New guidance to help suppliers reduce the risks to roadside workers
Author: Richard Stuart, Client director
Industry leaders have set out six clear steps companies can take to make working with, or near, heavy machinery, safer. Costain’s Richard Stuart, who is a member of the Supply Chain Safety Leadership Group, and leader of its Safe Working with Plant task and finish group, explains.
Highways England, as part of its Home Safe and Well approach, aims to ensure that by 2040, no one is harmed when they’re travelling or working on its network. As suppliers, we have an important part to play in this. We need to rethink our approach to designing, delivering and maintaining our motorways and A roads to make working on them safer for everyone.
To make this happen, representatives of the supply chain community have come together to form the Supply Chain Safety Leadership Group (SCSLG), which is providing the leadership to drive improvement in those key areas where we think we can make a significant difference.
Safe working with plant is one of these areas. We recently published a common intent document that provides clear guidelines for suppliers on the six steps we can all take to reduce the risk to employees who work with, or near, moving plant and to maximise the benefits of the technology.
- Improve safety through good design Step 1 involves thinking about safety from the earliest stages of a project and finding ways to eliminate risks during the design and planning process. For example, by using digital tools to support the risk assessment process, and digital rehearsals to check the validity of mitigation measures. In this way, potential harm can be eliminated at source, rather than having to be managed later in the process.
- Plan well to reduce risk Planning our sites to ensure safe access and movement, and the segregation of activities, are other ways to help ensure workers return home safely at the end of the working day. For example, organising traffic flow to minimise the need for reversing manoeuvres will reduce the risk of an accident. Increased standardisation, which allows us to do more offsite, will limit the number of plant movements and lead to shorter installation times, so people spend fewer hours on site. It’s also more efficient, which means less disruption for road users during major works.
- Embrace innovation Suppliers should also be willing to embrace change and encourage innovation. Technologies such as digital twins are increasingly being used to enable offsite delivery and reduce the risk to workers. Other modern methods of construction, and rapid advances in connected and autonomous plant (CAP) technology, will enable us to further improve safety by reducing the number of people who need to work with, or near, heavy machinery. Work on developing, delivering and ensuring the industry benefits from CAP is already underway and a roadmap sets out the progress that is expected to be made between now and 2035.
- Agree on common ways of working The new approach to safety we’ve set out requires greater collaboration than ever before. If we work together, to agreed methods that we’ll define and refresh, it will enable us to resolve any safety issues and share the solutions as examples of industry best practice, whether it’s in information sharing, delivery methodology or product development.
- Engineer solutions to help people do their job safely Importantly, if we’re going to reduce hazards on our roads, we also need to find ways to support our people so we’re not relying on them to get things right every time. We could apply some of the technology commonly in use in passenger vehicles, like cameras and sensors, to heavy equipment to help drivers see people who are working in the area more easily. Automatic braking or physical restrictions that stop plant veering off course could help operators avoid a collision.
- Support frontline supervisors Frontline supervisors have a critical role in looking after our people, so we need to make sure they have the skills and support they need to do their job well. That includes ensuring they understand what drives people’s behaviour, so they know how to manage it, and ensuring there’s a consistent approach to training across the industry.
If all members of the supply chain can successfully implement these six steps, we can continue to deliver Highways England’s programme of work quickly, efficiently, and most importantly, we can keep our people safe. All of the steps described above are underpinned by relevant Raising the Bar documents that highlight best practice and offer clear and detailed guidance on how to achieve the aims we’ve set out. The common intent document is being embraced by members of the SCSLG who will adopt the principles across their operations. It’s applicable to everyone who is involved in the construction, maintenance and improvement of our roads, and to all stages of the asset lifecycle.