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Your View | Bringing Garden Bridge down to earth

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Hurrah for Fiona McIntyre for finally puncturing the myths surrounding London’s Garden Bridge. Much as I admire Joanna Lumley for some of her causes, this was an ill-conceived project promoted by wealthy Londoners and was more about vanity than need.

McIntyre covered the main points admirably, but spare a thought for how this project was perceived by those of us who live in the provinces and suffer from poor infrastructure. While London will always be a special case, significant investment of public money in its infrastructure must be based on absolute need and never on projects which are by their very nature non-essential.

No doubt many of those who supported the Garden Bridge will be rushing off to vote for a members’ motion to re-think the urgently needed A303 Stonehenge diversion at the National Trust’s next AGM.

  • David Clements (M) Southernhay, High Street, Hinton St. George, Somerset TA17 8SE

Stress relief

I would like to thank you for the article about wellbeing, and the importance of recognising people who are suffering with mental health problems. The article could not have come at a more appropriate time for me, as I suffered a break down at my desk on Friday. I was able to read your article the next day.

I had been feeling overwhelmed and alienated for a long time, I felt that I couldn’t cope and that things were just getting too much for me. I have also felt desperate at times and contemplated suicide.

Following my breakdown, my managers acted quickly and started to help. I have access to confidential counselling, and I have been able to go to the doctors. I am so grateful for everyone’s swift actions to help me deal with the issues.

I am only starting the long journey of recovery, and I hope one day that I will feel better.

So thank you for highlighting the issue, and I hope that others will seek help and find the support to avoid the way I felt on Friday.

  • Name withheld

 Take a tip from someone who knows

 We Brits continually reinvent due to knowledge being held by individuals rather than within companies. Good practice is not ingrained as much as it is in companies from other countries. Take your article on critical near misses (New Civil Engineer November 2017).  A new innovative idea?  Thirty years ago on  the Channel Tunnel we brought in DuPont to establish a cultural change to safety and personal wellbeing. We all did it, it was refreshingly good, and at weekends workers were seen in their gardens in full PPE, looking after themselves.

We even made videos on site to train everyone at Heathrow Express, and operator BAA borrowed them to use as part of its own inductions. It continued on parts of HS1. Some individuals thought it was good and carried on with it, but no companies did.

There appears to be quite a lot of “innovative” reinventing out there. Such as efficiency through process improvement by following the motor industry, or risk management using nuclear industry processes.  Some good and some not so. Ask the old team first how best to introduce it and make it work on your project, not the gurus who now peddle it as innovation.

  • Alan Myers alangmyers@yahoo.co.uk

Teasing out the hidden issues

Mark Hansford has written about the importance of workplace wellbeing (Comment, last month). Of course the more obvious threat of workplace safety is very important. However, employees can have hidden issues relating, for example, to their lives both present and past, which, if not resolved, could lead to ill-health and loss of productivity. An excellent way of resolving these problems is through therapeutic counselling. In my view, firms should encourage staff to seek counselling, perhaps to the extent of helping with the cost of the sessions. The cost would be repaid through happier workers being more productive.

  • Jan Hellings (F), jan@janhellings.com

Are zero fatalities ever achievable?

I refer to your “Workplace Wellbeing” issue and to your question: “why do people take short cuts?”

Quoting numbers of fatalities is no help to making safety provisions without knowing their causes. What were they and were they significantly different from the past?

In September 2011, you reported Gordon Masterton, as stating that in 2010 there were 60 fatalities, all due either to falling from a height, collapse of excavation or reversing vehicle impact (New Civil Engineer 29 September 2011). According to ICE Proceedings Nov 2005, in 2004 there were 76 fatalities: three due to electrocution, four due to trench collapse. All the rest were either falls from height or hits by moving plant or vehicles. None was due to designer or client failure.

While certainly something should be done by the appropriate level of management to stop electrocution or excavation collapses, little can be done to prevent the vast majority of accidents which are due to not keeping a good lookout – in contravention of Section 9 of the Health & Safety at Work Act.

These are due, for one reason or another, to absentmindedness or, possibly, occasionally to cutting corners. The article suggests some sort of continuous monitoring of state of mind of each worker would solve the problem.

Until all are issued with, and wear a suitably programmed transmitting device, to believe this is practicable is like believing that Brexit will be a doddle.

  • Godfrey Ackers (F), Ocean Court, Plymouth

Making the Old Oak Link work

You report that HS2 Ltd will be making its Euston proposal ready for Crossrail 2, by just knocking through a wall (New Civil Engineer, October).

Sadly, no such foresight is being applied at Old Oak Common, although the Mayor’s transport strategy shows this as a major interchange connecting High Speed 2 (HS2) and the Elizabeth Line with the Overground, no provision is being made for any future interchange station. Long walks will be required to the separate Overground stations.

The feasibility study for the Hounslow-Cricklewood link is not even scheduled to start until after 2031.

Another possibility is an Old Oak to Gatwick service, which many would welcome.  

The HS2 station at Old Oak needs to be future-proofed, by carrying out sufficient feasibility work now on orbital connections, before the new station design is frozen.  

  • Peter Mynors FICE, peter@mynors.me.uk

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