RH Then what did you do?

DB After I graduated I went into technical sales based in north west England including Northern Ireland, an interesting place to go selling in the early 1970s. After a couple of years I moved to the service side when the company set up what was to become Crane Aid Services Ltd. and ultimately Lloyds British Testing Ltd. I then went to Iran to set up a joint venture company between Herbert Morris and the Iranian owned Akam Group. We won a contract to maintain all the handling equipment in the port of Khorramshah on the Gulf. Unfortunately the early stages of the revolution were already underway and shortly afterwards the government stopped paying the contractor running the port which in turn caused us to cease operations.

Derrick Bailes

Derrick Bailes, chief executive of LEEA

RH How did you become the chief exec of LEEA?

DB After I returned from Iran I worked briefly for Rolair Systems, a UK company set up to develop the embryonic market for air film equipment. I was then contacted by my former boss at Morris who was a member of the Executive Committee running the Association. They were seeking a Technical Office for the Association and he invited me to apply. It seemed like an interesting challenge and I was successful in being appointed, starting in September 1978.

RH How would you sum up your job?

DB There are several dimensions to it but the briefest description is “technical support”. We provide our members with a range of technical support from representing their interests in dealings with legislators and standards bodies, through training and qualification of their staff and drafting technical publications to answering technical queries and giving advice by telephone and email. We are also a small business in our own right so, as Chief Executive, I have the usual responsibilities of running such a business.

Derrick Bailes

Derrick Bailes speaks at Crane Safety 2006

RH What do you hope to see happen in your time as chief exec?

DB As an Association, I would like to see the LEEA develop into a truly international body. As I am due to stand down as chief executive in January 2009, that may not be within my period of office but I believe that we have it within our sights and capability to make the step within the next few years. In my technical capacity, I would like to see the quality of the International Standards for lifting equipment brought up to the same level as that of the Harmonised European standards. By quality in this context, I mean that the standards are as objective as possible, specify by performance, allow for and encourage innovation and are fully verifiable.

RH How did your relationship with Hoist start?

DB John Brindley of Brindley Chain Ltd., the UK Pewag distributor, had made contact with the then editor, Phil Bishop. Hoist hadn’t been going long and Phil was looking for contributions. We in turn were looking to raise the profile of the Association and looking for a suitable means. Fortunately our objectives were mutually compatible.

RH And the column?

DB I wrote one or two sample columns which were accepted and we just kept going although we didn’t expect it to become a regular feature at that stage.

RH What were its objectives?

DB We were aiming to raise the profile of the Association but Phil was cautious about it appearing to be an advert for the Association, hence it was done in my name. Many articles in trade publications are a bit ‘anorak’ and not very readable unless you are familiar with the particular piece of equipment or the job it did. I wanted the articles to be readable by anyone who was interested even if they didn’t have the specific knowledge. Later I realised that the readers’ interests varied according to their occupation (for example, buyers, users, trainers, operations managers, safety managers) and I tailored the articles to those interests. The last series has been aimed at newcomers to the industry.

RH How has the industry changed since the first article?

DB I don’t think it has changed dramatically although trends which have been present for some time have continued. Globalisation and low cost imports have affected UK manufacturing and the successful UK companies are mainly those with niche markets where a particular expertise gives them an advantage. From the user point of view, training and safety generally have become much more important, particularly in dealing with larger organisations which demand a more formal approach to such matters. The UK is also a major source of expertise for the service industries supporting the new oil producing areas of the world.

RH Is every column easier or harder to write than the last?

DB Once I had established a style it got easier provided I had a clear idea of the subject for the article. However over such a period, most topics have been covered to some extent and it does become more difficult to find something new and interesting so more feedback and suggestions for future topics will be welcome.

RH How do you think of material?

DB The first articles dealt with specific issues which were relevant at the time. Since then we have tended to think in terms of a series based on a particular theme. There were the buyers guides, the inspection guides and recently the selection guides for novices. In between there have been one off articles about particular enquiries I had received or incidents which had occurred.

RH Have the columns taught you anything?

DB Not so much a new lesson as reinforcing an old one of not relying too heavily on memory. It’s a good starting point but if it’s something I haven’t dealt with for a while, I like to double check so I keep a lot of reference material to hand.

RH Is the lifting business receptive to trade media?

DB I think all industries need at least one trade publication as a forum for news and debate. Our sector is only a part of the larger materials handling industry. It perhaps doesn’t have the glamour or spectacle associated with the heavy lift sector but it nevertheless fulfils a vitally important role in every industry from offshore to entertainment. I’m pleased at the direction Hoist magazine is heading in with greater appeal to the end user.

RH What’s the latest news at LEEA?

DB The last decade has been one of considerable growth in membership for the LEEA and, for the last few years in particular, a large proportion of that growth has been overseas. In the UK, the demand from members for specialist training for their personnel has been a major challenge and resulted in the purchase of new premises and setting up of a purposed designed training centre. Overseas, as part of the drive to secure and enhance the status of members, we are introducing technical audits of member locations to the same standards as have applied for many years in the UK.

RH How many members do you have now?

DB Currently 256 and growing with 106 overseas.

RH Is the international profile of the association growing?

DB We certainly think so and, with the measures already in hand (see above), confidently expect it to continue.

RH How would you sum up China’s impact on the industry?

DB The main impact we have observed to date is the influx of low cost products. Some, although by no means all, are of doubtful quality. The quality issues have been made worse by opportunist importers with little product knowledge seeking to make an easy profit. However when such products are routed through the established industry, their shortcomings come to light and they are rejected. On the positive side, input from the more responsible importers coupled with a willingness to learn has resulted in a considerable improvement in quality from many sources. China has also become an active player in international standardisation which can only be to the overall good.

RH What does 2008 have in store for the UK market?

DB Currently the market seems buoyant and the indications so far are that it will continue in 2008.

RH And globally?

DB Our perspective on the global markets is very much influenced by the oil industry and is therefore very positive.