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    Uncertain times hold no fears for trussed rafter manufacturers

    In the face of
    Brexit and other challenges this year, leading trussed rafter manufacturers and
    timber engineering firms learned to tackle fear like a Marine Commando, at a
    high energy AGM and conference for the Trussed Rafter Association (TRA) on 2
    May.

    More than 70
    directors and business leaders within the sector met in Warrington this month
    to discuss some of the key issues creating uncertain times.

    This included
    presentations on changing legislation regarding wood dust, changing Building
    Regulations and testing requirements on fire safety, and a continuing skills
    crisis across construction.

    Nick Boulton, TRA Chief Executive said:

    “That was an
    uplifting and thought-provoking conference. It has left trussed rafter and
    metal web joist manufacturers and installers much better informed of the big
    issues affecting our industry this year and next.”

    “Prepare now to
    demonstrate professional competence in everything you do,” warned Barry Turner,
    director of technical policy at LABC. This was the main issue that all firms,
    big and small, should take seriously in the post-Grenfell era, he explained,
    while also making clear his concerns regarding the new ‘clarified’ Approved
    Document B on fire safety which is due for publication this month.

    Similar
    warnings to prepare for new legislation came from occupational health expert
    Alan Ballard from ELAS. He broke the news of reduced softwood dust workplace
    exposure limits by the HSE coming into effect in 2023 – a health and safety
    change which is going to demand innovative solutions from the industry and its
    cutting machinery suppliers.

    Mental health
    is continuing to be an issue within construction. “Construction has the highest
    suicide rate of any industry in the UK, America and Australia. This is a
    statistic that needs to change,” said Bill Hill, chief executive of the
    Lighthouse Construction Industry charity.

    In light of
    this shocking statistic, The Building Mental Health campaign has been launched
    to support construction workers at all levels, with a free Employee Assistance
    Programme (EAP). Other support tools are also available via their
    website. 

    How do you
    market your company and its career opportunities to Generation Z? That was the
    question posed by Liz Male, managing director of LMC, the TRA’s PR and
    marketing agency.

    As the skills
    crisis escalates, attracting and retaining talent is becoming an increasingly
    urgent issue. Liz’s description of Generation Z and what engages them really
    resonated with the TRA members and highlighted the need for much more
    face-to-face communications and involvement with local schools and colleges in
    the battle for talent.

    A big technical
    innovation also had its debut at the TRA’s conference. The Cullen Gable
    Restraint Bracket allows for a complete system to connect timber gables and
    masonry walls to the roof structure in order to resist wind loadings.

    Scott McAndrew,
    R&D manager at ITW Construction Products explained how the system has now
    been accepted by the NHBC as meeting its technical requirements and how it
    delivers a robust structural fixing for timber gables. Site testing with
    housebuilders had gone well, he said, and the new connector will be adopted by
    the TRA in its forthcoming Gable Panel Guide.

    Housebuilders
    in Ireland can also have more confidence in the fire safety of the homes they
    are building, thanks to a successful metal web joist fire testing programme
    carried out by the TRA. This was off the back of Irish Government’s decision to
    move to Eurocode test standards.

    An update on
    this fire safety project was presented by Julian Marcroft of MiTek. TRA Ireland
    has already issued guidance to its members who produce metal web floor joists,
    to assist them with designing and constructing products which are compliant
    with fire safety in Part B of the Ireland building regulations.

    Finally, back
    to the Commando reference. A tour of Afghanistan taught former Marine Commando,
    Ben Williams, a lot about fear and how to manage it. He brought this experience
    to the AGM but with a business spin on it.

    Fear can stifle
    creativity within a company, he explained, before talking about how all
    businesses – including those in this industry facing an uncertain future – can
    build up resilience and overcome fear and anxiety to perform in the most
    gruelling of circumstances.

    Ben is now a
    leadership coach and mentor working with premier league footballers as well as
    business leaders in VW, Travis Perkins, Keyline and Oneserve. His wisdom was the perfect end to the
    conference and left everyone feeling positive and reinvigorated for the year
    ahead.

    www.tra.org.uk