We have now been a member of Ground Forum for a number of years and the Committee receives regular reports from the AGS representative (usually the Chairman). Most of the matters have been very broad and general as you would expect from this sort of group but the foundation has now been formed and there are some significant initiatives now being developed.
The members of Ground Forum are :
Association of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Specialists (AGS) British Drilling Association (BDA) British Geotechnical Association (BGA) British Tunnelling Society (BTS) Federation of Piling Specialists (FPS) Engineering Group of the Geological Society (EGGS) Institute for Mining and Metallurgy (IoM3) Pipe Jacking Association (PJA) UK Chapter of IGS (IGS)
The group was formed to be an umbrella organisation for all ground based associations and to give them a collaborative voice on issues that affected all the industry. It is important to note that members of the Forum have access to the Construction Industry Council and that CIC and other very high level policy making bodies consider Ground Forum to be their route to the associations, societies and hence the professions. We have to make sure that we take advantage of that route to pass our issues and questions back up to the higher authorities.
Since the problems of September 11th 2001 the insurance market has reduced in size and the problems of obtaining all types of insurance from Employer’s Liability to Professional Indemnity have increased. Discussions between the BTS and the Association of British Insurers have taken the tunnelling industry from a point where tunnel construction was uninsurable to an agreed code of procedures on which insurance can be based.
This form of collaboration between the Association and the Insurance body may well become a common process in the future for all the member groups unless the insurance situation eases.
The development of this draft (at the moment) code is to promote best practice and insurers will require everybody to comply with it. The document will be supplementary to existing legislation and is now well underway towards a more complete draft.
FPS have also had discussions with insurers and the main causes of increased premiums have been given as September 11th, Stock Market performance and catch-up for the last 30 years.
Following the BTS code development there was discussion on codes of conduct in general and all Societies have been asked to submit any documents that they have to see if the whole situation could be eased by the development of a general “Geotechnical Code of Conduct”.
2) Research and Development
Government funding for research is driven by global issues and the EEC is now moving towards large grants for collaborative research between a number of parties.
The “blue-sky” research is not being funded.
The proposal from Ground Forum is to organise a high level seminar with representation from Government, manufacturing, design organisations etc. contributing. All members of Ground Forum would have input and the objective would be to try to influence “UK Limited” research into Ground Engineering in general.
The raising of the profile of Ground Forum is also an aim, not just for self promotion, but to increase the awareness of the importance of the ground-based disciplines.
I hope that AGS Members see this as a conduit to influential places and people and if there are any issues that can usefully be put through this route then we should start to develop them.
Keith Gabriel AGS, Member of Ground Forum