Comment: Stepping up on health and safety

14/08/2020
Paddy Murphy

From utilising the latest communications technology to adopting automation, the industry is responding with a whole range of new initiatives that are designed to make high-risk activities; including road surfacing process, as safe as possible. Paddy Murphy (pictured), managing director of Aggregate Industries’ Contracting Division, tells you all you need to know.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic and following the Government’s recent £27.4bn pledge on the second Road Investment Strategy (RIS 2), the highways sector is under ever-greater pressure to step up health and safety standards and practices.

In recent years, health and safety has consistently been under the spotlight. This has been further heightened since the outbreak of the pandemic because social distancing guidelines add a whole layer of complexity to how road surfacing gangs must now operate.

Such changes are combined with broader government infrastructure health and safety targets; such as Highways England’s ‘Home Safe and Well’ Strategy, which aims to ensure no one is harmed when travelling or working on the strategic road network (SRN).

As part of the plan, the Government has set out a number of targets that it hopes to achieve by 2025. These include reducing the number of those killed or seriously injured on the SRN, and halving the number of lost-time incidents and vehicle incursions into road works.

These ambitious targets to tighten safety practices in what has always been a high-risk sector, not only apply to Highways England, but also to all of its contractors and suppliers.

What’s more, with the long-awaited RIS 2, it’s now confirmed that £27.4bn will be invested in the SRN, including high-profile road route upgrades such as The Lower Thames Crossing and the Stonehenge Tunnel. So it’s important that industry specialists come together now to identify new methods and solutions to reduce the emerging health and safety risks to our employees and customers for future wellbeing.

For Highways England, more funding and investment in the SRN means more accountability in all aspects of a project – especially health and safety. In fact, many third party contractors are already finding the adoption of additional health and safety measures are critical to securing any lucrative projects the RIS 2 may bring. They must demonstrate clear and robust standards and risk assessments to actively encourage safer working behaviours and practices across their businesses, as well as the industry as a whole.

The good news is that many contractors in the road surfacing industry have long been collaborating and leading the charge by embracing innovation, technology and new ways of working.

Investing in Innovation

One of the most fundamental ways to improve health and safety has been through investment in new technology to reduce the exposure of our people on the network – namely the most important pieces of kit in the road surfacing armoury – rollers and pavers.

Aggregate Industries’ Contracting Division is continuously working with manufacturers to develop new plant to make traditional processes much safer, more reliable and efficient.

Based on the principle of incorporating health and safety into the design of all new equipment coming to market, we have seen everything from improved chip spreading operation with the KS12-16 Extendachip Spreader, through to smart plant such as the BW 154 pivot-steered tandem rollers to ensure operative visibility, stability and safety.

Another great example of investment in technological innovation is Aggregate Industries' collaboration with CRH, Bomag and Vision Techniques to pilot its auto-braking radar system - previously used in the waste management industry. The system is linked into our roller-mounted forward and rear-facing cameras; to automatically apply the vehicle’s brakes if it detects an object or person within a defined exclusion zone.

Aggregate Industries is now working with all of its supply chain partners to bring industry change by demonstrating that investing and trialling R&D in this area can have a really positive impact on safety.

Improving Site Communication

While investing in new paving machinery is key to upholding the highest processes of site safety, there are also much simpler changes that can have a significant impact. For example, after introducing two-way radio headsets across all our sites nationwide, background noise was reduced by over 82 decibels.

The headsets have helped to facilitate clear communications over 10km, removing the need to walk around site or shout within closer proximities, as well as enabling an immediate safer response as and when required. This contributes to the overall smooth running of construction projects, because the two-way radio headsets allow interaction with site HGVs as required, improving efficiency and safety of workers across the board.

Data is King

Improvements in automated data capture are also helping to raise health and safety standards across our operations. While it’s no secret that road construction projects create a mountain of data (no matter the size), traditionally, the road surfacing process has required at least one or two technicians manually working alongside each surfacing gang to gather and record data on everything from material temperatures to ride profile.

This not only exposes them to the dangers of working in close proximity to live traffic, other workers and construction vehicles, but also they face myriad risks, including lone working and hot material interface.

However, we’re increasingly seeing this thirty-year-old method overhauled by using automation in machinery. For instance, Aggregate Industries have recently incorporated state-of-the-art Automated Intelligent Testing (AIT) equipment to our pavers, rollers and survey vehicles are being fitted with GPS, infra-red sensors and a data recording unit to record data throughout laying practices and post-completion.

By using the AIT system, pavers and rollers can be linked together to manage pavement compaction, by recording the rolling temperature and the number of passes to create an even and consistent compacted surface across the whole paved area.

Naturally, this system has provided additional benefits: a rise in productivity, improved working practices and increased road worker safety by effectively removing the need for technicians in the data capture process altogether.

