Geo-sight’s Head of Marketing Rob Andrews chats to Civil Engineering and Utilities Health and Safety Director Martin Cook about how Geo-sight technology has made a difference in his role, improving standards in the business both as a safety monitoring tool and a project measurement indicator. ( Feature used with permission of Geo-sight).
IT DOESN’T take a health and safety expert to realise that there are many potential hazards in construction and civil engineering.
The industry’s workers constantly put themselves in potentially hazardous situations on a daily basis; working atop of tall buildings, working underground, or maintaining and developing the UK’s railways, highways and utilities.
The spectre of both minor accidents and potentially fatalities can cast something of a looming figure over the workforce if proper safety standards and procedures aren’t practiced.
According to a UK Government white paper report released earlier in 2014, more than 50 people died in 2013 working in construction and civil engineering.
Staggeringly a further 264 members of the public were also fatally injured (data UK Government HSE report).
We can’t tell whether this was down to bad site management, or simply un-avoidable accidents but we do know it’s a statutory requirement for construction professionals to protect themselves and the public from these potential dangers, a subject that’s always topical within the industry.
It’s not just the risk of injury or fatalities, local authorities will clamp down on sites without proper signage and guarding to enforce these statutory guidelines, meaning vigilance must be maintained by on-site workers and their managers.
With this in mind, Geo-sight recently caught up Health and Safety Director Martin Cook from civil engineering, telecoms and construction company John Henry Group (JHG), which has been using Geo-sight to measure safety standards on its work sites as well as monitoring live-project performance and employee conduct.
Martin talks candidly about how he’s been using Geo-sight technology in his day to day job, how its positive ramifications have affected overall business performance in terms of safety improvement, working quality standards through effective project monitoring and preventing council penalty fines.
Martin, thanks for your time, could you tell us how is JHG has been using Geo-sight across its group-wide operation?
Martin Cook: JHG utilises the Geo-sight application to record all stages of our works in the public highway, from arriving on site and assessing the situation (i.e. footway conditions) then recording the Road Works Guarding (RWG) set up to final site clearance. In addition we use it to record defects and to highlight any issues on work site i.e. hazards that require advice/support. We have also adapted the app to record vehicle checks and to submit near miss reports. Utilising the GPS capabilities allows us to identify a location and to assess the site by means of Google maps/street view.
GS: What do you think about the app primarily being used on a smartphone or tablet?
MC: A smartphone works very well. We have tried to keep the file sizes down to a manageable size but the Geo-sight the app works well. Having large buttons within the app means there are no issues at the user end and the screen is very clear and easy to navigate. Especially out on site! We have not opted for a tablet but I think it would work just as well on this platform.
GS: How have you found Geo-sight has made a difference to you as a Health and Safety Director and your to team?
MC: I have found Geo-sight to be invaluable in my role. I am able to receive instant feedback from the field, which is hugely beneficial, particularly in the event of utility strikes and incident investigations. We ask for instant feedback from site following an incident and it helps us build up a picture that can remove the need to visit site. For a UK-wide company this is really important as the resource needed to have Health and Safety reps on every single site would be huge. Within reason, Geo-sight allows remote working, allowing us to managing any incidents as they happen. We are able to challenge other utilities when their plant is shallow as the image is time and date stamped. The information capture is GPS referenced. Also we have the added environmental benefits of not having travel everywhere, meaning reducing our carbon footprint and fuel costs.
GS: How has Geo-sight improved the working standard across the John Henry Group?
MC: Standards have improved considerably in respect to road works guarding, as we are able to manage remotely and check the sites are set up correctly through all of the projects we’re managing. Site set ups now have the correct number of signs/cones etc and we have permit boards out and filled in correctly. In respect to the actual works defects are highlighted to us earlier allowing for the company to either go to the client for a Departure From Estimate (DFE), we have found, saves time and money for both our clients and ourselves, or to highlight to the local authority site specific issues.
GS: What particular features do you like about Geo-sight?
MC: GPS referencing and being linked to Google Maps. I like the ability to score submissions and then to have alerts set to senior management on the back of the scores. In addition I can set alerts for any near miss, or what we in the company call positive interventions, submitted.
GS: Do you feel Geo-sight could be used effectively as a project management tool?
MC: Yes. Real time feedback from the field and the data supplied can be used in the ‘As-built’ part of a project. A key requirement of CDM.
GS: Has Geo-sight got you out of any tricky situations in terms of fines?
MC: Yes, we have avoided some fixed penalty notices as a result of using the Geo-sight app, as it allows us to not only review the fact that our sites have been properly closed off by our workforce, it means that if we are challenged, we can actually prove that we have evidenced good working practice with GPS and Geo-tagged imagery captured by the app and stored in Geo-sight’s secure database.
GS: What would you say to fellow health and safety professionals who might be considering buying Geo-sight?
MC: Use it! If I had this in my previous job it would have removed a lot of site issues especially around signage for road works guarding. We had issues with students removing signs on site and the local authority did not believe that we had set out until we started to take pictures and log. If we had Geo-sight it would have been easier to prove that they were there especially as it gives a time stamp and GPS reference that is linked to the mapping part of the system.
In addition it would have been easier to reference the pictures taken and to be able to prove the location of the picture and when it was taken. Would also cover off snagging and reinstatement issues.
Within JHG we have used it as a risk assessment aid whereby the field teams have submitted an image that we have been able to advise on remotely thus speeding up the site-specific assessment process and providing instant feedback to the operatives.
GS: Do you Geo-sight this product adding value outsight of civil engineering and construction?
MC: Yes, Geo-sight can be used as a risk assessment tool, or for site surveys, planning, or even checking street lights. One idea posed to me was for council defects to be reported to the local authority, say a damaged lid or street light not working. With the mapping the teams work schedules could be better planed thus saving money.
GS: Martin, thanks very much for your time.