As we enter a new year I wanted to reflect on a burning issue that was the cause of much debate in 2014.

With some contractors estimating that their total hours spent in pre-fabrication are going to triple over the next five years, it’s clear that pre-fabrication is here to stay here in Australia.

What is the current perception of pre-fabrication?

Well opinions seem to be divided, falling squarely into two camps.

For companies, pre-fabrication has revolutionised the construction industry by providing a genuine alternative to conventional building projects. The process is predominately used to produce a cost effective, competitive edge to increase productivity and reduce project time, hence minimising cost.

From the workers point of view there is a general feeling that the contractors are deskilling the industry in a bid to make a greater profit.

In light of the recent tragedy on 3 December when a worker in Edmonton fell through a fibreglass sheet to the concrete floor some five metres below, and subsequently passed away in hospital without regaining consciousness, I contemplated whether there is another side to the pre-fabrication debate that may have been overlooked.

Is Employee Health & Safety the real winner out of the pre-fabrication revolution?  Pre-fabrication operations in general will provide a safer working environment, not only in a reduction of working at height and having to compete with other contractors for operating space on site, but also better welfare facilities and reduced exposure to the elements. The outcome would seem to provide a cleaner, safer working environment where the potential for incident is greatly reduced.

So does pre-fabrication provide a cost saving mechanism for the Contractor or a genuinely safer working environment for the Employee? Or both?

My opinion is that anything which helps construction employees return home safely from work every night must surely be considered as a win – win situation.

David McIntyre is a Senior Consultant –  Client Services in the Davidson Trades

* Davidson Trades is no longer part of the Davidson Group. For more information please contact the Davidson Projects & Operations team.