A safer sector

Taking the time to embed strong health and safety behaviours and best practice at the core of everything we do as an industry – whether that’s through implementing new working practices, better communications processes, or investing in new safer, smart technology – will ensure that we’re well-positioned to deliver the infrastructure needed to kick-start the economy in a post-pandemic world.

Latest Issue

latest magazine issue

Inside

  • The £2.5bn Surrey partnering contract
  • The politics of protest
  • Stoke's roadworks league
View the latest issue


Highways jobs

Shopmobility & Public Convenience Attendant

Grade 3 - Starting at £18,657 per annum, pro rata rising to £19,905
We are looking for an individual who works well in a small team to deliver an excellent level of service at our flagship Market Road Public Conveni... Chelmsford, Essex
Recruiter: Chelmsford City Council

Waste Collection Operative - HGV Driver/Loader

Grade 5 - Starting at £23,403 per annum, rising to £25,791
If you enjoy working outside and would like to make a positive contribution to the collection of both waste and recycling in the Borough, this coul... Chelmsford, Essex
Recruiter: Chelmsford City Council

Director of Climate Emergency & Behavioural Change

£95,000 to £109,000 per annum
At Waltham Forest we are developing an ambitious, transformative agenda to tackle the global Climate Emergency. Waltham Forest, London (Greater)
Recruiter: London Borough of Waltham Forest

Street Works and Permitting Manager

£44,863 - £51,817
Are you a qualified highways engineer who wants to make a difference to the efficient running of the highway network within Lincolnshire? Lincolnshire
Recruiter: Lincolnshire County Council

Warehouse Assistant/Driver

£20,903 - £24,491 per annum
An opportunity has arisen for the recruitment of a Warehouse Assistant / Driver. Sandwell, West Midlands
Recruiter: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Highways Officer

£27,741 to £30,451
Are you someone who is looking to progress their career with one of the most highly regarded highway services in the country? Brompton, Northallerton
Recruiter: North Yorkshire County Council

Highways Officer

£27,741 to £30,451
Are you someone who is looking to progress their career with one of the most highly regarded highway services in the country? Boroughbridge, York
Recruiter: North Yorkshire County Council

Parking Enforcement Supervisor

£30,585 - £31,557
As part of a major service transformation, Haringey is seeking to recruit to a new number of new positions. Haringey, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Haringey London Borough Council

Bus Support Officer

£24,086
We are looking for people to work as part of our exciting new bus team! Camden, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Camden London Borough Council

Environmental Health/Environmental Protection Officer - Noise

£41,607.00 - £44,598.00
This post attracts an essential car user allowance. The post holder is able to take part in the Council's flexible working scheme. Tower Hamlets, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Tower Hamlets London Borough Council

Greenspace & Environment Enforcement Officer

£20,092 - £24,491
You will work as part of a team undertaking environmental enforcement activities which focus on improving the street environment Huddersfield, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Strategic Transport Modelling Manager

£47,695 - £55,226
You will provide leadership to the organisations program of transport model development Leeds, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: West Yorkshire Combined Authority

Engineer - Highway Planned Maintenance

£22,183 - £27,041
We are seeking to appoint an Officer with highway experience. We are delivering a Highway Investment programme across... Stockport, Greater Manchester
Recruiter: Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council

Chargehand Driver, Non-HGV (Street Services)

£22,185 - £22,587
Street Services provides a highly important service to all of the borough’s residents and visitors Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Environmental Cleansing Operative (Street Services)

£21,030 - £21,408
Street Services provides a highly important service to all of the borough’s residents and visitors Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Waste Operative (Street Services)

£22,185 - £22,587
Street Services provides a highly important service to all of the borough’s residents and visitors Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Cleaning Operative

Grade 2 - £17,715 per annum, pro rota.
Chelmsford City Council are seeking a self-motivated, experienced and customer-focused Cleaning Operative to join our cleaning team. You will provi... Chelmsford, Essex
Recruiter: Chelmsford City Council

Assistant Quantity Surveyor - Highways Contracts & Commissioning (multiple posts)

£27,741 - £29,577
In return, the Council offers a variety of benefits including Local Government Pension Scheme, flexible working and an opportunity to be... Cambridgeshire
Recruiter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Performance & Assurance Manager - Highways Contracts & Commissioning

£38,447 - £41,412
The post holder will provide professional contract performance management and compliance support to... Cambridgeshire
Recruiter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Construction Cost Manager - Highways Contracts & Commissioning

£43,597 - £46,875
With exciting new developments and high profile projects underway and in the pipeline for many years to come, working with... Cambridgeshire
Recruiter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Highways Presents

Highways on Fridays

Register now!

Latest Video