities is essential.

References
https://metro.co.uk/2022/07/17/at-what-temperature-does-tarmac-melt-17013226/
https://www.precisioncivils.co.uk/blog/what-is-tarmac-made-of/
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-23315384

Apprentice Diaries – Cameron Osguthorpe

Studying a course in Construction and Built Environment T Level at York College, Cameron Osguthorpe is a Trainee Engineer that has already been with Moortown Group for nearly a full year. He has 1 more year left to complete his apprenticeship before he graduates from this course. Read on to hear Cameron’s thoughts on his journey so far and why he chose a career in the construction industry.

Why did you choose this vocation?

“I chose this line of work because I liked the fact it would be very hands on, and it meant predominantly working outside and less time in an office environment. I also wanted to be able to mix with a variety of people so that I could learn as much as possible on site “.

Construction appears to be an industry that will always be in demand, and that brings some level of stability and security that my skillset will always be needed”.

What skills have you learnt? 

  • Learned how to use Topcon Total Station
  • Learned to use rotating laser levels
  • Learned how to set out

What are your future aspirations?

  • To get a degree in Civil Engineering
  • To learn and develop my management skills
  • To improve my setting out skills and learn more instruments

What has it been like working at Moortown Group?

“I joined Moortown Group in August 2021, and have had the pleasure of working on the University of York’s project which is a huge student accommodation project with contractor Grahams. 

“I enjoy the responsibility of my role very much, and the work you carry out is unlike any College work that’s given to you. It is a good mixture of technical and practical work. Everybody is friendly and helpful. It feels great to be learning skills whilst getting paid.”

We’re looking forward to supporting Cameron in his next chapter at Moortown Group.

Project Win – Harrogate Hydro

We are delighted to share another recent project win for ISG and Harrogate Borough Council. The Hydro Leisure Centre is located in the Jennyfields area of  Harrogate and will be undergoing a large refurbishment totalling £11.8m of works.

Our works will include the new pad foundations, lift pit and the extension of the ground floor slab. Further alterations will be made to the existing drainage, and there will new drainage installed to accommodate the new layout.

The project will develop the existing building into a modern and energy-efficient two-storey extension, with a new entrance, cafe and reception area. Other features inside the Hydro include a new 400 sqm fitness suite with sauna and steam rooms and much improved changing area facilities. There will be demolition to the existing entrance creating space for a larger cafe and reception area on the ground floor. There will also be an area for new bicycle storage and six electric vehicle charging points.

This win comes shortly after the success of starting works at the Knaresborough Leisure Centre last month, as part of a huge overhaul of upgrading these public facilities and making them fit for purpose, as well as significantly more energy efficient. Through careful energy monitoring and control systems, these measures invested by Harrogate Borough Council have so far included the installation of solar panels and various insulation improvements in order to halve the carbon footprint generated.  These actions come as a result of the bid won by the Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) public sector decarbonisation scheme.

The works for this multi-million pound refurbishment project will be completed by April 2023.

Upgrading Leisure Facilities

At the start of the month, we commenced works on a new site in Knaresborough for Harrogate Borough Council and Alliance Leisure working alongside ISG. The existing Leisure Centre in Knaresborough town is receiving a substantial upgrade as part of a £28m duo project win for ISG.

The project consists of a new-build leisure and wellness centre that will provide a six-lane 25m pool, sauna and steam room. There will also be new fitness suite and café, along with a much improved outdoor play area, with electric car charging points and a bicycle storage area.

Our works package includes:

  • Bulk excavation
  • Foundations
  • Fabrication of reinforcement cages
  • Drainage

The construction will be built in a way that helps reduce its carbon footprint, by encompassing the use of air source heat pumps, solar panels and efficient building materials. It has been designed to meet a BREEAM standard of ‘excellence’ for local residents to enjoy for many years to come.

The work is expected to be completed by July 2023.

