IN THIS ISSUE | MENTAL HEALTH IN THE SPOTLIGHT
ISSUE 79 - JUNE/JULY 2020
NOARK PRODUCTS NOW AVAILABLE IN IRELAND
YOUR LOCAL ELECTRICAL WHOLESALER - NATIONWIDE
GOREY ELECTRICAL WHOLESALE Ballyloughan Business Park, Arklow Road, Gorey, Co. Wexford T: 053 948 1636
ABBEY ELECTRICAL SUPPLIES DONEGAL Unit 6, Drumlonagher, Donegal Town, Co Donegal T: 00353 (0)74 972 2532
E: email@example.com W: www.goreyelectrical.com MCK ELECTRICAL LTD Unit PD1, Togher Industrial Estate, Pouladuff, Cork T: 021 497 5201 E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: www.mckelectrical.com MGF ELECTRICAL SUPPLIES LTD Henry St. Roscommon Town T: 090 662 5644
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ARKLOW ELECTRICAL WHOLESALE Castle Park, Arklow, Co Wicklow T: 0402 32870 E: firstname.lastname@example.org BELLEW ELECTRICAL DROGHEDA Unit 12, Donore Business Park, Donore Road, Drogheda, Co Louth T: 00353 (0)41 984 6160 E: drogheda@bellew electrical.com W: www.bellewelectrical.com BELLEW ELECTRICAL DUNDALK Centenary Business Park, Coes Road, Dundalk, Co Louth T: 00353 (0)42 933 7450 E: email@example.com W: www.bellewelectrical.com BELLEW ELECTRICAL CASTLEBLAYNEY Ballybay Road, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan T: 00353 (0)42 975 4575 E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: www.bellewelectrical.com BELLEW ELECTRICAL CROSSMAGLEN Unit 2, Cloughvalley Stores, Newry Road, Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, BT35 9BN T: 0044 (0)28 3086 0830 E: email@example.com W: www.bellewelectrical.com CLONMEL ELECTRICAL LTD Unit 11J, Ard Gaoithe Business Park, Cashel Road, Clonmel, Co Tipperary T: 052 612 8072 BERNEY CROSSAN & SONS LTD, T/A CROSSAN ELECTRICAL WHOLESALE 52 Main St, Longford T: 043 334 6109 E: firstname.lastname@example.org DERRY TAHENY ELECTRIC LIMITED Lynns Dock, Sligo T: 071 917 1434 W: www.derrytaheny.com E: email@example.com W: www.clonmelelectrical.com ELECTRICAL SUPPLIES LTD Unit 3, Jamestown Industrial Centre, Inchicore, Dublin 8 T: 01 473 1381 E: firstname.lastname@example.org - W: www.esl.ie ENNIS ELECTRICAL SUPPLIES LTD Quin Road Business Park, Quin Rd, Ennis, Co Clare T: 065 682 9684 E: email@example.com W: www.enniselectrical.ie
E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: www.mgfelect.com
N2 ELECTRICAL & SECURITY SUPPLIES LTD Rath Cross, Ashbourne, Co. Meath
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PETER CURRAN ELECTRIC LTD Unit 18, Glenrock Business Park, Ballybane, Galway T: 091 385 700
TRADE ELECTRIC NENAGH Ormond Street, Summerhill, Nenagh, Co. Tipperary T: 067 31289 E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: www.trade-electric.ie TRADE ELECTRIC NEWCASTLE WEST Block B, Desmond Business Park, Newcastle West, Co Limerick T: 069 77971 E: email@example.com W: www.trade-electric.ie TRADE ELECTRIC SANTRY Swords Road, Santry, Dublin 9 T: 01 842 6055 E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: www.trade-electric.ie TRADE ELECTRIC STILLORGAN 1 Old Dublin Road, Stillorgan, Co Dublin T: 01 563 1830 E: email@example.com W: www.trade-electric.ie TRADE ELECTRIC WATERFORD Unit 4A, Six Cross Roads Business Park, Kilbarry, Waterford T: 051 591 666 E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: www.trade-electric.ie TRADE ELECTRIC WEXFORD Pinewood Business Park, Whitemill Industrial Estate, Wexford T: 053 914 7150 E: email@example.com W: www.trade-electric.ie
E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: www.curranelec.ie
SOUTH WEST WHOLESALE Matt Talbot Road, Tralee, Co Kerry T: 066 712 3399 E: email@example.com TEF TULLAMORE LTD Unit 3b, Burlington Business Park, Tullamore, Co Offaly TRADE ELECTRIC KILLARNEY Ballycasheen Road, Killarney, Co Kerry T: 064 662 5340 E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: www.tradekitdirect.ie WEST CORK ELECTRICAL WHOLESALE CO. LTD Industrial Park, Clogheen, Clonakilty, Co. Cork T: 023 883 4360 T: 057 935 1893 E: email@example.com
E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: www.wcew.ie
TRADE ELECTRIC KILKENNY New Street, Kilkenny T: 056 776 2498 E: email@example.com W: www.trade-electric.ie
TRADE ELECTRIC LIMERICK Lower Gerald Griffin Street, Limerick T: 061 417 754
E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: www.trade-electric.ie
Don’t suffer in silence!
