Considerately constructing a 400kV gas insulated electricity substation in Suffolk – award-winning AMS Joint Venture

The AMS Joint Venture is an alliance of three companies; Alstom Grid, Mott MacDonald and Skanska who jointly deliver projects for client, the National Grid.

Adopting a very considerate approach throughout the Bramford 400kV Substation project in Suffolk has earned the AMS Joint Venture project team a crop of Scheme accolades, including 2016 Most Considerate Site Runner Up Award.

The ongoing project involved the SEESA (South East Electrical Substation Alliance) team which has enjoyed a very considerate track record, scooping three golds and one silver accolade in the Considerate Constructors Scheme’s (CCS’s) National Site Awards from 2012 to 2015.

AMS Joint Venture, which started in 2009, has also been nominated with ‘The Most Considerate Site Runner Up’ accolade for the past three years.

One of the challenges the team encountered with this project was consideration of the local community, as the area surrounding the substation is popular with local dog walkers, horse riders and ramblers.

Here are some examples of best practice initiatives carried out by AMS Joint Venture to comply with the Considerate Constructors Scheme:

  • The site was very well organised to ensure it was exceptionally clean and tidy, as all components needed to be spotlessly clean when installed.
  • A weekly safety walk around the site by a safety team included a weekly litter pick. The importance of keeping the site facilities clean and litter-free was also outlined at the site induction.
  • The area around Bramford 400kV substation is open farmland, popular with local dog walkers and horse riders. To minimise disruption, a bridleway was improved and diverted slightly on the northern side of the site to make way for the substation works.
  • A new rest area was provided for ramblers in a spare corner of the site and a memorial bench was made from recycled materials and fitted onto the bridleway fence.
  • The local farmer was given a tour of the site and due to the sensitive nature of the work, the client dealt with all community liaisons through a PR company.
  • By working closely with the local council and local equestrian societies, careful attention was given to the design of earthworks and planting proposals to help screen views of the substation and provide an attractively designed and planted retaining structure next to the bridleway.
  • A dog watering facility and a rest seat for owners and other walkers was provided. The site also placed a public feedback form at the site entrance and were delighted to receive recognition of the team’s efforts in making the rest seating area.
  • To keep the local community informed while the works were taking place the site arranged site tours for local residents and the local institute of builders. They were also in discussions with the National Grid to arrange site visits for some local schools.
  • During bad weather the team cleared the road of snow, removed fallen trees and gritted the surface.
  • Working closely with, and under licence from Natural England (the government’s adviser for the natural environment in England), new setts were built out of timber packing cases and the badgers were successfully re-housed. At the time the relocation of the setts was the largest Natural England had seen.
  • Prior to removing some trees, a detailed survey took place to assess the ecology and suggest mitigations. The provision of bat boxes was added to adjacent trees to compensate.
  • In line with planning conditions, a large planting scheme also took place which included a vast number of new trees, over 14,000 additional shrubs and, after suggestions from the site team, 7,500 bulbs. All species are native to the area and have been carefully selected to enhance and compliment the surrounding area.
  • Environmental achievements were publicised to operatives in the newsletter and the site magnetic signs were fixed to all mobile plant, coloured red, yellow or green, to denote the noise generated by the plant; this indicated the standard of ear protection required and how close operatives should be to the machinery before using ear protection.
  • Noisy works were monitored by pocket size noise indicators carried by supervisors that were triggered at 85 decibels.
  • Rainwater was captured in a storm cell, with water used on site for testing and for watering the ‘garden of tranquility’.
  • Water, fuel and electricity use was monitored monthly and forwarded to head office for calculation of the site’s carbon footprint.
  • Packaging of components was minimised to reduce waste.
  • A bug hotel was created from recycled material and during the hot weather, recyclable water containers were issued to operatives that could be filled at water stations.
  • Following advice from an environmental consultant, the site installed a silt fence to filter run-off from the site and remove sediment and any harmful content of the fill material.
  • Monthly SeeSAFETY meetings were held, attended by both site management and the workforce where the team looked at other sites’ best practice and shared innovations. These meetings also included reviewing the work planned.
  • As a result of the monthly safety meeting, two telehandlers were brought to the main car park so that all operatives and management could be given the opportunity to sit in the driver’s seat and appreciate the restricted visibility the driver has, particularly when the forks are raised and carrying materials. Client management was also given a demonstration the following day.
  • All COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) items were allocated a code number which was fixed to all containers; two files of these codes were maintained, one for the COSHH store and one kept with the emergency response equipment. Data sheets were included for each product and instructions on any actions required.
  • Emergency boards displayed directions to the nearest A&E unit, including grab and go envelopes showing the hospital postcode.
  • Site inductions were half a day in duration and included a test paper that must be passed, due to extreme potential hazards in site.
  • A comprehensive emergency plan was compiled which contained a box file in the main office with action plans for a range of potential incidents, including all necessary people to be contacted.
  • Directions to the site were available in several languages to enable foreign drivers to find the site without difficulty.
  • Near misses could be reported anonymously and hazard reporting by operatives outnumbered those reported by management by a ratio of 10 to one.
  • Copies of recent safety messages were posted in the mess rooms for operatives to read and were shown on a television at the signing in point.
  • All site operatives had ICE tags and safety packs were provided for each item of plant including test certificates and driver competencies.
  • Checks for drugs and alcohol were carried out every two years (that must be passed). Random spot checks were also made to ensure that the highest standards of safety were maintained on this site.
  • One of the hardest challenges with the workforce was breaking down the barriers between different work disciplines. The Daily Activity Brief (DAB) was a mandatory daily meeting involving all personnel on site, conducted by the site management team at the start of every working shift. DABs help to formulate the team spirit, encouraging interdepartmental communication; it is a platform for presenting safety briefings and to get feedback from the attendees. At Bramford the team always end the DAB with these questions: “What are today’s most significant hazards on site?” and “Any issues from the site team?” which always get good feedback from the attendees. The team has worked hard to create a positive culture at Bramford where everyone looks out for one another and is confident to put forward their ideas.
  • An occupational nurse visits the site every six months to conduct health checks and give advice on health matters. One check advises those who take part of their predicted age, based on their health condition, which created some lifestyle changes.
  • ID tags on helmets contain contact, medical and medication details which were also listed on the induction sheet and available in an emergency.
  • Site facilities included a diabetic help station and a stretcher for casualties in remote areas.
  • The small meeting room or the outside ‘garden of tranquility’ may be used for prayer or meditation.
  • An onsite washing machine is available for overalls and all facilities were cleaned daily to a very high standard.
  • Feedback was encouraged, with quarterly prizes of shopping vouchers given for innovations and new ideas.
  • The site issued a daily newsletter to all operatives giving up to date information in a light-hearted format which was prepared by the site manager and has now reached its 1000th issue.
  • A training hut was set up for electrical students to be given onsite training.

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