© Balfour Beatty. Oxygen tanks.

Concern

A reporter is concerned that work carried out by Balfour Beatty’s Integrated Track Team and its subcontractors is potentially unsafe. On several occasions since April 2019, the reporter has observed the incorrect operation of equipment, such as iron men, and the incorrect handling of oxygen tanks used for welding. This is believed to arise because of a lack of competent staff booked for the engineering works. An additional risk raised is that employees from the three subcontractors mentioned do not have valid competencies to operate the equipment. Should these unsafe practices go unnoticed, it could result in an operational incident or injuries.

Balfour Beatty is asked if they could:

  • ensure future works carried out by the ITT are done safely?
  • carry out an audit on the three subcontractors?

Balfour Beatty’s response

We take health and safety issues very seriously on the Integrated Track Team and looks for every opportunity to improve and have investigated the concern raised. In addition to this, we have enhanced our own reporting systems to make it easier and clearer for our staff to raise these issues with us directly – this can be done anonymously. Feedback from our staff will help us to improve. Rectifying health and safety issues will encourage further engagement between operatives and management.

An internal review was carried out on all jobs delivered since April 2019 to establish if the correct amount of staff had been rostered for the activity as per the programme of works. Focussing on the iron man activity, the roster shows there was sufficient labour rostered on each weekend to move the rail on site safely using the iron men, as per the work instruction.

We are aware of at least one incident where oxygen gas bottles were carried incorrectly. The practice, on that occasion, was stopped and the correct method of working adopted. We recognise that manual handling of gas bottles presents a risk.

Actions taken

  • The rosters will be checked by the Senior Construction Manager to ensure the right level of operatives are rostered for moving rail at the planning stage. Any discrepancies are to be addressed prior to the work activity commencing.
  • Review of the subcontractors’ competency matrix during the planning stages.
  • As part of the projects audit programme for 2019, the plan is to audit (as a minimum) one subcontract labour supplier during the year. Part of the audit will cover the supplier’s competency for the staff they supply to the project.
  • Random spot checks on subcontractor competencies to ensure compliance.
  • We are looking to eliminate the risk of working with iron men by mechanising the process. We have an innovation work stream that is concentrating on this and we hope to see results in the next six months.