T he Coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown has brought the issue of mental health in the industry sharply into focus. More than ever associations, companies and individuals are factoring mental health provision into their thinking. There is no doubting the positive work carried out over the past few years by organisations like the Electric Industries Charity with their Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) and also, the improved general awareness and understanding of mental health across the industry. This progress has to be applauded, but there is a long way to go. A serious stumbling block remains in the path of real progress. Despite the increased support networks, courses, campaigns and helplines, people, particularly but not exclusively men, continue to suffer in silence. Our inability to effectively destroy the stigma surrounding mental health means it remains the silent killer. Thousands are prevented from asking for help by the mis-guided notion that to do so would be a sign of weakness. It’s why 95% of people in the industry refuse to discuss their mental health problems with a significant other. It’s also what makes John Blake’s story in this edition of Ireland’s Electrical
Fast forward to a digital world It’s like we’ve been inserted into a time machine and someone hit the fast forward button. We already lived in a technologically advanced age, but the recent crisis has definitely accelerated the process. Desktops, laptops, tablets and smart phones; social media, video, Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams; the digital age is here and now. Even before Covid-19 cast a spanner in the works, we had witnessed a significant growth in our online and social media networks, reflected (in the case of Ireland’s Electrical Magazine) by a 64% year-on-year rise in monthly web visitors. That trend towards digital consumption of content has continued at pace since March. Almost 7500 unique monthly web visitors, 6,782 social media followers, 5,788 E-zine digital subscribers, and an impressive 55, 538 monthly social media impressions [each time a post is viewed]. It’s the way forward for any brand or product now. To future proof and stay relevant, you need to speak the language of, and immerse yourself in all things digital.
Magazine (on page 16) all the more noteworthy. A Site Manager at Dublin company Designer Group, the popular father-of-two has been brave enough to talk about his own mental health struggles. As someone who felt the need to maintain a ‘manly’ façade, John is now a firm believer in, and staunch advocate of the opinion that: ‘It’s good to talk’. In recent years we’ve seen more and more celebrities come forward and admit to suffering mental health issues. From Prince Harry to Dwayne Johnson, Lady Gaga to Kendall Jenner - all are to be commended for speaking out. It’s courageous but, let’s be honest, when a celebrity makes as admission like this it’s almost certain to receive a favourable reaction. That’s not a given for the man (or woman) on the street, building site or factory floor. Many fear what impact it might have on their standing with colleagues, and bosses if they confessed to problems with their mental health. It shouldn’t be underestimated how difficult that step can be, nor the positive impact it can have on others when someone does raise their head above the parapet. The more people we have like John Blake, the more chance there is of finally breaking the stigma.
Roger Anderson EDITOR
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IRELAND’S ELECTRICAL MAGAZINE | 3
In this issue...
Issue 79 - June/July 2020
HERE’SWHAT’SCOMINGUP INYOURLATESTEDITIONOF IRELAND’SELECTRICALMAGAZINE:
8 Ballycastle to San Francisco Bay… The County Antrim man behind SolderM8, an innovative LED strip light solution. 12 ‘Together we offer more’… Reg Farrell Engineering (RFE) join forces with Noark Electric.
33 Where it really counts… Core Electrical put Marshall-Tufflex antimicrobial trunking to the test on the Coronavirus frontline. 34 Fired up… After walking out of the Dragon’s Den successfully, how’s life been for the good folk at Gray’s Clips 41 Get to grips with your data… SimPRO’s centralised software solution. 43 Taking control… Kempston Controls’ and TEC Electric are on the same wave length. Plus... Awards and a webinar getting attention… Keep up-to-date with the latest industry news.
16 It’s good to talk... John Blake’s story of sporting
achievement shines the spotlight on mental health problems in the industry.
28 Green means go…
Schneider Electric’s Country President Ireland, Kelly Becker, talks getting the environmental agenda back on course.
THE TEAM: Managing Director Karen McAvoy Sales Manager Janice Uprichard Editor Roger Anderson Editorial Assistant Chelsea McCann Sales Executive Sarah Walker Production Manager Julie Anne Guiney
CONTACT US: The Forge, 13b Lisburn Road, Moira, Co. Armagh BT67 0JR T: Moira: 028 9261 2990 T: Dublin: 01 696 8319 E: email@example.com www.elecmagazine.com
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electrical magazine @elecmagazine
Digital Creative Manager Jo Wilson Digital Content Editor Cathal Delea Accounts Samantha Watterson Photography Gordon McAvoy
Reproduction of whole or in part of this publication, without prior permission from Karen McAvoy Publishing Ltd, is strictly prohibited.
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IRELAND’S ELECTRICAL MAGAZINE | 5
PROTECT YOUR BUSINESS AND EMPLOYEES WITH PPE SUPPLIES
COMPREHENSIVE RANGE OF PPE PRODUCTS AVAILABLE GLOVES, FACE SHIELDS, HAND SANITISERS AND MORE!
AVAILABLE FROM YOUR LOCAL ELECTRICAL DISTRIBUTOR TEC ELECTRIC - Unit F2 & F3 Weatherwell Business Park - Clondalkin - Dublin - D22 HN36 Tel: 00353 1 4572445 - Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.tecelectric.ie
Free and exclusive to NICEIC and ELECSA contractors, the latest edition of the WIRE has reached an impressive 8,000 viewers since its launch in April.
