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The Quality in Construction Awards 2007 - Project safety

Forth Rail Bridge refurbishment.

Client: Network Rail

Main contractor: Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering

Contract value: £70 million

Staff on site: 200

Start on site: April 2002

Completion: April 2006 (ongoing, renewable annually)

Accident statistics: Zero reportable (RIDDOR) accidents in 1.85 million man-hours

Contrary to popular myth, the Forth Rail Bridge has never been painted or subjected to any programme of treatment or renewal since its completion in 1890. That changed, though, in 2002 when Balfour Beatty signed a seven-year framework deal with Network Rail for the refurbishment and maintenance of the historic structure.

At 4 km long and 100 m high the bridge is certainly not an easy structure to maintain, particularly as much of it is over water. Furthermore, the bridge carries the East Coast Mainline railway, which can record up to 200 train movements per day.

Many of the safety risks are clear, but others are less so – for example, the risk of lead contamination from the removal of old paintwork.

The traditional method of accessing the superstructure for reactive maintenance was to walk up it, using nothing more than ropes for fall protection. Balfour Beatty, however, has employed some of the most impressive scaffolds ever erected to ensure maximum safety for its operatives. “The scaffolding contractors have done an amazing job,” says Balfour Beatty project manager Ken Brown.

To achieve its remarkable safety record, Balfour Beatty has had to run a tight ship and this means a thorough and well-structured safety management system. The existing Balfour Beatty safety management approach is tailored to project specific activities. On this project, these include a long list of potential risks, from adverse weather to working at height and over water.

Not surprisingly, safety training is a top priority on this project; all site staff are CSCS-certificated and all plant operators have CPCS cards.