By Heather Beach, director, UBM
Demonstrating the perfect example of the challenges of the working mother (dropping 9 year old at breakfast club prior to attending meetings), I was late to this site visit to the Crossrail site at Farringdon.
I entered the room to find 11 women all working in the health and safety field, listening entranced to the Project Manager at Farringdon, Linda Miller, who was giving an extremely engaging description of the enormity of Crossrail as well as the cultural tone which the project is setting. It was indicative of the commitment which Steve Hails, Health and Safety Director, has to the equality and diversity agenda, that he was also there answering questions.
Steve Hails has recently created a new position on his Crossrail Health & Safety Directorate team specifically devoted to exploring the intersection between H&S & Diversity/Gender and it is gratifying to note that Crossrail is actively working on a number of fronts to increase the number of women on their construction sites because of the demonstrated value that women bring – not only in their professional, H&S and engineering ranks, but in their workforce as well.
It was fascinating. Having already attended the Bond Street upgrade (which was all about the complexity of hand works), this project has used Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs), which in spite of weighing over 1,000 tonnes each, are precision instruments. Crossrail has invested in the finest technology in the world, each is named after a famous woman, and when they have been finished with, they go back to Germany to have their parts reconditioned and used in other machines.
Crossrail represents the largest single extension to the capacity of the railway since world war two and will add 10% to the capacity of the network when it opens in 2018. As well as the issues represented by managing stakeholders within the local environment, such as Smithfields Market (which is 1,000 years old) and tunnelling under such a plethora of different buildings, the team have also had to consider the over site development and the discovery of over 3,000 skeletons which have required a team of archaeologists from the Museum of London to be on constant standby.
This sense of responsibility for the environment and the community not only of workers but also within the locality is one which I see emerging strongly in the construction industry now. That it is not good enough to open the doors only when the site itself is open. Linda Miller and Steve Hails described their pride at the community outreach projects that had taken place under their auspices, including the number of blood donors they had generated and the fact that the environment created is one in which the workforce is happy.
Linda herself has a huge commitment to getting more women into construction and engineering and her delight at hosting the visit was clear. But of course we were there to see the tunnels and they did not disappoint. We were shown round by site managers Kris Sarmidi and Duncan Law.
These site visits are part of the Women in Health and Safety initiative which was organised as part of Health and Safety Week and is developing a momentum of its own. Rhaynukaa Soni, from Transport for London has organised the construction site visits and we are now looking for other sites so if your work environment has some unusual features or you have a particularly innovative approach to Health and Safety, please contact us.