Oh dear. Just when construction looked like it was making some progress on health and safety, along comes a new "sport" that could set it back decades. "Freestyle wheelbarrow" has been invented by Jude and Dan Sharp, two self-employed builders from Oswestry in Shropshire. They describe their creation as a cross between construction and BMX stunt riding, and it involves performing death-defying tricks, leaping off buildings and sliding down handrails – while pushing a 90-litre Chillington Camden barrow.
Big Ron in flat swap flop shock
Despite being someone who knows how to deliver a crunching sound bite, UCATT head George Brumwell tried to steal the headlines again last week – and failed to hit the mark.
After 60,000 Birmingham council tenants voted against transferring to a housing association, Brumwell was quick to attack Birmingham council's promotional tactics. This involved former Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion football manager Ron Atkinson trying to persuade residents to vote in favour of the transfer.
Once the "no" vote was announced, the wags over at UCATT headquarters quickly released a press release entitled "Ron Atkinson loses again in Birmingham". Er, wasn't Big Ron a rather successful manager in Britain's second city? In fact, I seem to recall that his performance at West Brom landed him the Manchester United job about 20 years ago …
West Bank story
While we're on the subject of UCATT, I gather that the union is an unlikely proponent of a free Palestine. It seems it is affiliated with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and has been handing out leaflets encouraging members to attend the Rally for Palestine in Trafalgar Square on 18 May. There are even plans for a representative of the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions to attend UCATT's conference in June. There may also be more practical help that UCATT members could offer, as the PGFTU's headquarters in Nablus was destroyed by Apache helicopters in February.
Wattsy the enlightened
Word reaches me that Graham Watts, the amiable chief executive of consultants' lobby group the Construction Industry Council, has gone on a crash diet. Apparently he has cut out meat, fish and dairy products as part of health trip, leaving him with the diet of a Buddhist monk. Hmmm. Does this suggest that the popular Watts is preparing mentally and physically to lead an industry takeover of the strategic forum in the autumn?
Annette and the king
RIBA presidential hopeful Annette Fisher took her canvassing to the very highest echelons last week. She buttonholed Lord Foster at a party in Mayfair, west London, and asked Britain's Greatest Living Architect if she could count on his vote. "Are you going to shake up the RIBA?" Foster enquired. When Fisher replied that she was, Foster gave his verdict: "Well, good luck to you!"
With construction work on the new Greater London Authority building almost complete, mayor Ken Livingstone's staff are packing boxes in preparation for the move to their new home. Rumour has it, however, that Foster's helmet is a tad small for the GLA. A source assures me that they'll all fit in, but "it's going to be tight. We've been told we've got to cut down on our filing".
Will ye no come back again?
Will Alsop has buried his differences with the RIBA. After a very public falling out, in which he attacked the organisation as "irrelevant" and tore up his membership card, Alsop has rejoined the institute. Nobody is quite sure what caused the change of heart, but at least he will now be able to enter the £20,000 Stirling Prize, the annual gong for the best building by a RIBA member. Not that that had any bearing on his decision …
The CABE seems to be suffering from an unusual problem in the construction industry: it's too attractive to women. After a recent recruitment campaign, it has been inundated by applications from them. "Far more women seem to want to work for us than men," mused CABE chief executive Jon Rouse. "I don't know what it is we're doing that appeals to them." Well, if he finds out, could he let the rest of us know?
Our stock is rising
I was intrigued by a report this week from construction analyst David Taylor of stockbroker Teather & Greenwood on the state of industry stocks. On the subject of the PFI, I was delighted to see that Taylor directs his investors to the most obviously authoritative source on the subject – the news feature in last week's Building. Not that we're ever to blame when share prices tumble, you understand.
I see our interview with BAA technical director Tony Douglas – "The Grand Inquisitor" – last December has led to an attempt to set the record straight in the airport operator's in-house magazine, InContext. The interview challenges Building's line, which was that Douglas spent his days "sniffing out heresy" in the supply chain. In fact, it claims, he's a bit of a nice guy. However, this angle is a bit undermined by the article's headline: "Smile - that's an order".