We have been in business for over 23 years, and during that time we have seen a worrying rise in the frequency and severity of abuse towards our workforce and vehicle incursions on site.
"This was the first time research specifically directed at the TM industry had been conducted"
At the beginning of the year, as part of my exec MBA course at the University of Worcester, I carried out research in to the potential application of the BowTie method of risk management and assessment to the traffic management (TM) industry. This was the first time research specifically directed at the TM industry had been conducted, and I obtained some interesting and extremely useful insights.
The BowTie method enables a person or company to address safety issues at the design phase, meaning that barriers can be put in place prior to any work starting, in order to reduce the risk to the workforce and other key stakeholders (we must remember we can not completely eliminate risk!!). It also allows the communication of risk to multiple audiences enabling all those involved in a project to understand their role within the process.
"We must remember we can not completely eliminate risk- but we can take active steps reduce it"
A BowTie diagram starts with a hazard and top event in the middle (the knot), from which threats are inserted to the left and consequences to the right. Along the threat and consequence arms, barriers are inserted to either prevent the top event from occurring and to prevent the consequences from happening should the threat barriers fail. As can be seen from the diagram below, the resulting diagram is visually appealing and easy to understand.
"If we multiply these figures up and apply them to local authority roads there are around 32,500 vehicle incursions we have no knowledge of"
In June 2020 a Safer Highways article reported that in May 2020, 95 vehicle incursions were recorded on the AirsWeb database. What we must consider here is that this only records data from the strategic road network (SRN), and not every TM company has access to this database. The SRN makes up around 3.5% of roads by mileage in England alone, therefore if we look at this figure and assume that the vehicle incursion rate is the same on local authority roads, this would equate to 2,714 vehicle incursions, if we multiply that over a 12 month period we have just over 32,500 vehicle incursions that we, as an industry, have no knowledge about as we have no way of reporting or recording them. If we don't know anything about them then how can we improve safety and ensure that our team members are safe.
The purpose of my research was to determine if the BowTie method had a place within our industry. However, as the project evolved it began to incorporate learning from incidents, identifying that the construction sector as a whole were not very good at learning from past events. It also provided the stark realisation that we, as an industry, have little control over the barriers we implement, due to the reliance of human factors. In fact on reflection, this research opened a whole can of worms with regards to safety within our industry, and this is very worrying.
The general conclusions of my research were that the BowTie method encourages stakeholder involvement at every stage. They are an excellent way to show employees that activities that may be viewed as mundane, are actually very important. By presenting issues in this way these diagrams can help employees to understand why, and what may happen if processes are not followed correctly. This is difficult to do with a checklist that carries no information about the consequences. Further it concluded that learning from incidents gives organisations a better understanding of how things are in reality; it enables them to identify shortcuts, improve the management of risk, and help other parts of the organisation to learn.
Whilst on my research journey I was introduced to James Bird, Senior SHE Manager – HOF and BCC at Kier Highways, who has also been working on the BowTie method in order to improve safety. He in turn introduced me to Kevin Robinson, Managing Director at SO Media incorporating Safer Highways and a new initiative called Stamp it Out. Kevin and I had a chat and I shared my dissertation findings with him after which, he asked me to join the Stamp it Out working group, to which I jumped at the chance.
So, now, I very proudly sit on this working group, along with host of industry experts, with one common aim, to reduce the risk of abuse towards our team members . You can learn more about the initiative by visiting www.stampitout.org and we have also launched an industry wide petition to end abuse to those working on the road, we hope that the outcome will afford our workforce the same protections of other key workers, you can view and sign the petition here.
This is the first step in improving safety in our industry, which I hope I can be part of for a long time to come.