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August 14, 2015

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Project to inspire students wins health and safety award


Queen Elizabeth's students with water-fed broom

A project that inspired students at a school in North London to invent a water-fed broom – designed to reduce construction workers’ exposure to dust – has won an award.

The scheme, devised by housing developer Lovell for students at Queen Elizabeth’s School in Barnet, London, won the Health and Safety category at the Constructing Excellence in London and the South East awards.

Award photoThey were selected for the award for the way the project successfully engaged students and tackled a serious construction industry occupational health issue, as dust created by many common construction jobs can cause serious health problems if appropriate measures aren’t taken.

The award judges said: “This engagement is way beyond what is required of a construction company and has delivered important innovations for the industry and engaged young minds in health and safety.” The 2015 Constructing Excellence in London and the South East Health and Safety Award was presented to the Lovell team in a ceremony at the Lancaster Hotel, London.

Lovell set the engineering challenge for 16- and 17-year-old students at the boys’ grammar school as part of its ongoing commitment to promoting young people’s awareness of construction careers. The project was organised through the Engineering Development Trust scheme.

Lovell business systems manager Alex Wood said: “The brief was simple: can you improve on the everyday broom to improve health and safety? We asked the students to see if they could come up with a better way of controlling dust on site – which can be a serious health hazard for construction workers – and produce a practical solution which would be affordable to produce.”

After carrying out research and experiments and collaborating with Lovell’s small tool and equipment suppliers, the students devised a prototype broom incorporating a controlled water mist.

“The initiative was designed to encourage innovation and research and enabled the students to see how their school studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics feed into creating practical solutions,” explains Alex Wood of Lovell.

“It’s also a way of giving young people a clearer understanding of the industry and the health hazards which construction workers face.”

Michael Noonan, teacher at Queen Elizabeth’s School, says: “The boys engaged with a real-life engineering brief which proved both challenging and exciting. Their project allowed them to develop a wide range of skills and abilities in various aspects related to engineering and working within a team environment.

“I think that it really hit home with the boys that their potential solution could have life-altering impacts on workers within the construction industry if it were successful, and that this proved to be a major motivating factor for them. They are very proud of their broom solution, and its benefits as a working product in reducing the latent effect of construction dust could be enormous if it were adopted.”

The project will now go forward to the Constructing Excellence national awards which will be announced at the London Marriott Hotel Grosvenor Square on 23 October.

It is hoped that the water-fed broom may soon be trialled on actual construction sites. The idea has been presented to Lovell’s senior management, site teams and supply chain and will also be communicated to the occupational health committee of the UK Contractors Group – the main association for construction contractors. The students are also set to present their idea to members of IOSH – the world’s largest health and safety membership organisation – in London in October.

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