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Letters: Why don't we 'get' equality?


Crossrail woman

Women engineers: Much rarer on UK sites than in Canada

I will admit that until recently I read with scepticism the entire issue about equality in the engineering industry in the UK. I now understand that this is due to the fact that I did my undergraduate degree in Canada where 50% of my graduating class were female students. I then spent the next two years working for a Canadian consultancy that employed many female engineers and I met many female project managers on site.

This to me was normal until I worked for a UK consultancy where suddenly everything changed.

I did not think anything of it until I met a woman at a social gathering and when we began discussing professions, she began to tell me, (adamantly at that) that engineering was a “boy job”, involved lots of maths, and that project management did not count (although also part of the industry). This argument was furthered by the statement that safety boots in women’s sizes did not exist. I was initially confused by this but after a quick Google search I can say that this is factually untrue. In another unrelated incident, I was told by a female that engineering is “helmets, whistles and fancy shoes.”

I am shocked to have experienced this attitude first hand and want to suggest that the

UK learn from its neighbours across the pond where many of my female graduating class have gone on to become licensed (chartered) as opposed to just simply using the strength of their degree to pursue another profession.

  • Dominic Holder (G)


HS2 cash won’t fill NHS budget hole

Nigel Briggs statement “one really must question the degree of thought that the anti-High Speed 2 lobby give…” came to mind when I read the following letter from Alistair Muir (NCE 21-28 May). He suggests shaving £8bn off the £50bn budget for High Speed 2 to fund the NHS deficit. I thought an understanding of the difference between capital investment (for which borrowing is widely accepted) and revenue expenditure (for which most people do not recommend borrowing) was essential learning for any engineer. Muir also omits to note that the NHS will require an extra £8bn per year by 2020. Yes £50bn seems a lot of money, but it is only half the current annual revenue budget of the NHS. Perhaps that puts it in perspective.

  • Nick Orman

Who designs temporary works?

I must endorse Alasdair Beal’s comments concerning the new CDM 2015 Regulations (NCE 14 May). I have worked for major civil engineering contractors, on site and in temporary works design departments, throughout my career and I do not understand how anyone other than the principal contractor can properly manage the procurement and supervision of temporary works.

In temporary works falsework design, approximately 90% of the design loading is determined by the designer, with 10% of the load due to the self-weight of the falsework. In permanent works the proportions are approximately 40% assessed imposed loading and 60% due to the structure itself. So, the permanent works designer has full control of 60% of the loading whereas the temporary works designer designs a structure capable of supporting approximately nine times its self-weight but requires assessment of a large proportion of the loading.

Where the permanent works designer has scope to create sections and adopt suitable materials, temporary works designers assemble off-the-shelf components from different sources. These components, often with significantly varying characteristics, must be compatible and capable of the required assembly. All this makes the design process more complex.

Other factors might impinge on design, such as ease of assembly, and there may be hazards around the proposed temporary works to consider. The management of these elements requires a designer with experience of construction practices. It is not necessary for temporary works contractors to undertake the design of the temporary works in question, but they must have an appreciation of those temporary works in order to manage the process. This can only be developed through periods of working on sites.

  • Laurie York (M Retd)

London tops the city congestion league

I must take Mark Hansford to task on his Comment on a Northern Hub (NCE 21-28 May). For over 40 years Manchester has had a road system which is far superior to London’s. Forty five years ago I worked on both the M56 and the M62/M60 interchange and it was on the latter that a member of the then Road Construction Unit proudly showed me the proposed network of M roads around Manchester, a grid the like of which London has never dreamed.

I have lived in the South most of my life and know the horrors of London commuting where a commute can be an hour and a half if you’re lucky. Most commuting in London is by public transport.

Mostly it doesn’t go door to door. If you’re lucky you live within 10 minutes of the station and work within 10 minutes of your final station and only have one change of train between. Most of my train commutes have taken over an hour, which is why it was likely to be quicker by bike.

I haven’t been to Manchester for quite a while but I often travel to the Birmingham area and to Scotland and am surprised at the complaints made of poor communications up there. The rush hour lasts 10 minutes instead of the three hours we have here, and tickets are very noticeably cheaper. However, the most notable is that the roads are vastly better.

  • Archie Campbell

Qatar’s World Cup worker shame

Following my letter last year regarding Qatar workers’ rights (NCE 1 October 2014) I was not surprised to learn that the recent BBC investigation into migrant workers’ housing conditions confirmed my fears. Even if these workers are not provided with site accommodation, project supervisors have a responsibility to ensure that site workers are adequately housed, fed, clothed and equipped to work safely. It is clear that in their treatment of BBC staff, Qatari authorities have something to hide. The Fifa World Cup sponsors need to urgently expect immediate action to rectify these matters on these multi-million pound construction projects.

  • Peter Mason

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