Thewebinar series that’s a hit with contractors
K ing and Moffatt Building Services has been awarded ‘Sub- Contractor Health and Safety League’ winner for May by ISG plc for work on their luxury Mayfair site in London. The £50m project comprises the 5-star Mandarin Oriental Hotel and 80 luxury individual apartments. Established in 1978 by Pat King and John Moffatt, the works at Hanover Square is just the latest in a long line of high profile and lucrative contracts. Expanding the company’s reach to the UK in 2002 with a large electrical project for Kepak at their Kirkham Plant in Lancashire, King and Moffatt has gone from strength-to-strength, their client portfolio in the UK, Ireland, and mainland Europe including Etihad Airways, Cadbury, SSE, the Irish N ICEIC and ELECSA has further underlined a commitment to raising standards, promoting technical excellence and supporting their registrants, with delivery of an all-new series of their hit webinar programme the WIRE. Free and exclusive to NICEIC and ELECSA contractors, the latest edition of the WIRE has reached an impressive 8,000 viewers since its launch in April. Broadcasting eight episodes to date, covering key topics such as RCD types and testing, EICR coding and SPD’s - the CPD accredited series has delivered over six hours of in-depth technical know-how to registrants. As the series progresses, and in direct
response to customer feedback, the WIRE will switch to a new regular slot of 8 PM on alternate Wednesdays from June 17. Keeping contractors firmly in mind, upcoming episodes will continue to focus on relevant topics including PRS, guidance and working with PME. “We are delighted with the response we have seen to the series so far,” said John O’Neill, NICEIC’s Technical Director. “At a time when face to face training has had to pause momentarily, it is vital that we keep our registrants at the forefront of technical insight and developments and the WIRE is proving to be the right tool for the job. “Undoubtedly, we are pleased with the viewing numbers, but for me, what is
more encouraging is the feedback we are receiving from our customers. Of those polled, 95% rated the sessions as excellent with 97% confirming they were extremely likely to tune in again. Reactions such as this prove to me that we are on the right track and that we are providing the tools our registrants truly need. As we move into the summer months, we will remain focused on delivering subject matter that is important to our registrants as we strive to build upon this solid foundation.” Previous episodes of the WIRE are available to all registered NICEIC and ELECSA contractors via the
customer portal. www.niceic.com
Leitrim-basedKing andMoffatt are ‘League’ leaders
The Residences at Mandarin Oriental Mayfair.
Prison service, and leading names in the hotel and education sectors. King & Moffatt Building Services has also recently been appointed Mechanical & Electrical Contractor on a new logistics
development totalling 1.2 million sq ft within Gazeley Magna Park South, Lutterworth, Leicestershire.
T: +353 (0)71 962 0378 www.kingmoffatt.com
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CUT OUT THE CALL-BACKS - BALLYCASTLE MAN INVENTS INNOVATIVE SOLUTION TO THE INSTALLATION OF LED STRIP LIGHTS...
Fromthe GoldenGate comes SolderM8
S an Francisco-based company Mulholland Electric has created a pioneering tool to speed up and simplify the process of installing LED strip lights. The biggest problem facing electricians when soldering strip lights to the feed, or each other for that matter, is that it is not always possible to lay both ends on a flat surface. It’s why most avoid the issue altogether and go down the bulky connector route. Determined to solve the problem, Connlaoth Mulholland set about designing, patenting, making and testing prototypes, until he had fine-tuned a light, portable, and workable solution. What the County Antrim man came up with is ingenious. It’s SolderM8. Following that well-worn Irish tradesman’s path Stateside, Connlaoth and his brother Ronan were forced into a radical re-think when recession hit in 2008. “My brother and I set up
Mulholland Electric after we found ourselves laid-off from the large company we had been working for,” Connlaoth explained. “From those shaky beginnings we’ve developed into a well-established small contracting firm employing a handful of qualified electricians and apprentices. Like every small or large firm, it is vital to keep a close eye on those all-important costs.” It soon became clear that the installation of increasingly popular LED strip lights with connectors had the potential to be time- consuming, costly, and the source of unwanted call-backs. “We identified this as a problem which could quickly make this particular element of the job unprofitable,” Connlaoth added. “We found that when called back, the problems were mainly due either to the connector becoming faulty or the connection within it becoming unstuck. We concluded that these faults were
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“The magical underside, an element Connlaoth devoted considerable time and effort into perfecting, enables you to insert the wires and holds them firmly in place while you dab on the solder.”
