What more is there to write about Thameslink? The project will forever change rail travel through central London for the better, transforming one of the capital’s busiest interchanges and helping to develop the next generation of signalling technology.
At the project’s heart, London Bridge is undergoing a significant transformation. It may have the same name, but it will be a very different station in 2018. All of the platforms are being demolished and rebuilt and the track realigned to create nine through and six terminating platforms. It will have a new roof and a new, larger concourse.
More than 1,400 individuals from numerous different companies are involved in the redevelopment of the London Bridge Rail Station at any given time, coordinated by the project’s principal contractor, Costain.
So how do you oversee and organise such a large number of different technicians and trades safely?
LIKE A GIANT CHESS BOARD
One way in which the project is addressing this challenge, can be seen just by walking around the site. The concourse level is divided up into segments, which are physically marked out with paint on the ground like a giant chess board. The system has been called the ‘Safety Grid’ and it’s improving the way work is planned and delivered on the project.
‘We’ve got different trades working on the concourse so we’ve got interfacing challenges,’ says Des Roy, head of health and safety at London Bridge. The Safety Grid system has only been in place for the past four months but is already helping to support the project’s good safety record. London Bridge hasn’t had a reportable accident in over a year – the equivalent of five million man hours.
The Safety Grid makes it clear who is working in each sector and allows the delivery team to spot any clashes early on and approach planning and programming in a smart and coordinated way. Having the grids physically marked on the ground also means no one is able to stray into a grid without knowing about it. It ensures that teams think carefully about how their actions impact on those delivering other aspects of the project.
‘Everyone going to work on the project has to have a Start of Shift briefing,’ says Des. ‘This briefing is to get people to understand how their works will be affected or may affect other works; the Safety Grid helps with this.
‘The system complements the ‘healthy engagement culture’ shown across the project as a whole,’ explained Des.
‘One indicator of workforce engagement is demonstrated through discretionary reporting – the project regularly books in excess of 1,000 safety-related observations a month, which include Close Call hazard identifications, suggestions for improvement and good practice observations.
‘We also carry out quarterly culture surveys that have given us ‘real’ feedback. The surveys show a continuous improvement in the workforce’s views on what it is like to work on London Bridge.’
The Safety Grid is one of a number of innovative safety initiatives that have come from the London Bridge project.
In January, project manager Trevor Sharp won a Thameslink Good Practice Award for coming up with the idea of equipping site supervisors with 3M noise monitors to help them identify areas where noise levels may present a hazard to the workforce.
The noise monitors help identify the ‘noisy areas’ and allow for the setting up of areas where hearing protection must be worn. The monitor flashes red when the background noise level is above 85 dBA, allowing them to set up more accurate protection zones than previously possible.
Innovation at London Bridge hasn’t always come in the form of gadgets and equipment. The project came up with a novel way of stressing to its team the importance of carrying out detailed risk assessments and following processes.
The project team held a mock legal trial, complete with real barristers, at One Great George Street, the Institute of Civil Engineers’ headquarters.
The scenario imagined that there had been a fatality on site resulting from uncontrolled plant movements; members of the delivery team, including the supply chain and the client, Network Rail, got to be the jury, hearing evidence from both the defence and prosecution to give them an idea of the kind of questioning and detail that is scrutinised in the court room.
Further ways of communicating the key messages and engaging with the workforce have included the use of Dramanon, a corporate drama company, to perform mock scenarios to demonstrate the often far-reaching consequences of accidents and incidents.
‘As the flagship project for Costain and the Thameslink Programme, we take very seriously our responsibility to the people working hard to safely deliver the project,’ says Des. ‘Whilst it is essential to always have the basics in place, we are always pushing to move health, safety and environmental performance on to the next level.
‘Innovative ideas that may at times be technical but are increasingly targeted at a behavioural approach are necessary to help us ensure we reduce the potential for harm to people working with us.
‘The engagement of the workforce is absolutely critical in this as we move away from a directing culture towards an involving one where everyone is involved in making it safer.’