It IS not very often that two disaster recovery contractors end up working side by side on the same contract, although it happened recently at a site I visited. The reason was the different companies insured the structure and the contents. One was called in by the loss adjuster acting for the contents insurers and the other company was called in by the loss adjuster acting for the buildings insurers.
One team had a dedicated site supervisor who ensured that the team had the correct chemicals, had received the necessary safety briefing, used the appropriate protective equipment, were correctly and consistently uniformed and took their allocated breaks. Work progressed in an orderly and sequential manner and their part of the job was completed well within the anticipated time.
The other team, however, appeared to come and go as they pleased, had no clear leader, took numerous breaks and were highly disorganised. Eventually this crew was excluded from the works canteen because of their overall appearance and demeanour.
This said, however, their work was of a good standard. Steelwork was thoroughly cleaned and blockwork was left free of contaminants and odour. It was just such a pity that during the course of their work they managed to upset a number of people and that the work took three times as long as it should have done.
There is no doubt in my mind which firm created the better impression with the client and would be more likely to be engaged in follow-on works, even though the standard of the completed tasks were comparable.
While this contrast in attitude to work is not unique to our industry, it is perhaps especially important given our chosen field of work. We help those who have already suffered a disaster, and it is vital that we present an organised, capable and professional front to our clients. To paraphrase someone else's advertising; “We shouldn't make a drama out of a crisis”.
It would be easy to place the blame for a work crew's poor appearance and lack of organisation with them, and it is encouraging that the British Damage Management Association appears to be promoting improving standards among ground- floor operatives. But this is only part of the solution; the setting of standards within an industry does not, in itself, raise them.
The attitude of the staff engaged on the shop-floor is a mirror of that of the management. If this industry is to alter, then the need for change needs to be first embraced at the highest level within a company.
Once a new culture has been embraced by those at the top, a clear message will be sent out to all other workers. More importantly, though, ground-floor operatives and staff will appreciate the need for alterations within work practices and will, hopefully, accept the need for additional training and qualifications.
Understandably, it is with some trepidation that I have entered the current debate on standards within the short time I have been involved (four years). But I have grown to love the job. There is no other job that is capable of giving you such variety. You are never sure what you will be doing tomorrow, or where you will be going.
It is because of these feelings that I now have the reforming zeal of a convert. I wish to use my energies not only to alter the industry but also the perception of our industry by insurers, loss adjusters and others, who sometimes view us only as contractors out to make a fast buck.