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April 15, 2014

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Safety underpins aircraft carrier project, says consortium


The consortium behind the building of the 65,000-tonne HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier, one of Europe’s biggest engineering projects, has placed safety at the heart of its strategy.

Speaking at the Partnership for Success conference in Blackpool on 2-3 April, Steve Messam, SHE for Maritime Naval Ships & Maritime Services, BAE Systems and a member of the Aircraft Carrier Alliance (ACA) SHE steering group, told delegates that the consortium’s strategy was being reviewed as the project entered its build cycle.

Mr Messam was among more than 20 speakers at the conference, hosted by BAE Systems, which brought together more than 200 suppliers, contractors and partners to share best practice.

The ACA comprises a number of companies, including Babcock, BAE Systems and Thales who are behind the aircraft carrier project being built in Rosyth, Scotland.

“One of the great things about working as part of the ACA is that regardless of the percentage stake each partner has in the project, everyone realises we are all in this together,” said Mr Messam.

“If one person omits to do something safely, that omission could impact on other Alliance employees, therefore one team with common values is crucial.”

Mr Messam told delegates that the consortium had never built an aircraft carrier the size and complexity of the Queen Elizabeth Class (QEC). For this reason, bench-marking formed a significant part of the consortium’s preparation.

“To do this we made a number of visits, including one to the Olympic Park in London where we spent time with Lawrence Waterman, who headed up health and safety on the Olympic Delivery Authority, and his team was invaluable enabling us to see what ‘good’ looks like,” he said.

The ACA created a SHE steering group that brought together key partners from the outset. Chaired by Sean Donaldson, site and warships director at Babcock, which owns the Rosyth yard on behalf of Ian Booth, QEC programme director, BAE Systems Naval Ships, the steering group comprises other ACA members, including representatives of the Royal Navy.

Mr Messam told delegates that the current safety strategy around the project was under review as the risk profile changes from assembly to that of testing and commissioning the complex systems.

“Part of this review will consider the learning taken from Queen Elizabeth to enable further improvement on the second carrier HMS Prince of Wales,” he said.

The Partnership for Success conference saw keynote speeches from Health and Safety Executive director David Gartside and Nigel Whitehead, group managing director for programme and support at BAE Systems.

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