   

Restoration Project Complete

Moortown Group started works on the restoration project for York Guildhall back in September 2019 and last month the job achieved completion.

The £21.7m construction will see the building stabilised through major underpinning and protected from water damage with the aim of giving it a new burst of life, located in the heart of the City.

     

The project is a mixture of Grade I, II* and II listed buildings built around the 15th century hall and riverside meeting room. Previously, the Guildhall had only received minimum repair works since the WW2 bombings in 1942 that caused severe damage to all these buildings.

This project has required a delicate and thorough approach to fulfil and deliver extensive works to this historic building. The redevelopment of the Guildhall will allow for new spaces for community use, high quality office space, a café and a new riverside restaurant.

     

Existing issues on the site included things such as significant structural problems with the riverside tower which were subsiding and cracking. Moortown took the lead with the groundworks, RC frame and the external works.

With the location of this site being logistically very challenging alongside the River Ouse, it meant careful planning and operations to use the river in order to erect an on-site Tower Crane and provide access for deliveries. This would otherwise have proven impossible via road and allowed for the reduction of many road deliveries into a heavily pedestrianised area.

     

Project Manager, Rob Henderson from VINCI Construction UK, commented they were thrilled with the professional service delivered across all aspects of the project.

Moortown were with us from start to finish including completing the groundworks, superstructure slabs, lift core and the external paving. Throughout the entire project the service was excellent from a safety, quality and programme perspective. Moortown delivered within a site that was very constrained and worked with us to complete the project using innovative ways. The team were always well supervised and worked in a collaborative approach with ourselves and our other subcontractors on site. Many thanks.

A fascinating building for our Moortown team to have worked on!

Membership with Mates in Mind

    

We are delighted to share we’ve recently enlisted as a new member of Mates in Mind. Mates in Mind is a leading UK charity raising awareness and addressing the stigma of poor mental health. They promote and lead on the development of positive mental wellbeing within the workplace with a particular focus on construction, as well as related sectors including transport, logistics, manufacturing, and others. Mates in Mind aims to provide clear information to employers about the available support and guidance on mental health and wellbeing, and how they can address this within their organisations.

After a very tough couple of years in the pandemic, support services like these are in great demand. We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health. Mental ill health can strike at any time and can affect people from all walks of life. Construction work has a variety of pressures from tight contracts to long hours, time away from loved-ones and managing budgets, not to mention the added stresses of the pandemic and now the rising costs of supplies.

Although things are improving, stigma still exists around mental ill health. As a society, we don’t tend to know how to take care of our mental health like we do our physical health. This means that people may not know how to support a friend, family member or colleague experiencing a mental health issue, or where to go for support with their own mental health.

Many organisations have already taken steps to support their workforce and provided varying levels of mental health guidance. Things such as Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is a training course which teaches people how to identify, understand and help someone who may be experiencing a mental health issue. It won’t teach you to be a therapist, but it will teach you to listen, reassure and respond, even in a crisis – and even potentially stop a crisis from happening. Recognising warning signs of mental ill health, and develop the skills and confidence to approach and support someone whilst learning how to empower them and access the support they might need for recovery.

There is such high value in being able to understand how to support positive wellbeing and tackle the stigma, as Mental Health statistics show that construction is shockingly higher than the national average. As a Mates in Mind Supporter, we’ll be able to have access to a range of resources, training and support, designed to help our organisation.

Record breaking construction in Leeds

Last year’s statistics of 2021 regarding the construction activity in Leeds alone, are phenomenally higher that predicted. Record breaking figures have not gone unnoticed. A report published by Deloitte, captures the developments taking place across Leeds City Centre and its impact. This includes residential, office, hotel, retail and leisure, student accommodation, education and research facilities, healthcare and transport.

The contributions of LeedsBID and the Year of Culture 2023, will promote a range of experiences across the city that aim to add to its vibrancy of redeveloped city spaces for Leeds residents and visitors to enjoy.

