Be On Your Guard

Article Safety by

During recent years our industry has made great progress in providing rig guarding for piling and drilling rigs. Responding to the well publicised campaign from the HSE, it is now the case that we can expect that the rigs that are deployed for applications from well-drilling and SI through to heavy foundation work will be guarded. Specifically, this means that fixed or interlocked guards are normally practicable extending from 0.5m to 2m above ground level.

Of course, this is designed to protect the workforce and anyone who passes nearby to a rotating auger or drill string; and rightly so. But the responsibility does not rest entirely with the contractors.

To quote the CDM regulations, “Every designer shall in preparing or modifying a design…avoid foreseeable risks to the health and safety of any person carrying out construction work”.

But how does this apply to rig guarding, something which must seem esoteric when designing a piled basement or grouting project or even a site investigation?

It is HSE guidance that if the piling or drilling equipment cannot be operated with sufficient guarding then it is likely that the designer has not adequately considered the health and safety of those constructing the works. In other words the designer has failed to allow adequate working space for the piling rig to be operated safely.

This places a wide responsibility on our geotechnical professionals. Given the huge range and constantly changing equipment that is available to contractors, this obligation is hard to meet without specialist advice.

Frequently there is no single answer to a particular set and combination of conditions. Furthermore the industry continues to innovate. Contractors are now able to offer “wing-guards” that permit working very close to a wall or obstruction. Solutions can be found to safely drill or pile in corners and even electronic guarding is available on some machines, obviating the need for physical barriers altogether. Whilst this is of benefit to the project, it is essential that the designer considers all of this at design stage.

Given the progress that is being made designers (and for that matter CDM Co-ordinators) need to involve the specialist supply chain at an early stage. Advice should be sought and then taken into account in the design of the works. These discussions are likely to take place months if not years before actual construction takes place. For this and other reasons any specialist input should be recorded, preferably in writing and it should certainly form part of the CDM risk assessment.

Professionals need to be diligent and careful in identifying the risks associated with geotechnical work. By seeking advice from specialists, up-to-date techniques and methods can be incorporated into the safe execution of the project and into the relevant risk assessments. Only by doing so can we ensure that the protection offered by physical guarding extends to us all.