Safety training essential for Canal Tunnels

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Martin Barlow, Carillion’s Senior Construction Manager on the Canal Tunnels project at Thameslink has praised the work of young apprentices Ashley Edwards, 18, Jason Platford, 17 and Jake Caddie, 17.

‘The most important quality I look for in trainees is good time keeping and taking a real interest in what you are doing – and these lads have consistently demonstrated those qualities in abundance,’ says Martin.

The Canal Tunnels project is due to be completed by May 2015. The twin 650 metre-long tunnels underneath Regent’s Canal connect the East Coast Mainline with the Midland Mainline at St Pancras. Specialist teams and apprentices have been hard at work fitting out the tunnels.

Carillion has made safety its first priority throughout the complex engineering project. Canal Tunnels, near St Pancras Station, forms part of Carillion’s £120 million Key Output 2 contract with Thameslink. Safety training is of paramount importance.

Says Paul Treadwell, Carillion Site Foreman, ‘The health and safety message is hugely important. Whether it’s about Slips, Trips and Falls or encouraging Don’t Walk By reporting you really need to make the guys listen to get it across.

‘People learn in different ways so for me it’s about balancing the need for good discipline with making everyone feel looked after and listened to. This is why you need to give the team brief yourself and really get to know the individuals in your team – when they are having a good day or a bad day.

‘It’s also really important to follow up the morning brief with updates after the breaks at 10:00am and 2:00pm so that we can factor any changes to the weather, for example, or new plant movements.’

Commitment to safe working

Paul is particularly proud of the progress of apprentices at Canal Tunnels and the way they have understood and accepted the commitment to safe working. Ashley Edwards, Jason Platford and Jake Caddie have been on site for the past six months and are on course to secure full time positions this November.

Constant vigilance

They all agree that while the work can be hard and challenging, the clear and organised focus on health and safety and briefings on all the site works is reassuring to them and their families.

The site is close to trains running into St Pancras, the High Speed 1 line and the East Coast Mainline to and from Kings Cross. Initiatives such as compulsory daily morning briefs for everyone on site delivered by the Senior Construction Manager, regular Point of Work Risk Assessments (POWRA), My Space Champions, Safety Action Group (SAG) and a Lifeguards campaign – developed by the workforce itself to encourage Don’t Walk By reporting – ensures constant vigilance and full participation across the workforce.

Safety Stand Downs, Tool Box Talks and Weekly Don’t Walk By conferences are held to share best practice, update risk assessments and address all concerns.

Says Mark Walker, Carillion Project Manager for Thameslink Canal Tunnels, ‘We are working in a heavily congested area of London with adjacent lines open all around us and trains passing through regularly. There are also live electric overhead lines to manage, which means safety has to be embedded at every stage of the operation and enforced rigorously.

‘Encouraging the team on site to be vigilant and to constantly report possible dangers is also vital – and if people see their ideas or concerns being acted on and deliver results they are far more likely to engage with the safety drive.’