A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Spanset's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Spanset is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Pete Ward, managing director UK
SpanSet and their people
By combining 50 years of experience and expertise, Cheshire-
based SpanSet is the preferred partner for many blue
chip organisations. This, they believe, is due to their focus
on quality and innovation, with a view to providing the most
effective solutions for safe working at height, lifting and load
security. SpanSet UK is part of the global SpanSet group, which
operates throughout Europe, the USA, South America, Asia and
Australia. The group’s core activities are the design, manufacture,
supply, inspection, service and maintenance of solutions, as well
as practical training in their use. The aim is to support the solution
throughout its life, maintaining its effectiveness and ensuring
the safety of the user in so doing. More on this comes from their
managing director, Pete Ward, in the following Review article.
Where to grow
The group had a long-term vision to work directly with end users and, for SpanSet
UK, this began with our move into a new product sector. Looking for growth areas,
we identified “work at height” as one with potential, as many of the products
had synergies with our existing business in terms of component suppliers and
production requirements. The height safety programme was born and, with it, a
need to understand the users’ applications.
It became apparent that while two workers may use the same product, both
their job role and the manner in which they utilised the item could vary widely.
SpanSet UK
»Managing director UK:
Pete Ward
»Established in 1969
»Based in Cheshire
»Services: Design, manufacture,
supply, installation, inspection,
testing and training
»No. of employees: 95
»Within the SpanSet Group
worldwide, SpanSet UK is the
competence centre for height
Highlighting best practice
For example, a worker erecting a
scaffold could use a harness and
lanyard to protect themselves in the
event of a fall by attaching to the
part of the structure they had already
completed, while a worker carrying
out maintenance or cleaning work on
a rooftop could use a similar harness
and lanyard to keep them away
from the roof edge and prevent the
fall from occurring in the first place.
Understanding what the workers’
aims were when at height and what
the options were regarding either
preventing falls or mitigating their
impact was to become a key part in
the programme.
Within a few years of the programme
commencing, we added a training
division, which provided trainees with
the information necessary to ensure
the products were used effectively.
It was also an opportunity to learn
from trainees, who often provided
insights into the challenges they
faced, thereby helping us create more
As the training division grew, so did
our ability to address the real problems
customers encountered – not only in
identifying a suitable solution, but also
in implementing and maintaining it.
Many customers were able to identify
products they liked in the market, but
often struggled to cut through the
marketing to find the details required
when a solution is put into practice.
Customer satisfaction
By using the training team, we
introduced a culture into the business
whereby we became comfortable
bringing together solutions for
customers’ problems and then
demonstrating how they worked,
together with the supporting technical
information. From a customer
perspective, they understood that
the proposal fulfilled their need.
More importantly, though, it offered
reassurance in terms of compliance
with standards – something we could
easily demonstrate.
Some of our solutions were created to
address common issues, such as the
introduction of the “Gotcha” range of
rescue kits aimed at helping workers
recover a colleague in the event of a
fall. This example, when combined
with training, helped users understand
the importance of fall protection in
the first instance. By addressing the
worst-case scenario, the likelihood of
accidents is drastically reduced.
Other solutions were quite specific to a
customer or application. An example of
this is our work with the MoD, as the
Tri Service supplier for fall protection
equipment, in which role we have
created many bespoke solutions for
applications that rarely exist in the
civilian environment. These included
solutions for technicians accessing
radomes in remote areas to carry out
assembly and maintenance works or
protecting engineers undertaking pre-
flight checks on helicopters when in
the field.
From a SpanSet perspective, we
define a solution as an item (or items
Taking training to the
highest level
what the
workers’ aims
were when at
height and
what the
options were
preventing falls
or mitigating
their impact
was to become
a key part in
of equipment), a clear work method
for them, training to implement
them and inspection to maintain
them. All of this combines to ensure
effectiveness from conception to
end of life. Without this full-life
integrity, any solution could fail to
either protect or work for the user
when they need it – an obvious failure
of duty for us. Furthermore, mere
compliance to a standard is unlikely
to reflect the users’ needs or keep
pace with advances in technology, so
the ability to demonstrate technical
performance and fitness for purpose
is also essential.
Being ahead
The standards utilised for equipment
testing in Europe are currently
European norms, with CE marking
required where directives apply, such
as the PPE Regulations or Machinery
Directive. Where gaps in standards
exist or where no directives apply,
for example for non-personal height
safety equipment such as rescue kits,
there is no mandatory requirement
to test, and issues can arise. The
compliance approach is to test
only when mandatory. Thus, for
additional aspects above and beyond
the standard, the user may find no
supporting documentation when they
need it. Alternatively, those suppliers
wishing to demonstrate full “fitness
for purpose” will have to identify ways
to do so, commonly defining and
carrying out their own tests.
Maintaining the UK input into the
European norms and continually
refining them to reflect current best
practice and advances in technical
innovation is essential if they are
to remain relevant. After all, our
approach is to address the whole issue
and provide a solution, not simply a
product in isolation.
The success of SpanSet UK as part
of the SpanSet group and within
our market sectors is a result of
our approach to solving problems
and working with customers on a
longer-term basis, supporting them
at every stage. Our experiences with
the SpanSet group and key clients
including the MOD, many of whom
wehave worked with for over 20 years,
shows that the UK is a competitive
market in which high quality and
innovation can make adifference.
SpanSet’s success has come from
being prepared to innovate and work
above and beyond the standards, and,
in so doing, being able to demonstrate
and justify our decisions and actions.
Our conviction here is not without
basis, as we now employ this across all
our product ranges, and training and
services account for almost 20 per cent
of our turnover.
Our vulnerability will be if the
environment in which we work no
longer reflects fitness for purpose and
the needs of the user. To avoid this
and continue our success, we need to
help maintain and push the standards.
success has
come from
prepared to
innovate and
work above
and beyond
the standards,
and, in so
doing, being
able to justify
our decisions
and actions
Individual function testing of
rescue kits

This article was sponsored by Spanset. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.

In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.

We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.

And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.

As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy