Wire Rope Exchagne Interview with Ross Moloney (photo, above), CEO of the Lifting Equipment Engineers Association (LEEA).
BY: Bob Glenn, Editor and Publisher
Global Lifting Awareness Day, organized and supported by LEEA and flying under the social media hashtag #GLAD2023, returns this year on July 13. We wanted to gain and share with you a deeper understanding of the issues and challenges that LEEA hopes to address with GLAD. LEEA CEO Ross Moloney was kind enough to speak with us and expand on the mission and purpose of the event, along with a few of LEEA’s many other initiatives.
Wire Rope Exchange – Bob Glenn (WRE): In basic terms, what is Global Lifting Awareness Day all about? What are we trying to make people more aware of?
LEEA – Ross Moloney (LEEA): The Lifting Equipment Engineers Association looks after lifting and working at height in many Industries and our Members design, manufacture, test, sell, and distribute products and services right from the beginning to the very end of that particular journey. And so consequently our Members – of which there are over 1,000 – have numerous different challenges that they face all around the world. But the number one challenge that they all agree on is this: where is the next generation of workforce going to come from? And when we start looking at that, there are lots of reasons why our industry is not seen as being as attractive as it really should be.
And some of that is that it’s maybe the least glamorous of all the engineering sectors. Engineering is a sector that we struggle to get people to choose because it sounds hard, it’s science based, it’s math based, so young people tend to shy away from that and they want to go be in “Influencer” instead. And when we get them into engineering, the sort of engineering that they often want to go into is Formula One or Aerospace or something of that sort, something where they end up in Monte Carlo! We are in a difficult sector to get people into and we’re in a difficult sub-sector of that sector.
And you can argue that people only notice lifting equipment when something goes wrong. What we do is risky, it’s difficult. And when something goes wrong, it can go wrong catastrophically. It sounds melodramatic, but when people in our industry make a mistake, you don’t get to recall the email. You don’t get to rub it out, you don’t get to apply correction fluid. People get injured or people die – they don’t go home from work.
And that sets up an ongoing battle between quality and cost. So how is it that we can ensure that when people are making purchasing decisions in our industry that they recognize that to an extent, they get what they pay for?
(WRE): So that’s the pair of challenges GLAD is trying to address, awareness of the industry and respect for its challenges?
(LEEA): Right. We started it as a collection of stakeholders in the industry thinking about what we going to do to solve these issues. And we recognized that there’s quite a lot of awareness lacking for our industry. Whether that’s young people or parents, or schools, or colleges that lack insight into what an amazing industry this is.
Ours is an industry that is global. It takes you to wonderful and weird places, helps you to do things that are just phenomenal and perhaps other things that nobody’s ever done ever before. We’ve got a member that looks after the wire rope on the Sydney Harbor Bridge, and we’ve got members that are involved in unbelievable construction projects in the Middle East and also in North America and South America and Southeast Asia.
So, come and join our industry because it’s awesome. And also, once you’re in it please treat it with respect.
When you’re using industrial lifting equipment and you start taking shortcuts, it matters and it’s catastrophic. And we recognize at LEEA that we are not the entirety of the lifting industry. We are a player in it, but we support very niche elements, people who make it – lifting and rigging gear – and test it. But people who use it tend to belong to other trade associations. We work with other trade associations and other stakeholders to take that message out to them as well, because some of the message will be more relevant to them.
(WRE): We talk about the lifting industry, but lifting is a discipline that lives inside many other industries.
(LEEA): Take for instance, the managing director of a warehouse. If their lifting equipment isn’t being regularly tested and doesn’t comply with legislation, that’s something that maybe they don’t know. So, we are working with our partners and other stakeholders across the globe to take this message to come and work with us and make sensible informed decisions when you’re dealing with gravity because you’re always going to lose. It’s just, it’s just how badly you lose!
And lifting is not just industry or construction. Lifting is involved in every part of our everyday life. Yesterday, I was speaking to Fish Farmer Magazine, right? We’re an island in the middle of the North Atlantic here in the UK, and yet fish farming is a big part of our economy!
And our Members in the northeast of Scotland are involved in oil and gas in the North Sea, wherever there’s oil and gas there are LEEA members, but operating in windy, cold, lifting is hard enough, but when you’re lifting from something that’s moving on the waves, you know, that’s the real cutting edge of engineering.
So, if we can achieve one thing in GLAD, it would be to convince one person when they’re making procurement decisions, this is an important thing and that cheap matters, but it isn’t the only factor!
(WRE): You see some really eye-opening case studies at industry conferences, I recall a table of how much weight you have to drop and how far you have to drop it to injure or kill someone, in the scope of most lifting operations it’s not very heavy and it’s not very far.
