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Case study: Channel Tunnel Rail Link

Channel Tunnel Rail Link is tackling the root cause of construction accidents - individual behaviour - in its five point 'Breakthrough Programme' launched last April.

'We were unhappy with the safety performance levels we were achieving, even though we have a strong health and safety culture, ' says Rail Link Engineering's manager of health and safety Graeme Cox.

'Although we were providing all the proper equipment and training we were still getting the sort of accident where a driver climbing out of a vehicle cab twists an ankle because he is distracted by someone shouting at him to put a helmet on, ' adds CTRL general manager David Hartshorne. 'We decided we had to look at changing behaviour.'

The programme developed for RLE involves:

Putting every manager, from ganger onwards, through a leadership training programme to develop their health and safety management skills Reporting all near misses. The scheme has a target of zero accidents, and to achieve that RLE needs to know where the near misses occur and address the behaviour that causes them.

Daily discussion between supervisor and gang to highlight the hazards associated with that day's work. Every employee has a card which allows him or her to comment on the safety culture in place in their section of work, and if they are unhappy they can, as the ultimate sanction, stop the job.

Cards are handed to supervisors and complaints result in changes.

'On one site we identified a real problem with access, ' says Cox.

'No one had said anything but it came up on the cards. Virtually overnight concrete paths were put in.'

Observation of the work by trained supervisors who use regular meetings to feed back their thoughts and ideas on what could be done better. 'And we make sure we implement the actions they recommend, ' Cox says.

Constant highlighting of the hazards that cause the most problems, with 'top pocket cards' reminding the workforce to, for instance, 'not work in any excavation unless it is sheeted or propped or battered'.

All work is backed up by the RLE Target Zero Truck that travels up and down the line taking the safety message directly to the people on site rather than expecting them to hack to a meeting in a canteen.

The truck focuses on a site specific theme - working at height when RLE was doing the Medway Bridge balanced cantilevers as an example.

'I believe we are definitely seeing an improvement in our accident trend, ' Cox says, 'even though we are trying to change decades of construction culture.'

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