going to be inevitable because the heat generated by the lights being turned on and off eventually breaks down the plastic connector. So, we had to face facts and admit that soldering was the only real answer which would provide the home or business owner with a mechanically sound connection and save money by eliminating the need to correct recurring faults.” LED strip light installation is without doubt one of the most fiddly, time-consuming and very often frustrating tasks of the trim phase. On the flip side, if done correctly it enables the electrician to present a professional and robust finish that they can be confident in. But soldering? Isn’t that only something that should be attempted by a highly-experienced electrician? I mean, you couldn’t give that job to an apprentice? “After one particularly expensive episode when our best apprentice spent two full days messing up six solder joints on an LED strip - which admittedly were particularly awkward as they had to be installed above a picture rail - we knew any solution had to be user-friendly as well as efficient.” So how does SolderM8 work? Firstly, this
amazing little gadget will stick to any surface, regardless of angle or texture. The magical underside, an element Connlaoth devoted considerable time and effort into perfecting, enables you to insert the wires and holds them firmly in place while you dab on the solder. Simple as that, then just move on to the next joint. “We are now able to finish full lengths of soldered strips in a fraction of the time and with a sleek and professional finish. Best of all we can do this without the frustration, tantrums and no more call-backs!” Created in California by an electrician for electricians, this brainchild of Ballycastle is now ready to take on the world. Now, extensively tested and with highly-positive feedback, the first batch of Mulholland Electric’s revolutionary SolderM8 is up for sale. Go to their website for more information, to watch a demo, or order your own SolderM8 with shipping to the UK and Ireland available.
• SolderM8 took three-years to develop • The gadget benefits from Connlaoth Mulholland’s two decades experience as an electrician • SolderM8 is tough and durable, but not indestructible [Please note that some high-powered gas soldering irons may cause damage] Your newbest ‘mate’
E: C@solderm8.com www.solderm8.com
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SEAI award€1mto Irish researchers
A €1m award by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) has enabled Irish companies and research institutions to collaborate on seven innovative European energy projects. Advanced, highly-efficient, and renewable energy systems will be central to studies, with funding for Irish participants provided by SEAI through the Department of Communications (additional support was also leveraged from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme). The Government’s Climate Action Plan, published last year, sets out actions across every sector to ensure we meet our future climate commitments. The ‘Plan’ highlights the importance of research in meeting this challenge,
together with the need for competitive funding rounds to bankroll the pursuit of innovation. Richard Bruton TD, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, said: “Ireland has the opportunity to become a global leader in offshore energy. The Climate Action Plan will see us increase the amount of renewables on our grid from the current level of around 35% for electricity generation to 70%. At least 3,500MWwill come from offshore wind. The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme will provide the first opportunity for offshore wind to come onto our grid at scale. Building the capacity to be innovative in this sector and in many other areas of opportunity in a decarbonising world will be vital to our future.” WilliamWalsh, CEO of
SEAI added: “These competitive energy research initiatives have attracted very strong interest internationally, so I would like to congratulate each Irish recipient and their international collaborators on their success. As SEAI continues to strengthen Ireland’s energy research landscape, I am delighted that we can facilitate Irish participation in these initiatives by providing research funding and support. These collaborative projects bring people together to create new ideas, form new partnerships and find solutions to the challenges we face as we transition towards a cleaner energy future.” SEAI, St Kevin’s, 3 Park Avenue, Hatch Street Upper, Dublin 2, Dublin D02 FX65. T: +353 (0)1 808 2100 - E: email@example.com www.seai.ie
£95mplanning application for ‘Glenmona’
A planning application has been lodged with Belfast City Council to build an ‘urban village’ on a 75- acre site off the Glen Road in West Belfast (known
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as Glenmona). One of the biggest residential planning applications ever submitted, the proposed development would include much-needed social and affordable housing, a hotel and retail centre, business space, and two elderly care homes. At the heart of the concept, according to developer The Braidwater Group, would be a ‘tree-lined linear corridor’ leading to an amenity and retail hub. The application also comprises 550 social housing units and a further 106 affordable houses. The Braidwater Group’s Planning and Technical Director, Finbarr Grogan, said: “There is high demand for social and affordable housing in this area and we have had a positive engagement process with all key stakeholders, which we believe will result in a scheme that will work for the whole community in West Belfast.”
• NO OBLIGATION QUOTATION • FREE DELIVERY Unit 2A Milltown Business Park, Co Monaghan T: 00353 47 72265 - E: firstname.lastname@example.org www.troypanels.com
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N oark Electric has appointed Reg Farrell Engineering (RFE) as exclusive distributor of its products in Ireland. It’s a collaboration that spells good news for anyone interested in high-quality, cost- effective products, backed by world class support and an exclusive 5-year RFE TEAMS UP WITH PRAGUE-BASED NOARK ELECTRIC, GLOBAL SUPPLIER OF CUTTING-EDGE, LOW-VOLTAGE COMPONENTS... CZECH MATE
to detail and dependability makes our job as a ‘solution provider’ that much easier.” An important cog in a global group with 25,000 employees and a sales revenue of $10 billion, what attracted Noark to RFE? Again, it was that common ground. “As we increase our distribution network throughout Europe, we are also looking to partner with companies that share the same values of quality, reliability and service that are such a part of our DNA. We are proud to partner in Ireland with RFE, who have been supplying the electrical industry for more than 40-years.” In-house engineering and product development Noark’s entire portfolio of high-quality products is specifically designed for manufacturing and assembly (DFMA), with every individual component treated to rigorous testing procedure by the in-house team to ensure they meet even the strictest standards and performance requirements of IEC and EN. Ian says, “the by-product of this pursuit of excellence is development
limited warranty. Noark Electric is a subsidiary of the largest electrical manufacturing group in Asia, with regional centres in Prague, Shanghai and Los Angeles. The company has invested millions of euros into in- house research and development, part of a commitment: ‘To be at the cutting edge of product technology and manufacturing’. Now, thanks to the partnership with RFE, the Irish market will have access to the very latest low- voltage components. “Noark Electric are a perfect fit for our company,” said Ian Checkley, Managing Director at Reg Farrell Engineering. “They are driven by the desire to be the very best at what they do, and like RFE, believe in the very highest standards of customer service. Noark’s innovation, attention
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“Noark are driven by the desire to be the very best at what they do, and like RFE, believe in the very highest standards of customer service.”
