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The editor welcomes letters at 151 Rosebery Avenue, London EC1R 4GB; UK fax: +44(0)171 505 6790 e-mail:


I am prompted to write, as I am sure others will be, in response to November's cover.

While I applaud the introduction of new solutions to old problems, it is ironic that your article on cracking pile caps promotes the 'important safety benefits' of this method of cutting down pile heads in areas including dust, flying debris, noise and vibration, when the cover photograph shows basic health and safety failures in all of these areas. These failures include reversed helmet, goggles and ear defenders not being worn, bare arms covered in concrete dust, no hand protection and no dust mask. I can only hope this individual did not cut all piles thus attired.

If your cover truly represents the face of innovation in the industry, it serves only to underline that we still need to learn the obvious basic lessons of the past.

Harry Blows, Health & Safety Manager, Weeks, Maidstone, Kent

I was interested to see your November cover, which showed a labourer preparing a pile with a circular saw. During the operation he is shown to be giving his hard hat better protection than his head. Perhaps next time he could use the goggles over his eyes and the ear defenders over his ears, the uses for which they were designed.

Jason Tilley, Colchester, Essex

It is so pleasing to see that the profession's journal is helping to maintain the industry's vigilance of on-site health and safety (reference November cover). It's a pity we don't get a glimpse of the workman's shoes as no doubt they are Nike's best!

John Patch in reviewing progress on piling in 'Talking Point' (same issue) states: 'in the year 2034, 35 years from now, I would like to see zero accidents.' I wonder if he plans to build in some redundancy regarding safety issues!

Dr Nils Kageson-Loe, Norsk Hydro, Bergen, Norway.

November's cover shows a worker using an abrasive/ grinding wheel on a pile. Although the gentleman in question has personal protectice equipment, he is not using it. His eye protection is on his helmet, as are his ear defenders. He has no protection on his hands or arms. There is no respiratory protection, which I would suggest, judging by the amount of dust generation, is required.

Stephen Tandy, project manager, UKAEA

Your November cover is horrible. It shows a qualified worker cutting a pile cap with a diamond wheel cutter. The operator is not using his health and safety protective accessories, in particular glasses and ear protectors are not in place, hands are not protected by gloves, there is no dust mask and the dry diamond cutter is being used without water to suppress dust.

Sorry for these critical observations as we always take great pleasure in reading Ground Engineering with its excellent jobsite reports and observations on the market.

Rudiger Putzer

Klemm Bohrtechnik


Your November cover gave no indication of the obvious safety risks. Compare your cover with the photos - and text - in Geoscientist Volume 9 No.11 November page 10. The terrible message in their photographs is immediate. The text chilling. Your photograph had no safety message at all, although it clearly warranted one.

I cannot accept your justification as valid [see editor's note below, from earlier private correspondence], but I must admit the photograph reminded me of the extreme importance of safe working practices on sites and the stupidity of some people.

That reminder may have been valuable. It may in that respect have been good for me, but I fear it may not have had the same effect on others, particularly young entrants to the industry. They probably thought the man looked 'cool'.

Thirty years ago an official propaganda film called '50 to One' was shown to students. One worker in 50 was being killed in a working life on construction/ building sites. One student agreed it was bad but pointed out that surely the accidents only happened to 'the workers', not to 'engineers'.

The fact that he was a sandwich student increased my surprise considerably.

Bill Hodges, senior partner, Sifeg Partnership, Fareham PO14 4LZ

Editor's note: The message from the reader response reinforces how seriously the geotechnical community takes safety. Not withstanding that the photograph is a strong image, we debated the safety issues before selecting it for the cover. Our conclusion was there were basically two lines to take. Either censor photographs that show bad safety practices or report and show what actually happens, warts and all.

We think that by taking the second approach it helps raise awareness of actual practice, even if the reality is uncomfortable. Safety should be pervasive, not just for press photos. I believe the response bears out this line of thought, and has once again raised the important issue of safe site practice.

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