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A floater to be proud of

23 January 2013

A raft designed to float on raw sewage was one of the winning entries at the UK water sector's first-ever health and safety awards...

A raft designed to float on raw sewage was one of the winning entries at the UK water sector's first-ever health and safety awards.

ERIKS Industrial Services made the floating work platform to improve safety for engineers cleaning out sewage settlement tanks at sewage works. Until now they have had to drain down the tanks and set up scaffolds to carry out routine cleaning and maintenance.

The new floating platforms bring two benefits: Firstly, workers no longer have to run the risk of working at height in a drained-down tank. Secondly, the tanks no longer have to be fully emptied while being cleaned, which meaning less disruption to the sewage works' operation.

ERIKS's platform, together with a hand-railed ladder that fastens to the side of sewage tanks, won the 'innovation' category at Thames Water's Excellence in Health and Safety Awards 2011. “The beauty of this idea is it's the simplicity and effectiveness with which it tackles one of the biggest operational hazards we face,” said Martin Baggs, Thames Water's chief executive, who sat on the judging panel.

The competition was run for Thames Water's contractors, which are carrying out nearly £5bn of essential work to improve and maintain its water pipes, sewers and other facilities across London and the Thames Valley between 2010 and 2015. Mr Baggs added: “We don't run annual awards for hitting financial goals or for meeting regulatory targets for water and wastewater. “So why for health and safety? The answer is simple: health and safety matters more than anything else. It must be embedded in everything we do.”

There were seven categories in all, including: best collaboration, young person of the year, best performance and biggest improvement. Tamesis, a joint venture including Laing O'Rourke and Imtech Process, won the best perfromance category. During 400,000 man hours in 12 months at Britain's two biggest sewage works, Beckton and Crossness in east London, each undergoing major expansions, there were no HSE (Health and Safety Executive)-reportable incidents. Tamesis's safety system at Crossness and Beckton included using the “IIF (incident and injury free)” behavioural safety programme and encouraging staff to seek advice.