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Bruce Spencer-Knott Minster

Can you tell us about how and why you embarked on a construction career, and how that led you to where you are today?

After I left school, I started working on building sites and roadworks across the country as part of a small team. I would often be the man using a jackhammer to dig up roads, or I’d be in the trenches beside the roadworks laying the reinforced edges. It was hard, thankless work, but the money was good and it’s always rewarding when, at the end of the shift, you look behind you and see a pristine, freshly-laid road.

At 19, I’d earned enough to buy my first house in my hometown, Lincoln, but after ten years of working on the roads, I remember coming home after a particularly long and difficult day of work when I thought to myself that I simply couldn’t go on doing it. It was backbreaking work and I promised myself that I’d do everything I could to make the work better, safer and more efficient. I love technology and I’m always looking for ways to improve on the way things are done, and that inspired me to push myself forward.

I started taking a night course for a diploma in civil engineering and I worked my way up the ladder. I spent another four years in the industry when some of my friends encouraged me to go it alone and start up my own firm. In 1999, I re-mortgaged my house and I started Minster Surfacing.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt during your time in construction?

That there are always ways in which you can improve how things are done.

I think that it’s the case in every industry, to various degrees, that things always get done in the way they’ve always been done. In construction, and roads in particular, I think this mindset is even more common, and it means that things are often nowhere near as efficient, effective or safe as they could be.

Technology is always being developed and created that has the potential to transform an industry for the better, but lots of people in construction tend to shy away from it and carry on as normal. Investing in new technology is always a gamble, but I find that it almost always pays off.

From having worked in some of the most dangerous, most arduous jobs in the industry, I’m really passionate about improving the work for my colleagues so that we can make the work safer, greener and better. We’ve already made great strides, but I’m always on the lookout for ways to improve things even more.

Has health and safety become a more important consideration in construction work over time?

Since I started in the industry, the work has become a lot safer, but there’s still some way to go. Health and safety is a really important consideration; as a business owner, I don’t want to be sending people to work in environments where they’ll be in harm’s way. While risk can’t be eliminated completely, we all take every step possible to keep our employees, supply chain partners and the public safe.

Throughout the company’s history, we’ve made big investments in technology that has eliminated the need for some of the most dangerous tasks and made others much safer. All members of the team are extensively trained, so they know how to complete their work and operate machinery safely, and we also have rigorous risk assessment and risk mitigation processes.

It’s impressive to see how the construction sector has been making strides to improve health and safety, but generally road surfacing still has a bit of a reputation as a dirty, dangerous industry. There are companies that haven’t done much to challenge that reputation, but I’m determined that it should be a modern, safe and efficient industry. Unfortunately, the reputation has been having an impact on the number of young people who are interested in working on the roads, so I’m convinced that the industry as a whole needs to make the effort to improve working conditions and show that we can be high-tech, forward thinking and safe.

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