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In the fast-paced and physically demanding world of construction, the scaffolding sector stands out as one of the most labor-intensive fields. Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of workers while maintaining high efficiency is a significant challenge. To explore how the industry is evolving to meet these demands, we sat down with Lee Rowswell Managing Director of GKR Scaffolding LTD, a company renowned for its innovative approach to manual handling.

In this interview, we explore the cutting-edge strategies and technologies GKR Scaffolding LTD is implementing to revolutionise manual handling practices, enhance worker safety, and set new standards in the industry.

How does GKR Scaffolding approach innovation and technology?

Lee: At GKR, we are a forward-thinking business, always at the forefront of innovation and technology. We have collaborated with CH&W and Soter to continuously improve our project delivery, enhancing not just safety but also the health of our employees.

Health and safety are our top priorities, and we believe in leveraging innovation to achieve these goals and supporting attracting the generations to our business and scaffolding.

Can you explain how this new technology adds value to your business and employees?

Lee: It’s crucial that this initiative is not seen as a vanity project but one that genuinely adds value to our people and our business. This innovation continues our journey of continuous improvement, following the Elimin-8 tethered scaffolding fitting we launched in 2012 during the construction of The Shard and the Virtual Reality (VR) behavioural training introduced in 2018.

The VR training helped attract new talent and is still in use today, but it lacked measurable data. The Soter technology, on the other hand, allows us to instantly change behaviours, engage with employees on necessary adjustments instantly.

How has your perspective on health evolved over your career?

Lee: Health hadn’t always been given the same priority as safety. Throughout my 35-year career, having started on the tools myself, I know how physically demanding scaffolding can be. My transition to management at 23 was due to a back injury, highlighting the need for more health-focused initiatives in our industry.

What impact has the Soter technology had on your understanding of manual handling issues?

Lee: We now better understand the magnitude of manual handling issues. We know from the HSE that 53% of days off are related to musculoskeletal disorders (MSD).

With the training and support we can now offer, from yard workers to on-site scaffolders, we expect a significant reduction in these issues. Our 6-week pilot scheme with Soter has provided valuable data, confirming this technology’s potential to be widely adopted across the construction industry.

How does GKR ensure its staff feel valued and supported?

Lee: We aim for our staff to feel valued, happy, healthy, and productive. We pride ourselves on having high-performing, innovative people to deliver top-tier scaffolding services. With this technology, we can reduce manual handling exposure, potentially extending the careers of our employees in the scaffolding sector.

Why did you choose to partner with Soter?

Lee: We saw a unique opportunity with Soter’s AI technology to benefit our people, our business, and the wider industry.

What are your future plans and current challenges with this technology?

Lee: While we haven’t solved all the challenges yet, we wanted to share our current learnings and future direction during the webinar (available here). We are on a continuous journey with CH&W and Soter, and we’re excited about the possibilities ahead.

If you’d like to know more about Soter or the work GKR are doing, please get in touch.

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