(LEEA): Yeah, there are no mulligans in lifting.
(WRE): I know that LEEA has also been working with recruiting people leaving the military. Can you tell us more about that, and how it fits in with your “where do we get the next generation of skilled labor” initiative.
(LEEA): At LEEA we work in terms of Pathways. And a really important point to make here is that we are not just looking for candidates, put a bum (butt) on a seat, that’s not what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to find a high caliber next generation of workforce.
We’ve got two Pathways that we’re working on. The first one, the next generation in terms of age in the first job, we’re working with Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen to develop graduates. And we’re also working in Australia and England and Scotland on what we call an apprenticeship pathway. When you leave school between 16 and 18 and 21, we provide you with an avenue – rather than going to university and taking on the debt associated with that and doing a degree that maybe your parents picked for you, there’s an apprenticeship pathway. That means that you can come and learn and earn with us. You can work with our members and LEEA is supporting those colleges in actually delivering that.
By the time you’ve completed that pathway, you’re oven ready to go and work, and LEEA’s working with colleges to make sure you do all of the all of the necessary academic work, Maths (mathematics), English, Teamwork, Values, and the like. But you will come out of that apprenticeship with your requisite, and LEEA qualification so that you can hold a diploma level qualification, so that you can hold a team card, so you’ve got that currency to go and work. And that’s really important to us.
And the second pathway is you leave the military, whichever country you’re from, LEEA offers you a free bit of foundation training. And that’s to any military veteran.
Our online training means that you can access that wherever you are in the world in your own time, and it isn’t just in the English language but it’s in key languages. Our languages include Arabic, Bahasa for Indonesian, at the Indonesian Market, Portuguese, and Simplified Chinese. That’s our way of essentially saying to military veterans, “Please dip your toe in the water. Do this bit of online training for free in your own, and then you can make a conscious decision on whether this is an industry for you.”
So, we’re effectively giving some information but also providing a bit of a sifter. And then on the back of that we are willing to act as a, almost an agency, really, that will put [00:17:32] you in touch with members, at LEEA members.
To be a member of LEEA means what? We believe that you’re a stand-up guy, you’re a good company, we can recommend you the as sort of person you’d want to work for. And if you are a military veteran with your foundation, then we will support you as you go to work with a LEEA member with your diploma Level Training which means that you are ready to work, and that’s a huge commitment for a trade Association, such as us.
We’ve identified a problem and, well, there are trade associations and then there are trade associations that come up with a solution, and I don’t think our members expect anything else from an engineering trade Association. I’m hugely passionate about putting back and giving back to those who have served our relative countries and have offered the ultimate sacrifice. We at LEEA are proud to have strong relationships with our resettlement charities in the UK, and we employ ex-servicemen regularly and routinely, and it’s absolutely our commitment to support our military veterans with online training to give them that, “what do you think?” sort of moment.
(WRE): GLAD got started several years ago and it seems like it’s built momentum every year. What do you hope to accomplish this year on global lifting Awareness Day? What are you hoping people will do?
(LEEA): This is deliberately supposed to be a social media day, right? So, what I’m hoping is that people will use #GLAD2023 and that they will use the key message that we support and promote GLAD because we support safe lifting. This is about doing the very best that we can as actors within an industry to claim the social media airwaves that day. LEEA itself runs a series of events so that we’ll be having Members from England attending, and the day before we’re running a reception in the houses of Parliament alongside Crosby, who are a Member who are also on our Board. We will be doing everything we can to run events and produce content that people can point to, we’re hoping that everybody that works in the industry posts and uses the hashtag, and talks about one of those two key messages that ours is an industry of value, in the sense of come and work with us, and also make good decisions when you’re engaging with it as you engage the never-ending debate about quality versus cost.
(WRE): Great! One final thing, when you issued the mission statement for #GLAD2023 recently, you described lifting as a “Cinderella” industry, and I had to stop and think about that as I wasn’t exactly sure what you meant.
(LEEA): When I talk about us as a Cinderella industry. I mean that we’re just in the background, but actually really undervalued. And my experience is that whenever an industry is undervalued, that’s when it becomes really under the caution in terms of price. And also, under the caution terms of legislative support, standards, rules, and actually adhering to the rules that we know we need to adhere to in order to be safe. When we start feeling undervalued, that’s when corners start to be cut, and that’s when accidents happen. And so we want our industry to be one of those were our workforce sticks up for itself and its standards – our workforce believes they can say that we know the way it needs to be done, and we know what we’re doing!
We encourage you to share the vital work you do every day through social media on July 13th this year with the hashtag #GLAD2023, and search that hashtag to check out other posts from all around the industry.