What is the golden thread – and why does it matter?

The phrase ‘a golden thread of information’ is becoming increasingly commonplace across the UK construction industry, having first come to prominence as one of the central themes in the Hackitt Report, ‘Building a Safer Future – Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety’ which was written following London’s Grenfell Tower fire.

Our managing director, Luke Allen, took a closer look at the notion of ‘a golden thread’ – and what it means for industry – in the latest issue of Tomorrow’s Health and Safety magazine. If you missed the original article, you can catch up below.

Since the tragic events of 2017, the need for a golden thread to run through all construction and infrastructure projects has become increasingly apparent and led to the creation of a Building Safety Bill – which includes central principles for the maintenance of such an audit trail.

But what does it actually mean?

Think of the golden thread as a birth certificate for everything used across a project. Done correctly, you should be able to find out information to the nth degree – from which company made what component, who installed it, when it was commissioned and by whom, and any tests thereafter.

While the concept may be met with trepidation by some in industry, as with any period of legislative change, such accountability is vital. Not only if something should go wrong, but also when things go right and a potential disaster has been averted – whether it’s a bolt on a railway overhead line mast, or a complex fire safety system.

At present, far too many parts of the process aren’t digitised, meaning it’s all-but-impossible to lay your hands on crucial information as-and-when it’s needed – if it exists at all. It can also lead to lengthy – and costly – delays compiling operations and maintenance paperwork once a project is completed.

By creating progressive assurance as the project unfolds, those involved know that things are being done right – and installed and maintained properly – providing confidence that works are being looked after by the systems around it.

What’s stopping you?

The construction industry certainly isn’t alone in being reluctant to examine current working practices and make them more transparent. But we can no longer simply ‘do what we’ve always done’. In a world where technology is driving society forwards, it’s unfathomable that people still rely on paper documentation and walls of filing cabinets.

Of course, one of the biggest hurdles in meeting this new industry standard is a shift in process. Formally digitising a procedure which has previously been conducted via notepads, WhatsApp messages, and telephone calls needs to be carefully managed, and an understanding of the benefits communicated to all involved.

It’s also important not to rely on a one-size-fits-all approach. Understanding what each stakeholder needs from its golden thread is vital in order to create a failsafe audit trail throughout delivery, handover, and once the end-product is in use.

One such project saw eviFile translate a 25-stage process – with over 50 input forms – into a completely digitised journey, with contractors prompted to input the right data, photos, and video, at the right time.

By mapping out what information is needed and in what order at the start of any project – including collation of photographic or video evidence – ensures stakeholders receive exactly what is needed from a handover and legislative point of view, and simplifies the process for those ‘on the ground’.

Not only that, but project stakeholders can access real-time reporting and a ‘live’ view of vital sensors – their operational status, who installed them, and when they were tested last. In turn, this can reduce site visits by 30% as well as minimise reporting time – improving day-to-day efficiencies and reducing carbon impact.

Then, when work on site is complete, projects are ready to hand off the golden thread to the client – as progressive assurance helped to curate it throughout the construction and commissioning phase.

While there’s no denying that change is coming, now is the time to embrace the opportunity to digitise what might perhaps be outdated methodologies, and set the bar amongst your peers.

Interested in discovering how eviFile can improve productivity and ensure compliance for your upcoming projects?

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