RFE - NOARK EXCLUSIVEDISTRIBUTOR
of patented technology that has found its way into many of our products.” Exceeding expectations Noark Electric’s goal is to produce products that don’t just meet customers’ expectations, but go way beyond. Quality, performance, value for money - the company works hand-in-hand with its partners to understand their needs. Ian explains, “our engineering team is steered by the customers requirements. We are constantly developing new technologies, designing components that provide trouble-free installation, supreme functionality and don’t sacrifice quality.” World class manufacturing After meticulous testing of prototypes, approval and certification, Noark Electric products are manufactured at state-of- the-art facilities. It’s a ‘keeping it in-house’ business model that has proved highly successful. Not only does it enable the company to maintain strict quality control throughout the manufacturing process, but also adhere to a planet-friendly policy of environmental protection and sustainability.
so, that’s why ALL products come with a 5-Year Limited warranty. So, what makes them so durable? Well, to pass the Noark test a product is subjected to an examination far in excess of the minimum cycle thresholds, a rite of passage that all but guarantees each product that pops off the production line will perform, again, and again, and.... Noark - the mark of quality Compliance and certification are a useful barometer when you’re trying to work out just how good a product is. When a company doesn’t stop at the accepted industry standard, but instead tests itself against even more stringent standards, you know you are on the right track. Noark Electric’s production plants are ISO certified in the fields of quality assurance and production. Not satisfied with that, Noark also pass the CIG 023 certification, awarded by national certification authorities.
Top 10 reasons to choose products fromNoark Electric
• Reputation for reliability • Five-year warranty • Simple installation • Functional design • Quality manufacturing • Unrivalled support • Cutting edge technology • Wide distribution network • Trusted by the trade • Flexibility
5-Year limited warranty Any company that offers a lengthy
+353 (0)1 465 9010 email@example.com www.rfe.ie
warranty better be confident they can also walk the walk. Noark Electric are supremely
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D id you know that over 88% of electrical accidents occur in the low voltage range? Klauke are proud to offer a hydraulic tool solution to help protect you. Historically, the work of cable installers and linemen, whether crimping or cutting, have been accomplished by manual hydraulic tools or more lately, battery powered hydraulic solutions. Whilst these innovations have made improvements to ergonomics and speed of operation, the fundamentals of electrical insulation have not changed – until now. The new video just released from Klauke explores the benefits of the VDE Orange range of battery hydraulic tools which can make every single working day safer, including how the patented Tri-Barrier design lowers risk without compromising on speed.
Statistics have shown that a lack of awareness on safety rules is the main reason for accidents in the electrical industry. If you are working on power cables, have time constraints, or are working in confined areas and want to add a further layer of voltage protection to your toolbox, then the Klauke Orange range is for you.
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SITE MANAGER AT DESIGNER GROUP, JOHN BLAKE BARES HIS SOUL ON A PERSONAL JOURNEY TO MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS... SURVIVING IRONMAN
A voice from the past provided John Blake with the inspiration. It had reappeared out of the blue on Danny and Mero’s What’s the Story? podcast from south Dublin. It was Saturday, January 6, 2018, and John tuned in to a highly-charged, on- air testimony by stabbing victim Keith Kelly. That day, he found his training accompanied by a voice familiar from his youth, a man he regarded as a bona fide tough guy, only now he was laying bare a descent into mental health hell. Kelly spoke of how surgeons had managed to save his life, to stitch up the five stab wounds he’d received in a vicious
attack on his home a decade earlier, but that had only been the beginning of the battle. Keith Kelly’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as it would later be diagnosed, manifested itself in flashbacks, depression, anxiety, and anger. He attempted to self-medicate with booze, drugs, and the adrenalin rush of gambling. The downward spiral hit rock bottom when he attempted to take his own life. The way back began when an old friend recommended contacting a local charity in south Dublin called Suicide or Survive (SOS). John heard how Suicide or Survive had helped turn Keith’s life around, how he
was now an integral part of the SOS family as it strives to break the stigma of mental illness. Right there and then the former professional goalkeeper found a cause he felt compelled to rally around. A meeting was arranged between the two, the upshot of which was a commitment by John to undertake a demanding Ironman Tour Challenge that would combine his need for a physical challenge with the desire to raise funds for Suicide or Survive. Using your fitness to fatten a local charity’s coffers, what’s not to love about that idea? The irony is not lost on John Blake that in the process of helping Suicide or Survive he was forced to
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and you know well in advance that there will be no substitute for miles under the belt. For John that meant endless hours peddling through the Wicklow Mountains with, save for the odd wild sheep or deer, pretty much his own thoughts for company. What started out as splendid isolation eventually revealed a darker side. “Pitch black mornings and a half five start, torrential rain, empty roads and deserted fields and time to reflect, too much time. I sensed that inside my head there was a real battle brewing. Despite the obvious positives in my life, it was the regrets - unfulfilled potential as a goalkeeper, lofty career expectations I felt hadn’t been achieved - that dominated. Being able to reflect now on my life from a place of good health and wellbeing, I can see that I was actually struggling with so many aspects of my life that I hadn’t recognised or just ignored.” Suffering in silence As John’s mental health deteriorated, he found himself unable to practice what he now preaches. “I’d listened to Keith on the podcast talk about not wanting to, or not feeling he could talk to anyone about what he was going through. I was exactly the same. I really felt that I couldn’t open up to family or friends, that I had to maintain this manly façade to all those close to me.” It’s dealing with the stigma, or perceived stigma that results in so many people, especially blokes, suffering in silence. John became more and more withdrawn, fighting on occasions to emerge from beneath the duvet. “I was never at the point where I contemplated taking my own life, but there have been a lot of days when I’ve woke up in the morning and not wanted to do anything, wanted to stay in all day, to not interact with people, because it’s just easier not to talk.” Stare into the abyss long enough and you’ll eventually succumb to its darkness. Fortunately for John, his partner, Eibhin, was never going to let that happen, pushing and supporting him to make the crucial first step. It’s one they then made together. “Being able to speak to the people at Suicide or Survive, to be able to use the amazing professional resources that are available for those suffering from mental health issues, became my support. I engaged with a
John Blake pictured with Desmond Reynolds, fellow Keogh Fit team-mate.
