“Drones are revolutionising how we stay safe at work” - an interview with Gareth Cook

Drones are increasingly being used in industry to conduct important aerial intelligence work on construction sites. Gareth Cook CMIOSH is Managing Director at High Compliance Ltd, which specialises in providing drone services for photography, video, surveying and 3D mapping.

In this interview, Gareth discusses how drones are changing the way projects are delivered on building sites across the UK and worldwide and the important ways they are helping to keep people safe at work.

Hi Gareth. What sort of work does High Compliance do?

High Compliance offers a range of services, from health and safety consultancy to drone services. Our drones can help with the 3D mapping of sites, real-time aerial risk management and safety inspections, live streaming project updates and more. These services are incredibly useful in helping to keep people safe on sites and can identify and monitor potential hazards and risks in ways that are impossible on the ground.

We also have internally developed technology that allows clients to align data captured by drones directly into their current workflows, showing how drones can be used to complement existing workflows with high efficiency.

Could you tell us some of the clients you have worked with and projects you are involved in?

We have recently won a 2-year contract with Alun Griffiths to deliver health and safety services and drone solutions to the Carrington Bridge project. This is a significant project that forms part of the critical infrastructure development programme by Worcestershire County Council. We're very excited to work on this project and will be providing additional drone services, including 3D mapping, live video updates streamed to board members and safety culture development programmes. Other drone solutions will be implemented on the project as it moves forward.

We are also providing 3D mapping solutions for Haywood Construction and Demolition and CBRE and have historically worked with clients such as Polarm, Speller Metcalfe and Accurent.

How do you see technologies such as drones being used in the future?

Progress on risk management has reached a plateau in many industries. There is a tenacity and appetite for industry to find a way to “do safety differently” and embrace the global trend. We support this vision.

I believe drones will be at the forefront of a revolution in keeping workers safer and healthier at work. Drones are already changing the way projects are delivered on construction sites and this will continue to expand in the future. The UK is behind the curve in this area compared to some other countries, but we are quickly catching up. Clients we work with highlight the significant benefits they receive from health and safety drone services.

What sort of risks are there to using drones and how might we mitigate them?

There are risks, and it is important we make efforts to reduce these where possible. Alongside the traditional risks, such as risks towards personnel below the drone, buildings and structures in the environment, client assets and reputation, there are also other risks; such as clients not having the procedures and capabilities and competencies to make best use of the data collected by drones.

It is important organisations using drones take precautions during the design and planning stages of projects and work closely with OSH practitioners and drone specialists. Good safety leadership can reduce incident rates by 35-45% per annum; this is best achieved by conducting safety observations (flights) and communicating twice weekly at all levels.

Engaged employees are 5 times less likely to be involved in a safety incident and 7 times less likely to be involved in a significant injury or fatality. Therefore, it is important to drive for a wider acceptance of employee engagement. We provide the platform for this by facilitating a fun environment with lots of engagement opportunities whilst also managing risk and increasing business opportunities.

Our working model is founded on a 4-tier system: Prevent, Protect, Detect, Response. We work hard to identify risks and clarify specific problems, then take measures to prevent situations from spiralling and to minimise personnel exposure in the work we carry out.

What motivated you to become a Chartered member of IOSH and work in this sector?

I have been involved in risk management all my working life. I joined the Army at 18, then moved into the hostile private security close protection environment.

Both these careers saw me serve in some of the most hostile environments around the world, serving and securing the interests of the Crown, high net worth individuals and multinational corporations.

One security operation I was running saw the fatality of a close friend; the subsequent investigation identified poor supervision, management and company culture as the root cause. I was part of the management and planning, therefore part of the root cause. I knew I needed to do something to ensure this never happened again. 

I threw myself into fixing the management and culture of the company, who understood the requirement and paid for my diploma in occupational safety and health. This is when my career in OSH was born.

The key driver behind my push to achieve Chartered status with IOSH was to put myself on a path of continual improvement and transfer that knowledge back to industry, specifically my clients, to ensure the health, safety and security of as many people as I can.

Author: Gareth Cook CMIOSH, Managing Director, High Compliance Ltd

  • Occupational Health surveillance
  • Construction - Industrial
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