Bishopstone project sees building company given major  safety award

By Barrie Hudson - 12 November 2020

Business

Stonewood Builders is celebrating after winning a prestigious safety award.

  • Building Safety Group Regional Manager Andy Harper,second left, presenting the Member of the Year award for the Central and SouthRegion to, from left, Stonewood Builders CEO MattAitkenhead, left, Site Manager Valius Kisonas, Project Assistant Sophie Britain,Commercial Director Joe Bergson and Contracts Manager Alec Webb

    Building Safety Group Regional Manager Andy Harper,second left, presenting the Member of the Year award for the Central and SouthRegion to, from left, Stonewood Builders CEO MattAitkenhead, left, Site Manager Valius Kisonas, Project Assistant Sophie Britain,Commercial Director Joe Bergson and Contracts Manager Alec Webb

The firm has been praised for its rigorous approach to protecting workers on site.

The 48-year-old Wiltshire refurbishment specialist, part of the Stonewood Group, has won the Building Safety Group’s 2020 Member of the Year award for the Central and South Region.

The construction industry advisor, which supports 600 members across the UK with health, safety and environmental guidance, made the award after a visit to a £1 million mill refurbishment project at Bishopstone, near Swindon.

Inspector Colin Reeves praised Stonewood’s Site Manager Valius Kisonas for the way “...he has maintained a consistent approach to compliance and safety being the priority on site."

He also praised the traffic management plan on a challenging site near a primary school, the meticulous planning and execution of piling work, health checks and monitoring of staff working with dust and lead and the installation of a staircase despite challenging space restrictions.

Stonewood Builders Commercial Director Joe Bergson sees the award is a tribute to the way the company has kept health and safety as a key priority despite its rapid growth over the last 10 years.

He said: “The Old Mill in Bishopstone is on a really tight site on the edge of a road, by a river and on a hill, and there’s not a lot of room to manoeuvre.

“They have completely gutted the inside, put in a new contemporary staircase and built a small extension on the side. It’s a really interesting job.

“The award is a nice recognition that we have been putting a lot of hard work in over these last few years to make sure we are being safe on site and our staff are really conscious about it. 

"It’s nice to think that as a company that is growing with £60m turnover and more than 250 employees, our health and safety is going in the right direction and improving every year.”

Mr Bergson, who joined Stonewood as a graduate eight years ago, has nine staff working with site managers on up to 35 projects at any one time to maintain consistent levels of safety. BSG inspectors survey every site regularly and provide reports outlining what they find.

Mr Bergson said: “All the site managers are copied into everyone’s reports so when a report comes in, the directors, contract managers and the site managers all see it, which makes it a little more transparent, and it has made sure everyone remains safety conscious.”

“The award means a lot coming from the BSG, we really respect their advice. They are a good sounding board to us. They do a lot of training and development and they have been offering us a lot of guidance on covid.”

BSG Regional Manager Andrew Harper said the group has seen Stonewood grow from 75 employees to 250 since it first began working with the company in 2012. 

He added: “Since then BSG has carried out over a 1,000 site inspections on their behalf. At this time BSG are regularly inspecting 31 sites for Stonewood Builders, and this information is then used to constantly review ongoing operations with the senior management team to ensure all health and safety duties are met.

“There has always been a clear ambition at Stonewood Builders to improve health and safety performance where needed, and the welfare of their clients and staff have always been foremost in the management of all operations.”

Stonewood Builders was founded by Managing Director Matt Aitkenhead’s father, Neill, and taken over by Mr Aitkenhead and Chief Operating Officer Ben Lang in 2009. 

The Stonewood Group, based at Castle Combe, also includes housebuilding arm Stonewood Partnerships, Stonewood Design, groundworks outfit Earthstone and bespoke housebuilder Stonewood Homes, and has offices in Wiltshire, Somerset, Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire.

Mr Lang said: “I’d like to congratulate Joe on this award, we are delighted for him and his team. 

"He has really taken control of our safety procedures and made huge strides forward in our processes – and done it the right way so that he has taken people with him.

“This award has come at the back end of returning to site post-lockdown, with all of the new challenges we’ve faced. 

"It has also come during some real growth within the group, both in terms of the original contracting business and the diversification into other areas. 

"To have improved our safety performance through those two periods is really noteworthy and encouraging for us as a business.”

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