John pictured with another one of his team-mates, Phillip McCann.
confront his own mental health demons. “I was physically fit, had a thriving career, a loving partner and was father to two wonderful kids - always had a smile on my face,” said John. “I thought my life was perfect and that I had no issues at all. But all those hours I would spend alone training for the Ironman took me deeper than I’d ever been before. It was a mental journey I just didn’t see coming.” Anyone who has trained for an Ironman event, or has even a passing knowledge of what it entails, will be aware that the physical demands are matched, perhaps exceeded by the mental. Forget the ripped physique or impressive lung
capacity, the real examination takes place in your grey matter. In order to reach the elite fitness levels required to even line-up for an Ironman event you must first survive the journey. Then, to earn the designation IRONMAN you must complete a 3.86km (often sea) swim in under two hours 20 minutes; followed by a 180.25km cycle in less than eight hours ten minutes; and finish with a marathon, yes, that’s 42.20km in no longer than six and a half hours. Even the Half Ironman distance is beyond most mere mortals, comprising a 1.9km swim, 90km bike ride, and 21.5km run. Contemplate taking part in either of these endurance events
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COVID-19 lockdown kicked in, I was off work. I still got up at 5.30 every morning. For me personally, structure is the key to juggling family, work, and training.” Organised or not, some days are just better than others. Some days you lose the mind games. Some days it takes the intervention and honesty of an old friend. “It was on my training schedule to complete a 21k run, but I was looking for a way out. That day was the anniversary of my brother’s passing, I had a lot of things on my mind and I was looking for an excuse. It took a stern word or two from a respected friend to re-set my mindset. Being able to take criticism on board and implement changes is another part of my recovery. I got up early the next morning and ran the 21k. I suppose I’m trying to have an open mind to what the next day could bring. I don’t try to control the uncontrollable. I don’t worry about tomorrow until today is over with.” Worked wonders Ironman training may have brought issues to the surface, almost brought John to his knees, but he is adamant it has also worked wonders for his life. “The race is the cherry on top. It’s have you got the mental capacity to finish a training camp that lasts for six months or a year? Can you regimentally put in the work, knowing you’re going to be dragged into the depths of hell? I learned not to shy away from asking myself questions. During those long hours of training I would write down what cropped up, and that became the subject matter of my sessions with the counsellor. We would go through different scenarios, work to let go of the past and live in the here and now.” Staying mindful is important, but for goal-setters like John there will also be the urge to impact the future. A future where the stigma surrounding mental health no longer existed. To a time when blokes could believe that coming forward about their struggles was a strength, not a weakness. To an industry now aware that mental and physical health deserved equal billing. It was a vision shared by his employer, Designer Group. Pushing boundaries “At the Designer Group mental health and well-being is not a box ticking exercise,” John explained. “They are pushing the boundaries more than any
I’m trying to have an open mind to what the next day could bring. I don’t try to control the uncontrollable. I don’t worry about tomorrow until today is over with.”
professional counsellor and began the process of addressing all the emotions and issues that had surfaced during my Ironman training. It is by no means an easy process, and it is hard to face some of your personal issues, but it is a process I have committed to. I’m trying to better understand myself. We need to embrace the fact that mental health is every bit as important as physical. I was lucky and blessed to be in the position to talk to a professional twice a month and I will never forget the support SOS gave me.” Personal goal Armed with some coping mechanisms and the safety net of those fortnightly meetings, John kept his fund-raising foot to the floor. Kicking things off with a hometown Half-Ironman in Dun Laoghaire [he’s a former pupil of
Cabinteely Community School] the then 39-year-old added to his legs HARDMAN Bantry, part of a triathlon Wild Atlantic Way Series. Back in Cork on June 23rd, John Blake reached a personal goal. He earned the right to call himself an Ironman by successfully completing (and in the requisite time) an event won at Elite level by double Olympic Triathlon champion Alistair Brownlee. Still not satisfied, John went on to produce his best performance of the year at HARDMAN Waterville, a race he has entered again in 2020. Thousands of euros have been raised for Suicide or Survive as a result of this determination to carry on, not just with the Ironman Tour Challenge, but the inevitable introspection. “I’m a very structured person. I need structure to manage my mental health. When the
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John Blake, pictured between his greatest supporters - his mother and father, Noel and Susan Blake.