The Value of Mental Health First Aid Training

At the beginning of this month our Operations Director, Richard Mitchell, attended a 2-day Mental Health Awareness & First Aid for Mental Health course at the Livius Training Centre at Boroughbridge.

The delivery and content, as well as the input from the small group of people attending the course, was probably the most rewarding course that I have undertaken in a very long time.

Male site workers in construction are three times more likely to commit suicide than the average UK male. This shocking statistic is a vivid reminder of the difficulties faced by many working in the construction industry every day.

Whilst Mental Health concerns are well documented, and even more so during and following the last 18 months to 2 years of the Pandemic, it wasn’t something that had had a massive impact on me in my role at Moortown or indeed at a personal level. However, following a recent site visit which incorporated a disciplinary meeting with one of our site operatives I was put in a situation whereby the site operative had a breakdown in front of me.

Mental health issues in the last year alone have increased by 5% in the UK, and with it, absence rates have increased. Mental health issues can take over 7.5 times longer to recover from than physical illnesses which paints a very clear picture on the importance of mental health and its role in maintaining a strong workforce and well-oiled business.

He told me of his struggles, a long-term relationship had broken down, he was feeling isolated alone with no-one to talk to, he had taken solace in alcohol which was affecting his work life and felt things were getting on top of him and he saw no way out.  Whilst offering a sympathetic ear and suggesting he contact his GP or Health Care professional I felt at a loss as to what to say and do.

For HR and training specialists, it’s vital that decision-makers are freeing up internal budgets to address these issues. Health and Safety can often be seen as a compliance tick-box as it doesn’t always address an immediate issue. Although, in the construction sector, it is already too late if things go wrong.  

I have taken many positives from the course both on a personal level as well as from a business perspective.  Our people are a prized asset, and we need to take a more proactive approach in delivering the message that it’s ok to not be ok!

Whilst it is very important to recognise and offer support and guidance for our work colleagues and being there to act as a safety net and try and catch people if they fall, it’s just as important that we try and recognise and help people before they fall. Moving forward, we’re looking to deliver some workforce engagement sessions throughout the summer with particular focus on Mental Health Awareness.

Training Young Persons in Plant Construction

     

Earlier this year, Moortown Group teamed up with Big Yellow Plant Training who provide in-house Plant Training for Novices and Experienced candidates in the Hull and East Yorkshire area. They also provide CPCS Testing and NVQ Assessment services.

We’re pleased to share with you that our partnership with Big Yellow Plant Training has brought about the L1 Introduction to Construction Groundworks course designed by Big Yellow. This is to help address the skills shortage of available groundworkers, and as Moortown heavily relies on this skillset it is absolutely essential we look for ways to maintain a healthy workforce and offer future prospects to anybody wanting to get into the industry. Designed by Big Yellow, the three week training course will give candidates a basic skill set so they could start on site and be productive straightaway. 

The course was advertised through DWP and candidates were put forward after showing interest through their work coaches at the Job Centre, and then later interviewed by our Operations Director, Richard Mitchell and Centre Manager, Tracey Milnes. 

L1 Introduction to Construction – Groundworking 

This three week course will teach a basic level of skills in both Groundworks and Plant Operation for individuals who are looking to work in the Construction and Civil Engineering Industry and have little or no experience. It would also be suitable for individuals who left the Industry and are looking to return. 

The course covers: 

  • Construction Health and Safety 
  • Safe use and Operation of Petrol Driven Cut Off Saw 
  • Cat and Genny 
  • Introduction to Levelling in Construction 
  • Basic concreting skills 
  • Basic drainage skills 
  • Basic kerb laying skills 
  • CPCS Ride on roller 
  • CPCS Forward tipping dumper 

We’ve had really good feedback from the guys undertaking the training. They are very motivated and enthusiastic to be learning new skills. They have all put in a huge amount of effort so far and they are all extremely grateful for the opportunity. Once the guys have passed their course, they will then be able to begin work on two of Moortown’s current sites in Leeds.