NLHPP Construction Contractors Continue to put ‘safety first’ in Covid-19 Response

16 Feb 2021

Safety First logo

NLHPP's Safety First logo

Our contractor Wood's site supervisor team

Our contractor Wood's site supervision team on site at Edmonton EcoPark

North London Waste Authority has been working with its contractors on the North London Heat and Power Project (NLHPP) since the first lockdown in March to maintain safe Covid-19 practices on each of their construction sites in Edmonton. This has seen industry leading provisions over and above the Construction Leadership Council guidelines, initiated ahead of wider calls to government to implement such standards. As the construction industry evolves its approach to adapt to Covid-19 the project wanted to highlight their experience in developing an approach which could also benefit other complex projects. The approach has ensured that work to deliver this vital infrastructure project for north London’s residents has continued in a way that keeps the workforce safe whilst maintaining progress. 

From the outset of the pandemic NLHPP have responded strongly implementing a controlled pause in March last year and remobilisation in June. The NLHPP construction sites were shut-down at the start of the lockdown to revise systems and make the site functional with increased measures to manage the risks of Covid-19 including, temperature checks, additional PPE, extra sanitiser, handwashing stations and staggered work breaks. Remobilisation started on 1 June 2020 and has been continually reviewed and evaluated in a Covid-19 taskforce.

A weekly Covid-19 taskforce was set up last March and has enabled engagement across all contractors present on the site to align their Covid-19 practices as well as how work can be carried out efficiently and economically under the restricted conditions. Contractors such as Taylor Woodrow, Barhale, Galldris, Buckingham Group and DSM Demolition form the group with the Project team and have been able to share innovative ideas and best practice across the site. The measures implemented by the taskforce are underpinned by a ‘Safety First’ culture where the aim is to achieve zero harm on the project. 

David Cullen, Programme Director for NLHPP emphasised, “As a project we made a decision early on to pause and set up a strong management structure to share information and control remobilisation. The benefits of this continue to be outworked on our project with contractors bringing forward new ways of adapting to the risk of Covid-19 and we are keen to share our experience for others to learn from too. Our early adoption of Covid-19 measures and continual dialogue through the taskforce has set an excellent example of going above the status quo to implement and trial new systems which keep our workforce safe and our vital project on target.”

The team meets weekly to update processes and share lessons learnt on measures being taken to strengthen the procedures on the site. This is increasingly important as Edmonton EcoPark also preforms an essential public service of treating 2 million London residents’ waste and part of the NLHPPs responsibly is to ensure these essential services continue without disruption, whilst maintain a safe work environment for the workforce.

To date, monitoring data collected by regular travel surveys undertaken by the Covid-19 taskforce helps contractors review where provisions should be made to encourage less use of public transport. Allowances for extra parking spaces have been made for the those travelling by car to avoid public transport and all non-essential visits to the sites have been stopped.

Across the contractors a need to ensure regular testing was identified by the Covid-19 taskforce and rapid antigen testing has been available since the beginning of January for everyone in the construction workforce once a week. Antigen testing is done using salvia samples, from the mouth and nose, and gives an indication of positive or negative results within 15 minutes. This has helped identify and contain cases on the site so asymptomatic individuals are able to self-isolate. The urgency for testing onsite comes as many are also calling on the government to make testing compulsory for construction sites in action. NLHPP contractors have acted quickly to ensure the safety of the workforce is maintained in their own environments, which has been effective at minimising the risk of spreading the virus through the workforce.   

The team have coupled testing with trialling a proximity tracking and alerts system since early December. This is to encourage workers to maintain the two meter social distancing guidance with a wearable bracelet or lanyard that tracks other devices it comes close to on the work sites.  It also requires every worker to fill in a self-assessment questionnaire online before they start work to help identify any potential Covid-19 symptoms that need to be tested. Tracing close contacts with individuals who test positive for covid-19 helps identify others who need to isolate and is imperative for ensuring contractors can continue to work.

The workforce has been very receptive of these changes and new systems, understanding the importance of protecting those they work with and wanting to ensure they keep their families safe at home too.

So far, the project has received very positive feedback when speaking to those working on the construction sites with Taylor Woodrow Supervisor, Norica Ehache, stating “As a key worker in construction the trail has provided me more confidence that my workmates have also undertaken their daily online Covid-19 self-assessment and any risk of spread from them is significantly reduced. The fact that the system is also capable of identifying the possible need for any system user to undergo self-isolation following escalation of another user developing symptoms/testing positive is also worthwhile in the current climate.”  

Jacques Deneys Barhale Project Manager says “As part of the NLHPP E2C Sewer Diversion works management team, I have found the wearable units helpful to manage social distancing during the ongoing pandemic.”

Taylor Woodrow Operative, Vasilica Carp, confirmed “As a wristband wearer I find the vibration it emits when I am any closer than two meters to another user helps me maintain our required two meter social distancing which reduces the possible risk of spread of Coronavirus.”

Barhale Work Forman Michael Greene also said, “the wearable units helped to remind the operatives to maintain social distancing and aid the social distancing marshal in his duties.”

The drive to continue looking at innovative ways to manage the response to Covid-19 on the NLHPP continues to be a primary focus during the current lockdown. The Covid-19 taskforce continues to meet weekly and update the project’s response to covid-19 while providing feedback on the current safety measures on construction sites. As new systems are implemented and feedback is provided NLHPP aim to share more lessons learnt from the taskforce that can provide reassurance that essential construction work can continue effectively with the right measures in place.