company I’ve worked for with highly visible mental health support. I have a Designer Group Strava account (a social fitness network using GPS data) that a lot of the employees joined. They compete against each other, maybe over a cycle to work. It creates a competitive spirit and a bit of craic amongst the lads. Since the lockdown, it has created a good buzz within the company.” Unfortunately, Designer Group remain the exception, rather than the rule. Things are improving in the industry, but there’s still a very
long way to go. Mental health in the workplace has certainly moved up the industry agenda, but not everyone is genuinely convinced. “When it comes to the Town Hall ‘Toolbox Talks’ there is the mention of mental health, but often not many indicators of passion to change. There’s definitely a generation there who don’t feel comfortable with it. We need to get past that, to get to the point where we can talk, we can tell a colleague without fear of ridicule. I wouldn’t need a script to read off if called
to speak about mental health and what needs to be done. I don’t know it all - far from it, but I’m passionate about the subject and want to see change.” Once embroiled, it’s hard not to take everything personally. “When I hear about a suicide now, even if its someone I don’t know, I find it gut- wrenching. A young lad died by suicide in Bray only recently, and I thought, Jesus Christ, if only that lad knew the support that’s out there, the people that are out there and want to help. It’s the shockwaves it creates after it, for
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Challenge So, what’s next? “I didn’t want to do the same things as last year. I also wanted it to be more of a shared experience. I approached Suicide or Survive and told them I wanted to find 20 people willing to take part in a 20-4-20 Challenge. The aim is for this group, drawn from all ages and fitness levels, to raise €20,000 for Suicide or Survive and facilitate further support, suicide prevention and mental health workshops in communities. Starting in February, the target has to be reached in time for World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10, 2020. The
his family and friends, all of them asking why? Asking could I have done this, could I have done that?” Support John Blake is one of three Mental Health First Aiders within the Designer Group. “We are there to help identify issues. An employee can come to us as the first point of contact, and we can then try to steer that person to the relevant support. Gambling, drinking, drugs, you just never know how many lads or girls in canteens are struggling in silence with. Designer Group now has a Wellness Committee and an EAP programme. It’s definitely
something that has come on leaps and bounds. When the company saw what I was doing with the Ironman challenge, they brought me on board to team up with HR and have some input in the direction we needed to go.” It’s a strategy that has clearly struck a chord. “You asked me if I thought there were many blokes out there struggling? I know there is! Only this morning, I woke to a message from a friend of mine who I haven’t spoken to in years. She’d seen what I’d been doing on social media and it inspired her to come forward and say that her man is suicidal and needs help. At least I can put them in touch with people who can help.”
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Suicide or Survive started in 2003 at Caroline McGuigan’s kitchen table. Drawing on her own experience of depression, anxiety, a serious suicide attempt, 8-years as a psychiatric patient, and an in-depth knowledge of the medical model, Caroline created the Eden Programme. Channelled towards people who had already attempted to take their own life, or those contemplating it, Suicide or Survive’s first foray received a Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Level 1 Award in 2006, and a Level 2 Award in 2007. Caroline went on to train as a psychotherapist, mental health advocate, and group facilitator. Her preferred approach puts the power and responsibility back in the hands of the individual. It harnesses the sufferer’s strength, building resilience, nurturing hope and wellbeing, providing practical and educational tools so they can drive their own recovery. It’s a vision that places collaboration and partnership at the heart of the Suicide or Survive strategy, the formation of alliances with people and organisations who share a passion for affecting change in attitudes to mental health. The Eden Programme was the first of many. Workplace Wellness; WRAP, a two-day self-management programme; online and supporters programmes - SOS is attacking antiquated attitudes and spreading the message that it’s okay to talk, that they want to listen and offer support. ‘We have come together to challenge the stigma that surrounds vulnerability and struggle, something we will all experience in our life. We come with good hearts, passion and determination. We come as individuals who believe suicide prevention is for all of us to tackle, and all of us to own.” Who are Suicide or Survive?
response has been incredible.” John is not mentoring 20, but 30 like-minded people who have joined the group. Some are suicide survivors, some are from the construction industry, one a prominent figure at the Construction Industry Federation. “I’m just a coach and mentor to them, if they need to chat. The WhatsApp group between us started out as a platform for training advice, but that has become a feelgood chat room. I’ve never once asked anyone why they want to be part of the challenge. It was the members who started bouncing their stories off one another.” John’s leadership role has not
dented his desire to take his personal fitness to new heights, to keep challenging himself. He will be back in County Kerry next month, proving that you can be extremely fit at 40 with another crack at HARDMAN Waterville. He will continue to pound the pavements and peddle the roads as he plots a path towards October’s Ironman Barcelona. There, in the picturesque surroundings of Calella village on the eastern Mediterranean coastline, John Blake will aim to improve his Ironman PB and raise every possible euro to help answer the mental health SOS.
