Skills shortage drives need for further guidance from manufacturers
The British Woodworking Federation (BWF) Stair Scheme has launched a new and improved Staircase Installation Guide, to help fill the skills gap and focus on safe, quality installations for both domestic and general access staircases.
Getting stairs right first time and avoiding costly squeaks and even running the gauntlet of non-compliance is a major drain on productivity in the housebuilding and wider construction markets. Poorly fitted stairs also present safety risks – they remain one of the most common areas for accidents in the UK with more than 800 recorded deaths attributed to slips, trips and falls on staircases every year in the UK and a staggering 300,000 visits per year in the UK related to falls on stairs. Accidents happen, but many could be avoided and some of these will be the result of not managing risks during construction works, when a part-finished or unguarded staircase is often used for access.
Kevin Underwood, technical director at the British Woodworking Federation said: “A shortage in skills on site is now a real problem in the industry. Manufacturers are no longer able to assume that the necessary fitting skills and knowledge will be available at the point of installation and so are having to take more of a role in guiding the fitting process, which is where the BWF Stair Scheme Installation Guide comes in.”
The guide is produced by the BWF Stair Scheme, the only accreditation and certification scheme of its kind in the UK. Members design and manufacture domestic, common and fire protected stairs to an extremely high standard to ensure quality and safety within the industry.
Builders and contractors have a duty to correctly install staircases that are fit for purpose. While members of the BWF Stair Scheme produce stairs that will support the necessary loads in both the flights and the balustrades, poor installation practices can cause the stability of the stair to be reduced, potentially leading to premature failure of components and ultimately the collapse of the stair. The guide is designed to bridge the gap between manufacturers and installers to ensure that industry standards are met and best practice is followed to safely install timber staircases.
Kevin continued: “There are many elements that need to be adhered to when it comes to correctly installing timber staircases and a single mistake or missed fixing could render a stair unsafe. In simple terms, if a stair is not installed correctly according to the manufacturer’s instructions it won’t be fit for purpose. We continue to get reports from our members of problems within the staircase market that undermine them as suppliers.”
Kevin added, “By providing guidance on the intricacies of stair installation we hope to help improve the skills and knowledge of all those working within the sector and ensuring that the highest standards are met for the stair market in the UK.”
John Slaughter of the Home Builders Federation who has supported this guide stated: “We at the HBF are delighted to be supporting the British Woodworking Federation in developing this essential guidance. Working more effectively with the supply chain is critical to improving productivity and quality in the home building sector and this kind of collaboration between manufacturers and our members is a great example of how this can be done effectively. The BWF Stair Scheme and the quality information that is produced from this group is a very welcome support to our industry and members.”
Paul Cribbens of the National House Building Council said: “Staircases are a prominent feature in our home – get them wrong and they can be; noisy, bouncy and a source of dissatisfaction for the homeowner. This is just the kind of practical, proactive support that the industry needs to address the skills challenge. This type of targeted, practical guidance is great, not just to those already working on site, but also to keep knowledge alive and teach the next generation. The BWF Stair Scheme focusses on quality in manufacture and design, but they are also recognising here that installation is critical to trouble free stairs.”
Jo Weston, Business Support Director, Willmott Dixon, also commented: “At Willmott Dixon, we are focussed on working with the supply chain to improve quality. We know all too well that installation issues undermine quality product. One example is staircases; if you don’t get it right, it is not uncommon to be called back to address issues such as insecure strings, problems with winders, missing blocks, issues with balustrading, or squeaks of unknown origin. This results in costly correction, wasted time and unhappy customers. In construction, we have to work these mistakes out of the process, to learn and improve. That is why we are delighted to be working with BWF and their stair scheme to get this guide and supporting training to the people who need it through our own quality procedures”
To download a copy of the BWF Stair Scheme Installation Guide, click here.