In some recent court cases evidence was given that ‘there are no qualifications in sign installation’. Which, you may think, presents some difficulties for clients looking to appoint a suitably qualified contractor.
Well, yes and no.
It’s true that there isn’t (for example) a City and Guilds Certificate in Sign Installation that covers retail shops, petrol stations, motor dealerships, chemical refineries etc (some of us have explored that but not yet found a way of doing it).
But to say there is no training and there are no qualifications is patent nonsense, and one hopes that no court has been misled by that.
Sign installers include electricians (who must be suitably qualified in their own field) and those doing the physical installation of the sign, can undertake relevant construction and safety training. In our case, and in the case of many other quality sign installation companies in the UK, that is precisely what they do.
The training may be fragmented, and not neatly parcelled up into relevant channels, as it is in other industries, but it is pure nonsense to say there is none.
And it is utterly irresponsible to use people with no formal training on the installation of signs.
No customer should appoint a company which employs untrained installers, and which can’t prove – by the use of certificates from external training providers and recognised authorities – that it has done everything in its power to properly train its people.
Which brings me to falling retail signs.
When a store is rebranded, it is – obviously – appalling practice to simply fix a new (and possibly heavier) sign to an old substrate without checking first that it is safe to do so. Yet (demonstrably) this happens.
It would be a disciplinary offence for an Xmo Strata sign fitter not to check the substrate before fitting a new or replacement sign, even though they cannot claim to do so with quantifiable expertise.
There are many obvious problems which can be spotted with the application of common sense – expertise would be nice, but common sense will go a long way!
It is still possible to check for damp, rot, rust or other decay on fittings; as well as physical instability.
It is complete madness not to do so.
Yet social media comments in the last few months indicate that for some sign fitters, it is an absolute outrage to suggest that this is (or should be) part of their job, even though they may prevent someone being killed or injured with a few simple checks.
We are experiencing an increasing number of weather-related events due to the warming of the climate – strong winds, wave action on the coasts, floods, storms and so-on. All these things are damaging to signs.
Signs themselves are becoming more sophisticated as Brand Managers (quite rightly) demand more functionality from them; but the added sophistication means the sign may be heavier (and either more likely to fall when incorrectly installed, or more dangerous when it does fall, or both).
When a retail sign falls it is likely to do so highly publicly – in a mall, a high street or a filling station, for example.
It can visit sudden death on a peaceful situation and it may do so with shocking speed; it may also present eyewitnesses with a horrific situation, the immediate aftermath seared on their memory for life.
Those eyewitnesses will probably include children.
Reputable sign companies don’t want this – obviously. Reputable retailers don’t, either. But it’s now happened with such frequency that the courts will regard the retail and sign industries as having had plenty of warning.
Lawyers for bereaved families will have every right to ask of clients and contractors: “Look, signs fall down, if they are fitted badly or poorly maintained; this cannot possibly be a surprise to you; yet still, it happened on your site. Why was that?”
I will have that question in my mind every time I take on a new contract, and I know that colleagues running respected competitor companies have the same view.
Sadly, there are still those in the industry who won’t. And some of them will use bulletinBulletins highlight issues that will be experienced throughout the industry, and prove a useful tool to encourage the raising of standards and awareness of health and safety issues industry wide. boards and discussion groups which they imagine to be invisible to customers, regulators and victims’ lawyers to ridicule the suggestion that they should.
Watch out for them.