Suicide or Survive, Stonebridge House, Stonebridge Close, Shankill, Dublin D18 T6HO. T: 1890 577 577 or +353 (0)1 272 2158 E: email@example.com www.suicideorsurvive.ie
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HEAD OF ENVIRONMENTAL, HEALTH & SAFETY, DEREK MURPHY GIVES US A SNAP SHOT OF THE DESIGNER GROUP’S WELLBEING STRATEGY... Mental healthmatters
W hen Designer Group Murphy in the Autumn of 2019, he was adding another important piece to the jigsaw. The company, a leading international mechanical and electrical provider, had already recognised the need for a new approach to mental health in the industry. It had recognised the charitable work of John Blake, taken his story to heart and made an earnest commitment to not just talk the talk. It needed people with vision, passion, personal experience to drive the agenda. Derek Murphy may have been new to the company, but he was no stranger to mental health anguish. founder and CEO, Michael Stone recruited Derek His dad, Francy had suffered from severe depression for two decades, attempting suicide on one occasion. “Funnily enough, my father was always quite open about it,” said Derek. “He’d tell anyone who would listen about his mental health problems. He thought
that was the best way. He was right. The only way to break the stigma attached to mental illness is if we are open about it.” Derek Murphy is, like John Blake, one of Designer Group’s trio of Mental Health First Aiders - the trio completed by Training and Off-site Prefabrication Director, Brendan Kearns. And like John, he numbers Suicide or Survive as one of the charities he supports. “I first became aware of John’s involvement through the Designer Group LinkedIn page. It was the Construction Industry Federation’s (CIF) Construction Safety Week and John had agreed to participate in completing a Mental Health Tool Box Talk on one of our sites. I was impressed with his passion for the subject and began following John on LinkedIn. Recently, I spoke to senior management about supporting his 20- 4-20 Challenge, another great initiative to support the mental health charity, SOS. Designer Group teamed up with the Meridian Healthcare to provide an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)
to all of their staff and their families. The EAP offers access to confidential, independent Irish information and guidance, with face-to- face counselling if required. We have produced a series of informative ‘In the Loop’ ezines and newsletters, plus the Happy Hour series of virtual fliers on courses, mindfulness, yoga, quizzes, and a steady stream of health and wellbeing communications throughout the coronavirus lockdown.” Implementing such a wide-reaching strategy is a daunting task and even more so when commitments outside work include being the only family member permitted inside The Mater to see his hospitalised father during Covid 19 restrictions. And yet, Derek insists on pushing himself further, serving as a member of the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) Ireland’s Safety & Health Sub Committee to the Executive Body. “I am actively involved, with other committee members, in reviewing, promoting
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and implementing various Wellbeing and Wellness programmes, initially to CIF member companies,” he explained. “I’m also engaging with the Lighthouse Construction Industry charity’s FREE 24/7 Helpline just launched at the start of June, and a Wellbeing App. Currently, access to an EAP is only available for those with a company EAP in place. The main benefit of all of this is that ALL construction workers will have a basic safety net to rely on 24/7, offering support when they need it.” Derek recalls attending Aware Ireland meetings with his father, having been introduced to Dr Patrick McKeon’s organisation back in 2000. “Without the services of Aware, I truly believe my father would not have recovered from his darkest period. I learned a lot from these meetings and talking to my father and have taken a keen interest in mental health awareness issues ever since. Through my involvement in attending mental health events and fundraisers, I reconnected with a past neighbour who’d lost their partner to suicide on New Years Eve. Like me, she was passionate about tackling the stigma around mental health and I joined her charity, ‘The Andy Morgan Foundation’ and soon become a committee member.” Just a week prior to our telephone conversation, Derek Murphy’s father, Francy, passed away in the Fairview
Community Unit of Dublin’s Mater Hospital. For the two weeks since his transfer from The Mater no-one had been permitted to visit inside, communication confined to hand gestures and raised voices through a pane of glass. COVID-19 robbed the family of valuable time together, and then twisted the knife. “What people have gone through with restricted funerals and burials in the past few weeks is horrendous,” Derek said from experience. “All people want to do is go along and pay their respects, they want to give you a hug and say sorry. And yet, they can’t.” It’s been a particularly tough time, even for those experienced at the mental health coalface. But people like Derek Murphy don’t stay down for long. He will use this latest test to make himself stronger. It will renew his desire to change the way we think about mental health, and to bring about a time when all feel free to ask for help.
Some resources in Ireland and Northern Ireland if you are struggling and need someone to speak to: Ireland
www.pieta.ie www.aware.ie www.grow.ie Northern Ireland www.aware-ni.org www.mindwisenv.org www.amh.org.uk General www.talktofrank.com www.mind.org.uk www.lifelinehelpline.info or call 0808 808 8000
Designer Group, Clyde House, IDA Blanchardstown Business & Technology Park, Snugborough Road, Dublin 15. T: +353 (0)1 860 0520 E: firstname.lastname@example.org ww.designergrp.com
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