Safety in street works must continue to be a priority for the sector

04 Dec

Balfour Beatty’s Tom Lambert, Associate Director at Street Works UK, writes about the importance of associate and affiliate members to the trade association, and the importance of ensuring safety remains a key priority following COVID-19. 

Street Works UK is the voice of industry, providing members with expert advice on best practice and representing the views of our organisations with government and highways authorities. From personal experience, my organisation Balfour Beatty has significantly benefitted from its membership and active participation in firstly NJUG and now Street Works UK, particularly with regards to initiatives on safety, quality and our input into policy changes on SROH, permits, Street Manager and many more aspects of street works. We also have the added benefit of having visibility of changes over the horizon first-hand.

As an industry, we have come a long way since the inception of NRSWA in 1991, and so has SWUK. Our associate and affiliate members play an integral role within the organisation, giving us a wider, more operational perspective on the street works sector, and the different challenges they face on a daily basis. For example, our Associates Forum brings together representatives from associate members to discuss pertinent issues as a collective.

Safety is a key priority for all of us in the street works sector, and front and centre of everything we do. This has become more of a necessity during COVID-19, as we all strive to keep the public safe while operating on roads, and following social distancing measures. Right across the membership, Street Works UK members have been working hard to improve our guidance around safety in order to make it more suitable for the current environment.

Our Expert Practitioner Group on Safety, which I chair, has been working on a review of our Safety Code, and has also drafted a “Change Document” to go alongside it. This document is important as we aim to set out what a new safety code would look like. A new code will include guidance on extreme situations such as those seen this year (e.g. social distancing), and place greater emphasis on site specific risk assessments, rather than following a diagram or script that may not appropriate for the site. While we were hoping to deliver this by the end of the year, COVID-19 has delayed this process significantly. Sensibly, we are aiming to produce a document for initial consultation between autumn 2021 and spring 2022.

In addition, through the EPG we have been supporting the development of the HAUC App, which aims to allow our operatives to use technology to access data and guidance in real-time while on site. The app should facilitate an improvement in safety and knowledge, whilst providing a more flexible way of ascertaining whether an operative is performing works safely and correctively to minimise cost and disruption.

We would greatly welcome members views on our review of the Safety Code, as we hope to improve our current standards and reflect changes in working practices. In particular, I would welcome views from our associate and affiliate members: those with boots on the ground performing vital works on behalf of our utilities.

In an ever changing street works landscape it is important that those companies on the frontline delivering operational street works continue to play an active and important role in guiding the future strategy and policies of street works, and being a member of Street Works UK is a primary source of that opportunity.

It has been a challenging year for our industry, but I feel we are well placed to come out of it stronger and ready to meet the challenges of delivering vital upgrades to the UK’s infrastructure in the years ahead. As Associate Director, I would positively encourage associate members to play an active role in street works, and support our utility colleagues. Street Works UK has many opportunities for associates and affiliates to learn from colleagues and have their voice heard.